Friday, February 19, 2010



Most Christians think of our responsibility primarily as our personal relationship with God, our close relatives and our involvement in the local church. While these things are important, we have to consider our responsibility to the rest of society. Why? Firstly because, God is sovereign over all of life including the arts, media, government, education, business and healthcare. Secondly, because our lives, families and church can’t be isolated from these – either we influence them with Biblical virtues and truth or they influence us with worldly values and false beliefs.

Whether your children and grandchildren will grow up Christian depends not just on what you say, but also on what they hear at school and what they see on television. Whether we like it or not, we are in the middle of an ideological culture war in every institution in our society. If we ignore the war, we will just be blown around by the winds of popular culture – and might end up even helping the enemy without realising it.

The dominant ideology in the Western world right now is ‘Postmodernism’ – a belief that there is no absolute truth, therefore feelings and relationships are important, while truth and righteousness is not. In black Africa, animism is a powerful influence. In North Africa and the Middle East, Islam is dominant – and while seeks to spread south into Africa and North into Europe. The news media tends to only cover conflict where there is open bloodshed, but the major war is happening in peoples minds and what become socially acceptable in our culture. Wherever we lose the war, those cultural norms become enshrined in civil law and Christians will either have to compromise or suffer persecution. Evangelism will be curtailed, the Bible will be marginalised out of schools and replaced with ‘sex sin education’, we won’t be able to go anywhere without seeing public pornography on billboards or magazine covers. Certain professions, such as nursing will become impossible for Christians to practice, because of the requirement to assist with abortions. Some may say this sounds alarmist, but it is already the case in some Postmodern countries and the pressure of such persecution and anti-Christian influence has already advanced a long way in South Africa. To resist persecution, we therefore have no choice but to fight to defend our freedoms and for godly Christian influence. This influence is not however just a benefit to us Christians, but to the whole of society.

The culture war would be simple, if it was just the church versus the world, but it is much more complex. On the positive side, opinion polls in South Africa show the vast majority of all citizens supporting Christian rather than postmodern values. (See for example: ). On the negative side, many more educated South African Christians have been tragically influenced by postmodernism and while they may have personal faith in Christ, their thinking and actions actually help the wrong side. They have been deceived and their minds taken captive by unbiblical ideas.

In every generation, there is pressure for the believing community to accommodate worldly culture. In Old Testament times, the pressure was to accommodate idolatry and child sacrifice. In the ancient world and renaissance, the pressure was to accommodate the ideas of popular Greek philosophers. In African culture, it is to accommodate ancestor worship and superstitions. In Europe, Liberal Modernism, the idea of making Christianity more ‘scientific’ and denying the miraculous began in Germany in the 1850s. In two generations, it gutted and emptied the churches in that country and left a vacuum that allowed the rise of Nazi ideology in its place. The Western allies, who were mostly of Christian worldview at the time, won the military battle, but they lost the theological and ideological battle. Liberal Modernism spread from Germany first across the rest of Europe, then to England and then to America. Wherever liberalism went, churches thought they were advancing because they got the approval of popular culture, but in the next generation the churches emptied. Most of the old Protestant denominations went liberal and Biblical Christians were forced to form new denominations. But as the culture kept changing, liberalism like a computer virus had to keep changing to keep up with the times. As belief in ‘science’ as a solution to all the worlds problems waned, popular culture went on to new ideas like ‘political correctness’ and postmodernism. So the liberal theologians kept changing their message to keep up with the culture. The latest version, accommodating postmodernism calls itself ‘the emerging church’. The result of it, will however be the same as the old liberalism: compromised, but popular Christianity, which ceases to be salt and light in the world or convert unbelievers to Christ.

Cultural and ideological movements tend to follow a geographic pattern of spreading from Europe, to Britain, to America and then to South Africa and then north up Africa. They also tend to follow an academic pathway within the English speaking world of starting with top intellectuals at places like Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and then spreading from there to the top universities in other countries (e.g. Cape Town and Witwatersrand in South Africa) and then to the rest of the universities. They then spread from top academic works to more popular books, then on to film and finally to television. It also sadly tends to flow from these pagan universities into Christian theological faculties at the same universities, from where it flows to lesser universities theology departments, then to other Bible Colleges and from there if we don’t stop it to the pulpit of your local church.

Is this just an academic bloodless war? No. The loss of Biblical Christian influence, resulting in a loss of value for human life in Europe, led to its most bloody century in history with the First and Second world wars plus the carnage of Communism. Almost a million innocent babies murdered already in South Africa as a result of postmodern ideology in our government and hospitals. We have successfully fought off attempts to move to legalise euthanasia of the sick – but if we don’t fight hard – for how long. The war for the mind comes first – then if we lose real bloodshed follows.

How is the South African church doing in this culture war? Sadly not well. Most of the older denominations ministering to the middle class population have already been over-run by postmodern liberalism. They are in death phase. Many even tolerate homosexuals in the pulpit. People stay because of family loyalty but they win few new converts because few ministers still preach the true Gospel of Christ – and so they are likely to continue to shrink to insignificance. Some publicly supported legal abortion. The South African Council of Churches, acting without a mandate, supported the legalisation of Same-Sex Marriage, but few protested against this. Another kind of cultural liberalism is undermining the newer Charismatic churches – not one of liberal theology, but of tolerating ungodly behaviour in leadership, which is not disciplined and then gets copied in the pews. Sadly, the vast majority of Christians and local churches operate as if there was no culture war underway – they simply don’t fight – and that is why we are losing.

Many Christians say that they won’t do evil themselves, but neither will they speak up against the evil in the society around them. This strategy is a losing one. We are social beings. We don’t live in isolation. We are influenced and we influence. In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to drive out the pagan Canaanites (Joshua 23:12-13). When they failed to do so, they were corrupted by them and fell into idolatry. In the New Covenant, we don’t fight people, but we do fight ideas (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The same will be true of us if we make peace with the pagan culture around us - we either fight it or are corrupted by it. We are in a war whether we like it or not and we must fight or lose the war.

Another question is whether we can actually win? Or are we just doomed to fail and accept defeat? We can draw hope from history, where many times Christians have repented of their backsliding and moved onto the offensive of social reform, such as the Evangelical Awakening in Britain led by men like John Wesley and William Wilberforce outlawed slavery. We can see how tiny Christian minorities with faith in God, like the new born Salvation Army led the fight to outlaw prostitution in Britain in the 1890s and then spread their campaign to win even as an even tinier minority in Japan! We can be encouraged by the victory of conservative evangelicals against liberals in the Southern Baptist Convention in American. Yes we can win!

A common question is why do we keep worrying about homosexuals, when they are such a minority? Surely there are more common and equally evil sins to worry about? The answer is because in the culture war, our most militant and well organised opponents of Christian virtues are the homosexual activist lobby. Such people are a tiny minority and even among homosexuals, the activists are an even tinier minority, but these people make up for their lack of numbers through good organisation, leadership and networking with other non-homosexuals and virulent hostility in the culture war against Christian values, for example in HIV-AIDS education, the law courts, political parties and attempts to infiltrate the church. Adulterers by comparison do not organise themselves and actively attack Christianity and family values or initiate lawsuits against Christians in this way. Homosexual lobby groups actions tend to influence the rest of heterosexual society, for example in the promotion of condoms rather than purity as a solution to HIV AIDS and in countries where marriage has been redefined to include same-sex marriage, heterosexual marriage has dropped as well. It is the area where there is the greatest cultural pressure to accept sin.

What can you do to help win this culture war? Firstly, think about how to protect yourself and your family and your church from evil in the surrounding culture. Think about how the worldly ideologies on television or at school may be influencing you and your family. Secondly, learn about the ideologies which are competing so that you can give a good defence. Thirdly, think about how your actions at work, church or in everyday interaction with people impact on the rest of society. Fourthly, pray for God to show you opportunities where you can make a difference.