Culture Decay—But Who Cares? part two
As I write this, we are in the midst of a presidential primary and down to two democratic candidates, as history will show, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In this last week, the media has finally revealed the incidiary statements of Obama’s long time friend and pastor, Jeremiah Wright (decent articles about it here, here, and here). This is the man that gave Obama the title of his bestselling book, The Audacity of Hope, married him, baptized his two daughters, and was the long-time pastor of the church of which Obama has been a member for twenty years. Obama says he had no idea that his pastor was like this.Â Obama doesn’t think that these comments need separate him from Wright, because they are only a few things that he said among, you know, mainly good. Then again, Mussolini got the trains to run on time. And imagine if another candidate said, “This man, David Duke, has influenced my life almost as much as anyone—I do separate myself from some of what he says—but he is a good man.” How would that go down?
The media talks about this like it’s old news and yet I had heard nothing about it. The mainstream media, that I know of, has said nothing about Obama’s regular usage of the terms hoodwinked and bamboozled on the campaign trail, especially in areas where his crowds were huge numbers of African Americans, terms utilized by Malcolm X in speeches that were borrowed by Spike Lee for films They are code language for many African Americans. Imagine if anyone else besides Senator Obama had connections with this man or used these terms, what would that do to his or her candidacy? You know the answer.
This all relates to the subject of toleration. Toleration seems to work only in certain directions in this culture (which I’ll explain below). For instance, politically correct toleration works with the media’s treatment of the Senator from Illinois, who is running for president. His association with intolerance is tolerated. Toleration, however, is the chief virtue of the culture. And that toleration has destroyed the culture we once had for a truly pseudo liberty.
One can easily see that the true beginnings of toleration started when Adam tolerated Eve’s option of eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That plunged our world into sin and since then, mankind has continued to look at much of what God said to be and do as merely optional. More seriously, the ever increasing philosophy of unrestrainedness has penetrated at first subtly and now more obviously into churches. Churches became permissive and now have taken on the look, sound, and attitude of the world.
A Description of the Unrestrained, Toleration Culture
Nowhere is the mounting culture of toleration described more brilliantly than the 1987 bestselling book by the late Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind. Bloom begins by examining the students in the prestige universities, and he finds them deficient in moral formation, in reading of serious books, in music, and above all in love. They have no love in their souls, no longing for anything high or great. Their minds are vacant, their characters feeble, and their bodies sated with rock and roll and easy sex. These same students come furnished with a simple-minded relativism that is quick to close off all discussion with the question, “Who’s to say what’s right and wrong?” Their relativism justifies an easygoing openness to everything, an openness which expresses their incapacity for being serious about anything. This proclaimed openness, in fact, turns out to be a dogmatic closedness toward moral virtue no less than toward even true thoughtfulness.
The cause of the closedness, in Bloom’s diagnosis, is modern philosophy. He posits that America was founded on modern principles of liberty and equality passed from Hobbes and Locke. Liberty, however, turned out to mean freedom from all self-restraint, and equality turned out to mean the destruction of all differences of rank and even nature. Our Founders may have said to have acted “with a firm reliance on divine providence” (Declaration of Independence), but Bloom says that their natural-rights philosophy came from the atheists Hobbes and Locke. He characterizes the Lockean doctrine of the Founders in this way (p. 163):
[In the state of nature, man] is on his own. God neither looks after him nor punishes him.
The practical result (p. 230):
God was slowly executed here; it took two hundred years, but local theologians tell us He is now dead.
Similarly, Bloom says the Founders may have thought they were establishing a political order based on reason. At first reason legitimated industriousness and money-making, but eventually lost its authority and became impotent against expectations of self-indulgence and mindless self-expression. Finally, the infections caused by our political principles sapped the strength of faith and morality.
The relativism of today’s students is, then, in Bloom’s view, a perfect communication of the real soul of liberty, which from the start, in Hobbes’s thought, meant that life had no intrinsic meaning. The anti-design dogmas of women’s liberation, which in the name of equality deny the obvious differences between men and women, are destroying the family, which had been the core of society through most of America’s history. Likewise, the anti-design dogmas of affirmative action, insisting that equal opportunity be suppressed until all categories of Americans come out exactly uniform, deny the obvious differences in ambition and intelligence among human beings. Thus equality and liberty eventually produced self-satisfied relativism which sees no need to aspire to anything beyond itself.
How the Toleration Culture Infects the Church
If I were to add a chapter to Bloom’s book, the subject would be how that this relativism has infiltrated the church. A first aspect began when the church turned over the stewardship of science including origins, government, art, psychology, and history (among other things) to the state The state gladly left the church with theology. The Bible could apply to spiritual matters. We arrived at a distrust for the Bible to speak to anything that is cultural, including music and dress. I think it also applies to the text of Scripture itself, but I want my multiple version readers to stay with me. There is one last step that I see in the church’s ejection of culture—since the Bible does not speak to science, government, art, psychology, and history, and it is not trustworthy in those matters, then how could it be in theology? This ends where many liberal churches already exist: the Bible has no authority in anything.
Political correctness, what Bloom describes as the closing of the mind, has lead to theological correctness. This reigns in liberalism, permeates evangelicalism, and is now greatly influencing fundamentalism. Your view of biblical subjects must fit within a certain realm of theological correctness to be acceptable. Like with the secular education system, there is no visibly organized authority for this correctness, yet it can be seen and felt all over. Some of the most prominent advocates of absolute biblical truth will cower especially on the cultural issues. They have been given up in the same fashion that higher education abandoned absolute truth long ago.
Scripture is sufficient for all matters to which it speaks. The theological police are busy removing cultural issues from its body of sufficiency. They have no historical basis for doing so, but they do so nonetheless. This parallels with higher education dumbing down its own music, literature, and appearance in lieu of the noble savage. A splatter on a canvass becomes great art and a violent stroke on guitar strings great music, akin to the superiority of a cave painting by aboriginals. The noble savage isn’t faking it. He isn’t very good, but he keeps it real. This is the kind of faux authority we’re left with when we abandon the Bible on cultural issues.
In keeping with the relativistic approach to culture, criticism of music and other culture based upon absolute truth is scorned. Man’s feelings reign even in Christian criticism (the little there is). What becomes important is whether you like it or whether it kept you listening. We “musn’t” be bored with a song. People must like it. Neither can we criticize anyone for how they dress when they come to church or worship, if that’s why they happen to be there (which is more and more unlikely due to our methods). For all the talk about God, man remains the measure for all things, including worship of God.
Covetousness, Rebellion, Unthankfulness, and Unholiness
In this first part of this essay, I had begun explaining the present cultural decay in churches. I referenced 2 Timothy 3:2:
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.
Modern evangelicalism and much of fundamentalism pursues self interests. This relates closely to covetousness. What I want becomes more important than my testimony for God. Men argue for liberties, but they forget that they are not here for themselves, but for God (Romans 14:7, 8). They also may fail to remember what Jesus said about our relationship to others in Matthew 18:6:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
2 Peter 2 relates man’s lust with his relationship with authority (vv. 10, 18, 19). We live in an era with a motto: Question Authority. Most fundamentally this manifests itself in disobedience to parents. Parental rights are greatly weakened in a permissive society that also has influenced Christians. Libertines prefer weak authority. They chafe and rebel at what keeps them from their self interests.
God gives every good and perfect gift because He knows how to give good gifts as a good God. For unthankfulness, that isn’t enough. He complains for more creature comforts and conveniences. He expects permission to touch, to drink, to jive, and to dance.
Covetousness, rebellion, and unthankfulness aren’t compatible with God’s holiness. God’s nature is separate from these character traits. God’s holiness relates to his unique attributes and nature. He is separate from all things, high above and distinct. God expects that same quality in His own. More than ever the world’s culture is separate from the character of God. This unholiness has influenced the church. The church has become increasingly common and profane in the ways it manifests itself, more and more like the world and less distinct, therefore, less like God.