Christian Courage and the Struggle for Civilization - page 3



Christian Courage and
the Struggle for Civilization

by Os Guinness,
Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre
for Christian Apologetics in Oxford

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Obviously it was a master stroke to borrow the notion of discrimination from the civil rights movement. But if you think about it, that’s an extremely dangerous move. You can take a Jewish thinker like Leo Strauss, who was not, as I understand, a particularly devout religious Jew. But Strauss said more than fifty years ago that if you take antidiscrimination and press it consistently so that even the private sphere has to be consistent, you will destroy liberal society. The Jews understand that warning very well, far more than Christians do. But at the heart of Judaism, and the heart of the Christian faith too, is the book of Genesis. The story of creation is a story of distinctions, a story of discrimination between heaven and earth, which the Tower of Babel tries to undo, between male and female, etc. In fact, the Jews called the Lord, “the Great Discriminator,” because His creation discriminates between things, and if you remove the discriminations, you create idols; they’re much closer in their understanding of the deadliness of some of the ideas at the heart of the sexual revolution. So certainly in a group like the C.S. Lewis Institute, with the recovery of apologetics today, we need people who really understand some of these ideas at their core and the deadliness they represent and are able to answer them at that core level.

The Challenge of Modernity

Let me go on to another point where Christians are even less conversant. We need to face up to the lethal distortions of faith in the advanced, modern world. The simple fact is, while there are many Christians who are very good at understanding hostile ideas – I often joke that the average American evangelical Christian could smell a relativist from a hundred yards – it isn’t ideas that have caused the main damage to the church. In fact you can say, as many do, that modernity itself – not ideas but modernity – has done more damage to the church than all the persecutors put together. And yet many Christians don’t even know what I’m talking about.

Let me give you three examples. None of these has to do with ideas. None of these is inevitable. In other words, if you recognize them, you can resist them. But if you don’t recognize them, they can shape you unawares. I mention three things at the heart of our modern Western world that we need to resist in the name of faithfulness to our Lord.

First, the modern world tends – underscore the word tends – to shift us from a stance of authority to a stance of preference. One significant reason is our consumer society. What could be more wonderful and innocent? But if we look at our supermarkets or shopping malls, we see an endless cornucopia of choice and change. Magnificent! But eventually one doesn’t put the stress on what one chooses or why one chooses, just on the fact one has choice, consumer choice. It becomes a matter of preference, what you choose, and then it comes into areas like faith. Just as we channel surf and hop and shop, so people do it with churches. The sermons are too long, too short, the music’s too traditional, too contemporary, but there’s always somewhere else, and so people are just turning around and everything finally becomes a matter of preference.


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