Christian Courage and the Struggle for Civilization - page 5

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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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The Jewish and Christian and Muslim faiths all require integration. Jews are supposed to integrate their lives under the Torah; Muslims under the Qur’an, the Sharia; and for us under the lordship of Jesus. But many Christians in the advanced modern world live in a fragmented way. Wonderful Bible studies and fellowship groups, but does it permeate the whole of their lives in all the structures of their world? No. So the salt isn’t salty.

Take a third example. The modern world, if we’re not careful, tends to shift us from a supernatural worldview to a secular worldview. Think for a minute. In the milieu of our great-grandparents, the unseen was not unreal. You could be Christian, or you could be pagan and believe in spirits in waterfalls, but the unseen was very real. It was more real than the seen world. People understood things such as business or farming or sex in the light of the unseen world. But in our modern world, no; in the modern world, what’s unseen is unreal. What’s the real world? It’s the world of business, science, technology, law, etc., – not the supernatural. In this case, modernity’s only the icing on the cake of the problem, as it were; it goes back far earlier. You can trace the way, say, our Lord lives in the power of the Spirit, preaches in the power of the Spirit, heals in the power of the Spirit, delivers in the power of the Spirit, discerns in the power of the Spirit, and He gives this gift of His Spirit to the twelve, to the seventy, to the whole of the church on the day of Pentecost. You can see it going right down to the fifth century. The great Saint Augustine’s a fascinating example. He’s a little skeptical, coming out of paganism. But then his fellow bishops show him the power of the Spirit. And he records in Hippo more than fifty miracles. Supernatural miracles of healing. But then what happens? Well, it becomes tied to certain people only. The Saints with a capital S and certain places like Lourdes – you had to go to that place to have the healing. What happens then? You surround it with superstition, money making, massive corruption. So the Reformation comes on. Cleaning the house, what do they do? They tend to throw out the baby, bath water, and the whole lot.

Now, let me be blunt in this Presbyterian church. John Calvin is the theologian of the Holy Spirit, and rightly so. But many of his followers are the frozen chosen. And you can see the Western church – of course, then came the Enlightenment – think of Thomas Jefferson taking out of the New Testament anything he didn’t like that was supernatural – and then modernity. Unlike new atheists who say, “There is no God,” hostile like Richard Dawkins, modernity just smiles and says, “We have no need of God.” Put a man on the moon, market a politician, a car, a perfume; we can grow a church from soup to nuts. You’ve just got to know how big your parking lot’s got to be, etc. It’s all there on the Internet if you want it. All you need to check is the last thing: measurable outcomes. And so it goes.

In other words, in the modern world we are, as Max Weber says, tone deaf. Many modern American Christians are atheists unawares. Practically. Operationally. My mentor Peter Berger says we live in a world without windows; it’s all this side of the ceiling. But if ever we were in a world where we need the power of the Holy Spirit, it is today, which leads me on to my last point.

 

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