Christian Courage and the Struggle for Civilization - page 4



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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I confess, the first time Jenny and I moved to the States, I was really shocked when I went to California, and they were all referring to the Sunday “worship experience.” Now of course everything in a consumer society is there for our experience because you’re worth it! But it’s a worship service, it’s not a worship experience for us. We’re serving Him! You can see how this idea has crept into everything, including theology. So in a world that the social scientists call “a cafeteria of faith,” I see parallels: Pass down a salad bar; you don’t like radishes? Fine, take carrots. You don’t like kale? All right, go for the romaine, whatever you like. One man said to me, “Every Christian puts a big dollop of love on their plate, and then says, ‘Hell? Hell no!’” Pick and choose, just pick and choose. It’s just a matter of preference. And you can see people who don’t like those passages in Leviticus about, say, the gay lifestyle or whatever, throw the passages out. Or Paul, no it’s just a matter of his time or culture. And you can see that cafeteria, consumerist, pick-and-choose mentality has come into faith everywhere.

Young evangelicals, showing in polls, consider Jesus “a” way, “a” truth, “a” life. “The” way? “Lord”? Remember, the early church would rather have died than burned a whiff of incense to Caesar as Lord. But young evangelicals? It’s just a matter of preference. You can see the softness and the syncretism creeping into the church. And right-mindfulness? We’re all in favor of right-mindfulness! Shade a bit here, and there; who cares if there’s a slightly Buddhist background or yoga, etc.? It’s all there. And you can see the American church is weak because it’s worldly. There’s a soft accommodationism; there’s a tendency toward syncretism that is part of its crisis of authority.

Take another example. The modern world tends to shift us from integration to fragmentation. What’s behind this? It’s called differentiation. Don’t worry about the term; it just means the way the modern world throws up all sorts of spheres of life that are all different ways of doing things. Take, say, my beloved who comes from California – L.A. For a while we were at a wonderful church where President Reagan used to go. I remember teaching the adult class and doing a little study of them. Some of them drove seventy-five miles to church, a hundred miles the next day to work, thought nothing of going fifty to the beach or to Hollywood or a sports game. In other words, L.A. is a vast, sprawling metropolis held together by cars and freeways. But it was in L.A. that a scholar made that damning remark that the Californian churches were privately engaging but publicly irrelevant. Faith flourished here – you hope in the home, or you hope in the church – but it didn’t go everywhere.


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