Christianity Is Not A Culture
"The first problem with the church being identified with the culture wars is a pretty basic one: Christianity is not a culture. It is a faith wrapped around a person who had a real life, a life of significance because he was God incarnate and rose from the dead as he promised. It is a system of truth claims. The gospel has succeeded in a variety of cultures and has thrived among groups maintaining vastly different values and mores, and has been just as good at reconciling socialists to God as capitalists. This past January in the wake of the inaugural festivities President Clinton gathered a group of Southern Baptists ministers to pray with him in Little Rock They assured the evangelical community and the secular media as well that President Clinton was a sound, solid, Bible believing evangelical. Why? How did they know that? They said because he even cried during the singing of some of the hymns. While all this was going on I did an interview with a Christian station in the Bible Belt and Clinton's Christian convictions seemed to be the chief interest of the callers. One caller said, "Isn't that amazing! Can you believe all that? Did you hear that just the other day Jerry Falwell responded--and good for him--he responded, 'You can't tell whether a person is a Christian or not just because he cries at the hymns. I want to know what is his position on abortion!'" I replied to the caller, "No, you are both wrong. The question is what is his view of Christ. Who does he say he is?" Neither group seemed to get the point. One group is influenced by pietistic sentiment, the other by political ideology. Now one might argue that one's position on abortion must be consistent with his profession of faith, and I do believe that every Christian ought to seek the end of this worldwide holocaust, but abortion is not in the Apostle's Creed! It is not an article of Christian faith!
What we've done is we have substituted the gospel for moral, political, and sentimental tests. That's why Pat Robertson can't be called into question, in spite of his serious doctrinal errors, while Tony Campolo, who is a little left of center politically, can be put on a heresy trail for his political views by a group of parachurch ministries whose supposed purpose of existence is evangelism. Today the basis of unity is ideology, not doctrine. What defines us politically is one thing, what defines us as Christians is a totally different set of questions. It is not to say that public policy issues shouldn't be important to a Christian. Quite the contrary, every Christian ought to be interested in public policy issues, but as citizens, not as the church making stands on what the gospel is. Yet to often in the past twenty years we have equated the gospel with a particular cultural agenda. Surely no one would say that the late Francis Schaffer shied away from public issues, but he warned, "Equating any other loyalty, whether it is political, national, or ethnic, with our loyalty to God is sin, and we better get our priorities straight now." He says,
There is a tremendous pressure to lose the Reformation memory as the years pass and our first task is not to align our message with the middle class establishment only to have our children rebel against our faith because of our politics, but to recover the lost truth of our Reformation heritage.This is why we must recover the biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms as Luther and Calvin did so clearly four and a half centuries ago. There are two kings and two kingdoms, each ruling a distinct sphere. I remember one of the leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals (N.A.E.) when Clinton was elected said, "Now what is to become of the kingdom of God" as though Clinton had anything whatsoever to do with the kingdom of God, that is, as a public official. In the kingdom of culture, what Augustine called "the city of man," there are rulers, there are laws, there are customs which are regulated by human wisdom. In the kingdom of Christ, or "the city of God," there is one ruler, our Lord Jesus Christ, and he advances his kingdom, not through marketing, not through legislation or police force, but by the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of his holy sacraments. If we confuse these two kingdoms--and we have--we will no doubt confuse evangelism with cultural, moral, and political programs." -Michael Horton, professor of theology at Westminster Seminary, California