Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
Are you Better or Worse Off?
I have a standard for Christianity that is so simple I think some people find it threatening — particularly pastors.
It goes like this: are things getting better or worse?
Both in your life and in the life of your community? Do you love truth more? Do you hate evil with greater passion? Are you emboldened to protect the innocent? Does God’s universe seem more intriguing to you? Are you inspired to do great things for the Kingdom? If you attend a church with 6,000 members — my word — your whole community probably feels the pleasant warmth of this ongoing transformation. Right? The streets are cleaner; the town is safer. The whole place radiates the joy of a people who fear the Lord, right? There truly is “justice in the gate.” Public officials don’t take bribes. citizens don’t cheat their employers or insurance companies, so the price of goods and services don’t have a larceny layer added to them. Taxes are low and learning is on the rise.
It’s simply amazing what happens when people are a) born again and b) they actually grow in the Lord. Right?
Now this is not to say believers don’t have trials. They do. Perhaps believers have more trials than unbelievers, but they have the strength and the wisdom and the divine power to overcome those trials, and grow from them. Trials and discipline and study make both the believer and his community of believers stronger, better, brighter, and — this will upset the Christian snowflakes — more fearful to the pagans.
This is not blab-and-grab-it prosperity gospel either — pseudo-spiritual razzmatazz; this is the timeless deuteronomic covenant, life or death, blessings or cursings. A culture that values wisdom and work and virtue will build cleaner, safer, more beautiful cities. It’s not rocket science, Skippy. It’s so basic a divine reality that you can see some portion of it working even among people who aren’t catechized. There is a reason Iowa is a nicer place to live than Haiti, and it has nothing to do with race or imperialist oppression, folks. The transforming power of good culture builds wealth, and comfort, and happiness. Duh..
A lot of believers will sniff that awful “dominionism” in this, because it’s something like finding out, in school, there really is a mid-term, accountability, proof of mastery, a record of stewardship — all that crap.
“I just want to preach Christ and Christ crucified,” protests the earnest young pastor.
Fine. Do that. How did Paul, the author of this divine sentiment, do that? By reminding the church, endlessly, what it should be, what grace should have created in it, how it should act, what it should know, who it should discipline, how husbands and wives are to treat each other, how servants are to treat their masters and masters their servants, how rulers and magistrates should behave, and how we should behave towards them.
Practical stuff. Real stuff. Civilization building stuff.
Instead, our generation of the church is dedicated to perpetual Christian infancy. We have churches across this land where members have been sucking on milk-bottles for most of their adult lives, celebrating a version of the faith about as deep as a greeting card. They expect nothing but messy childhood, and that’s what they get, both personally and socially.
It happens like this: the simplicity of Christ is abused. The word “Jesus” is chanted over their heads like a mantra set to three chord praise music. Somehow, if we just get a little Jesus into the believer, then — presto — things will change. We don’t have to dive into messy difficult stuff like Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 7 or predestination or civil order or wealth management or good art and bad art. Jesus may have something to say about all that, but we should just kinda magically hope the believer will come to know that without, um, any actual instruction. It would be the pedagogical equivalent of your private school telling you, “the kids just need to be in the building; they don’t need to read the books.”
It seems to me I saw an article fly by on my feed this morning. A Methodist woman believes Christ wants her to help start more abortion clinics. Earlier this year, a Lutheran female “pastor” melted purity rings to make a gold vagina statue, by way of critiquing traditional sex standards. I sincerely doubt either of these women are born again, but how does cultivated ignorance serve real believers in a world full of so much nonsense? Don’t our pulpits need to THUNDER with the condemnation of such witchery? What would Paul, or Peter, have done with a member of the church who aborted babies?
Yes, I know there are churches out there with solid teaching, and I imagine some of them create the kind of community I described earlier, but I keep putting this question to the seminaries out there, and the pastors, and the lifelong members of cherished denominations who keep attending the same Christian nursery school to see their old friends: be honest. Consider the time spanning 1950 to 2019.
Better or worse?