Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Preaching Culture or Christ

Whenever I visit my parents in Woodward, I see a grocery store turned into some sort of fellowship church, and right where the sale price of beans use to be is a sign that says, "Changing a culture for Christ." 

Now, I'm sure most good Lutheran readers will look at that and cringe.  Of course it is off.  Christ Jesus comes to us in His Word and He works a change in us - He works repentance, He fills us with love and makes us to do good works.  We are receptive.

Or that's what we say.

Now let me ask the question - and it is something to ponder.

How much of what you hear Lutherans complaining about is really about a desire to change culture?  And not necessarily change culture to be more inline with the Scriptures, not about changing things so that we do what the Scriptures say, but rather a change back to a... more wholesome day?  A change to the way things were "back then" when we didn't have the problems we have today?

It strikes me as an air of Romanticism rather than the Scriptures that drives this.

I say this making a full admission.  I am a recovering Romanticist.  In my younger, college years, I was full bore Romanticist.  I could make the past seem so much better.  I loved any and all retro movements that came back.  And some of this I still hold -- I love the ancients' respect for antiquity.  I'd give my eye teeth to see more classical education.  So, yes, I know, I recognize the yearning for the days of yore when I see it... because it calls to me.

Consider when you call for something, some change.  Do you make the call because the Scriptures mandate it, the Scriptures call for you to act this way... or do you make the call because it's old fashioned and things seemed better back then?

The first is right and proper; a pastor doing what he is to be doing - handling the Word of God.  The later is... well, it's preaching a culture that you find to be ideal, not preaching Christ. 

And of course, the utter disappointment that comes up with the later is this -- every age has its warts, and the Romanticist likes to overlook them.  We hearken back to a way-things-use-to-be that never was.  We point to a golden age that never was.  We end up running after false dreams thinking that this will nip our problems in the bud... not realizing that problems wrecked and ruined that age too.

And in the process... we speak less and less about Christ.  We focus less upon forgiveness (and I'd contend we focus less on the Law as explained by Christ - love God, love your neighbor).  We assume the Gospel so that we can focus more on the current ills that we see in society.  We exhort people to behave the way in which we think will be best for them. Do we see what this actually does?  We don't live in the Word -- oh, we might cherry pick the Word for this or that verse which we can use to push our own agenda... but when we do that we are no better than the Higher Critics who placed themselves above the Scriptures.  They sat above Scriptures and picked and chose what was the Word of God; in our desire to shape the culture how we would have it, we pick and choose our proof texts/pre-texts, making Scripture merely our tool box from which we pull the item of our choice rather than that which shapes and guides us.

Preacher -- do not preach a culture!  Abandon the drive for wisdom in the world...proclaim Christ and Him Crucified!


I know that what I have written here will be viewed by many as utterly dangerous.  It can be used by people to justify their own silly cultural changes -- the contemporary crowd could talk this way!!!  What are you doing Eric, giving them opportunity to do whatever they wish?!?

We rightly complain when we see various "liberal" groups do things simply to accommodate culture.  We should rightly criticize them for this.  However, we must also be ready to criticize ourselves for this as well... we need to make sure that we do not fall into the same type of error they do.  In response to their slavish aping of the current culture and its trends, we do not need to become doggedly focused upon restoring the good old days.  Rather, we must be adamant pointing that their changes do nothing to make Christ any better and is just a vain distracting from the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified.


Anonymous said...

I understand some of what you're saying, but you've lost me when you talk about "a vain distracting from the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified". Isn't what Christ admonished us to do in the New Testament the most important thing, above all? When I feel an inkling of myself about to place judgement on others, and that feeling of righteousness that I am not like them, I feel God's judgement upon me. What Jesus told us to do is simple. Why do we make it so complicated? What would Jesus say?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

What I mean is this -- when our focus becomes trying to change the world (especially with our ideas of how society ought to be run), we lose the focus of proclaiming Christ and His forgiveness. We are to be in the business of forgiving folks.