Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase before: “We don’t polish brass on a sinking ship.” Usually it’s the pessimillennialists who say this, though I suppose even a humanist could agree with it. The meaning behind it is meant to convey the idea that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and that it does no good to try and brighten things up. In other words, Satan owns the place, it is believed, and why would we try and changes things in the culture? After all, they say, we’re here to just preach the gospel. We don’t get caught up in anything but Rapture fever. (Did you like that pun?)
At any rate, I’ve heard this countless times, and it’s starting to bother me. We have an entire generation of young men and women who have grown weary of this nonsensical, unbiblical worldview. What have they been taught? This. Now, I respect Dr. MacAarthur a ton–I’ve learned a lot from him. But to say the you “couldn’t care less about the culture war,” is to continue to perpetuate the idea that we only exist here for spiritual things and that these “material” matters are pointless. By the way, this is Platonic dualism. And pietism.
The reason we’re in the moral mess we’re in—the culture of death, rampant injustice, and sexual promiscuity—is because the church has said, “We’re not here for very long as it is, and we don’t care about redeeming culture. We’re focused on just preaching the gospel.” Now, to be clear, we have to get the order right. “Culture” comes form the Latin, cultus, which connects to the idea of worship. Culture is merely the religious rites of a group of people–their way of life, language, accepted norms, and so on. Culture is religion externalized. We’re not trying to first and foremost change these systems. We want the Spirit of God to change the hearts of people which in turn changes these systems. We’re also not opposed to systemic change knowing that God uses His Law to point out sin and point people to the gospel. If we end abortion now, systems change. We want that. We want those things because the meek shall inherit the earth! (Notice that the inheritance is the earth, not some obscure disembodied existence).
When regeneration goes before the church through gospel preaching, lives are saved and cultures are changed. The porn culture is changed when women are rescued from its slavery. Local economies are changed when people’s hearts are changed towards charitable giving. Listen, if your gospel doesn’t address all things that sit under the feet of King Jesus, then your gospel is impotent for the here and now. The world is not a sinking ship, Jesus is the process of restoring it, and make no mistake, he will do it. Keep in mind that the increase of Christ’s government knows no end (Isaiah 9:7).
Let me summarize three reasons why we are in the shape we are in (there are more):
- The Church has truncated the gospel message. If the gospel for you only applies to your heart and spiritual matters so that you can go ahead and get off planet earth someday, you have an incomplete gospel. Part of the gospel announcement is the arrival of God’s Kingdom in time, on earth, and in history; another part of the gospel is the actual rescue of both sinners and creation (Romans 8 comes to mind). The gospel of the pietistic Christian is merely a private, spiritual affair; the gospel for the biblical Christian touches all of life–taxation, politics, private property, education, sound money, etc.
- The Church has given up on the world around her. Because of #1, #2 is the result. When we don’t see how the word of God can apply to all of life, we end up forsaking our duties here in search of the “higher life.” So the church retreats from battle with her tail between her legs, unsure if all that Kingdom talk is truth or fantasy or conjecture. There was a time when the pulpits across this nation prophetically proclaimed a robust gospel for all of life, including the social/political realm. Instead of giving up on the world, we must confront the world. The world belongs to those who bow before Jesus–and we will not go away.
- The Church has forgotten that it is hell who has gates. Consider this reality: Hell is the one in scripture who is on the defense. When Adam sold his birthright and inheritance to Satan for autonomous living fueled by selfish motives, he was dispossessed from inheriting the earth. Adam covenanted with Satan, believing that Satan had authority and God did not. When Jesus the Second Adam came to get the nations–and get the nations He did!–the world was bought back from its bondage to Satan, sin, and death. In other words, as King, Jesus has legislative authority in heaven and on earth. Christ’s Kingdom advances in time and space, in history (see Daniel 2 and Matthew 13), and this advancement is offensive. The church militant will advance because the battle has been won. Christ was given dominion and a kingdom that would not end when He ascended to the throne in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14 after his death and resurrection. Satan was dethroned and is on the run (John 12:31; Col. 2:15).
The world is not a sinking ship. Sure, it was cursed by God because of sin, but God is in the process of restoring all things under the feet of King Jesus. The gospel is truly that big; the world isn’t sinking: Evil is sinking.