31 January 2012

A Strange Encounter Part 5

A Quote From Hedges

Let me be clear once again. I'm not really concerned for the United States. I pray for the peace of Babylon. I live here. Some of my ancestors have been here since 1620. It's far preferable to live in a civil and orderly society than to live in crime ridden chaos. It's nice to be able to walk safely down a street and not be robbed or shot at.

As a Christian I desire a venue in which I can live my Christian life and an environment in which the gospel can work....one in which we can freely speak to others. A concept like the 1st Amendment is something we should desire and treasure. With it come many dangers and opportunities for others to do things that aren't desirable. Though it allows them to continue their lost behaviour it also allows us to bring them the gospel without persecution.

Theonomists have been pretty vocal in the past about the 1st Amendment. If you're committed to state enforced Sacralism...the 1st Amendment is an abomination. It grants civil protections to false religions and allows anyone to challenge what they hope would be the establishment.

Democracy can only work when the voting public is involved and educated regarding the issues. I'm not saying everyone needs a college degree...I'd be the last one to suggest that...but they need to be engaged and have some knowledge of the salient issues. It takes time and energy.

People who are not engaged and yet vote, overthrow the system. Their choices will be poor and are highly subject to manipulation.

What about people who are very engaged, vote, but have embraced a way of thinking that will not allow them to see anything but the paradigm they are provided with? I'm thinking of course of the Christo-American faction. In many cases they’ve been taught a theology which commits them to some form of Constantinianism, or in the case of this man at the shopping mall, it’s probably more a case of just blind nationalism wedded to the Christian faith.

These people, regardless of which nuance they belong to, would answer the reason they won't see beyond their circle is due to moral conviction.

I would argue they've been deceived and the circle of ideas provided to them has actually trapped them. It’s forced them into a way of thinking that is often grossly immoral and completely contrary to the Scripture they claim to have built their thinking on.

I was reminded of something Chris Hedges said in ‘American Fascism’. I had the page marked:

"Followers in the movement are locked within closed systems of information and indoctrination that cater to their hates and prejudices. Tens of millions of Americans rely exclusively on Christian broadcasters for their news, health, entertainment and devotional programs. These followers have been organized into disciplined and powerful voting blocs. They attend churches that during election time are little more than local headquarters for the Republican Party and during the rest of the year demand nearly all of their social, religious and recreational time. These believers are encased in a hermetic world. There is no questioning or dissent. There are anywhere from 1.1 million to 2.1 million children, nearly all evangelicals, now being homeschooled. These children are not challenged with ideas or research that conflict with their biblical worldview. Evolution is not taught. God created the world in six days. America, they are told, was founded as a Christian nation. These young men and women are often funneled into Christian colleges and universities, such as Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Pat Robertson's Regent University, and a host of other schools such as Patrick Henry University. They are taught, in short, to obey. They are discouraged from critical analysis, questioning and independent thought. And they believe, by the time they are done, a host of myths designed to destroy the open, pluralist society...." (p.26)

I by no means even remotely agree with everything Hedges says here. This is how the whole book is. He sees a lot and his observations are worth reading. The problem is he's not a Christian and though he possesses a seminary degree, he just doesn't understand Christianity or the Bible. Without meaning to he actually provides quite a commentary on the state of the mainline seminaries and the unbelieving scholars in these schools which shaped his thoughts. One must be Born Again...it's so clear when you watch unbelievers try to navigate Scripture. They just don't get it. They can't. These things are spiritually discerned and in the eyes of the world, utter foolishness…truths largely forgotten by the Church today.

Though Hedges’ Scriptural observations are poor...leading him to make nonsensical statements like... Christians exclusively relying on Christian broadcasters for devotional programmes?...what does he expect them to watch, Muslim programming? Or that their recreational time is tied up in the Church...I think we would call it fellowship?

But that said, I know what he's getting at. The main point is many Christians have sealed themselves off into a little world...and that world builds walls in their minds and hearts. Some branch out and interact with the community, but they take their walls with them, and often their interaction isn't really genuine, it's just a ploy to conquer.

There's a sense in which the idea of ‘sealing off’ is true...we're to be a separate people, not overly concerned or entangled with the affairs of this life...I read that in the sense of not being caught up in the power struggle and adopting the values our culture defines as necessary to be successful or even, respectable.

And as we very consciously and deliberately maintain our identity… as we interact with the world...there's a danger.

What if we're wrong? What if the walls we've erected (as truth) in order to protect ourselves aren't based on the Bible?

How would we know?

We’d better make sure we haven’t embraced theological presuppositions which disable our ability to keep examining our beliefs in light of the Bible.

I maintain as we interact with the world, culture, history, politics, and all the rest...it should drive us back to the Scripture...not just looking to vindicate our position but to continually re-examine and re-think the issues. We won't necessarily change our views, but I think they will become a little more nuanced and a little more wise. Certain passages when re-examined suddenly won't say it quite the way we thought. Or we may realize we were forcing an idea on the text.

But if all we listen to, read, watch, and consume, all day long does nothing to challenge us...but only reaffirms the same views over and over...we're not going to grow. We're not going to gain wisdom. We're going to mentally stagnate and end up non-cognitive automatons.

I hope this isn’t too confusing. I’m trying to say Hedges is both right and wrong…and much of modern Evangelicalism is in part right in their establishment of a Christian identity but wrong in trying to create an insulated sub-culture that almost seems to create an alternate reality, one that is not really helping the Church to understand or interact with the world.

Also in the insulated circle of American Evangelicalism...there are leaders, there are voices steering the ship, telling you where to look, giving you maps and guides so to speak to help the flock navigate the world.

Though it pains Hedges, it's legitimate. The Church needs wise men to lead and guide.

But we're warned over and over in Scripture to beware of wolves, of false prophets....2 Corinthians 11 warns:

13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

14  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

15  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

What if these leaders within the walls are unknowing or willing agents of the enemy? I hope you see the formula here....the common folk have lost the ability to think and interact with other ideas. If their leaders are false...how are they going to know? It's got to be pretty obvious for people to see, and even then it's difficult.

And what if the leaders are actually representing other interests outside the walls...and convincing those within that these interests coincide?

In recent years there's been a push to get Christians to think about the issue of Worldview...how Christianity applies to all of life.

That's excellent, but I see very little in the way of real thinking and teaching people to think. Instead I largely see this as a tool, almost a marketing plan to promote what are often political agendas...a verbal power play to sanctify the agenda. News and commentary are presented as being in accord with a Biblical Worldview, granting legitimacy to the hearers, but rarely do I ever actually hear the connection...how is it the Biblical Worldview? In fact usually by the time they're done I've already compiled a list of issues I would raise, arguing what they've just presented is actually contrary to what the Bible teaches.

When you're outside the walls, operating in a different paradigm this is all pretty easy to see. It's not easy to get them to see...in fact almost impossible.

The fact that some completely lost person like Chris Hedges can both observe and identify this trap is nothing more than judgment on the American Evangelical Church. His observations fall short because he doesn’t understand Christianity and he certainly has no solutions, but that doesn’t invalidate all he says.

I cringe as I read what he says in that excerpt. Much of it is true. And I can see why people like him are more than a little concerned with the homeschool movement. Most of these kids end up being automatons for the leaders of the movement.

That's good, some would say...disciplined soldiers.

But if they're wrong, you're making them twice the children of hell and destroying the Church in the process.


Anonymous said...

By the way, have you seen this -- http://opc.org/new_horizons/NH2012/NH2012Feb.pdf -- on the church and politics?

Protoprotestant said...

I'm not sure who I'm speaking with...but, yes it was interesting.

I'm sure there will be some energized letters in response as there aren't very many in the OPC in agreement with DG Hart.

The OPC is rather polarized. I've found some congregations that were pretty good and others I've wanted nothing do with.

That said, I would never consider attending an OP again, but I won't deny there are some good folks within that organization. I hope they eventually leave it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be anonymous. I've been reading your site and finding it interesting and challenging. I am a member of the OPC (although I'm not a "good folk", but rather a sinner with no hope except the sheer grace of God in Christ). I grew up in liberal Protestantism, and I came to know Christ as an adult through the OPC. I wasn't really trying to bait you into saying anything about the OPC. Actually, I was just curious what you thought of the articles in that magazine. But now I wonder why you hope people would leave the OPC. To go where? If, however, you prefer to drop that subject, I will too. I'm just perplexed.

Protoprotestant said...

No problem on the anonymous...it just helps if you sign something..even if it's just abc123.

Sometimes we'll get several comments going and it gets confusing.

If you're in the OPC then you probably know how polarized these issues are. Seriously though I'm glad there are some like Hart and others who are trying to stand up for the truth. I don't agree with Hart on everything...I'm probably a bit more out of the mainstream...but that said I appreciate him. There are some good discussions over at OldLife, his website.

As far as the OP...no I'm not very fond of it. I've been in both the OP and the PCA, and at one time I would have been a zealot for either of those groups.

I'm not a Presbyterian in terms of polity and a lot of practical frustration comes from dealing with that system. I'm definitely not in agreement with either of those groups on the role of creeds and confessions, nor in how they go about interpreting their own.

We actually attend a PCA at the moment, though I can't say I'm very happy with it. It's basically because we don't know what else to do, there aren't any other viable church options in our area.

I spent years in Reformed circles and there are many things I hold to that resonate with Reformed doctrine and thinkers but in other ways I'm quite hostile to certain aspects of the tradition.

Please don't take any of that as a critique or attack, I'm just trying to be up front.

To go where? Good question, but I think the OPC is in error on several issues and has basically made itself resistant and incapable of reform. If I'm right...then the OPC and PCA will drive me and anyone in agreement with me outside of their ranks. What's the alternative? Something outside of the insitutional-traditionalist/denominationalist and Sacralist mindset that pretty much dominates those circles.

Eventually I think Hart and others like him will be driven out. There are people gunning for him and the whole Westminster West group. I'm afraid more splits are on the horizon.

I'm not sure where you're at on these things or if what I'm saying even makes sense to you. So please if you want me to elaborate or if you disagree...don't be shy.

Thanks for writing.

Protoprotestant said...


Praise God you were saved from mainline liberalism.

I'm afraid too many folks I've known in the OP and PCA are far too tolerant of the error being taught in those 'churches'.

If you came out of it, then you know how lifeless it is.