14 January 2012

The Sacralist Road to Moral Relativism

My wife picked up on this the other day. I really have no deliberate plan to pick on Charles Colson, but he’s on the radio 5 days a week, and even after years of his flawed worldview and erroneous and deceptive commentary…he still amazes!

He’s representative of so many things dangerously wrong with modern American Christianity. He’s a giant though. His influence cannot be discounted. The fact that a bunch of Evangelical Culture Warriors are considering supporting Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic to be President of their Sacral project can almost directly be attributed to the work of Colson. In the early 1990’s he brought together various leaders and put forward the Evangelicals and Catholics Together agenda and it literally has transformed American Evangelicalism. Protestants supporting a Roman Catholic would have been unthinkable just twenty years ago. Now, the blood of many martyrs is trampled underfoot as the Gospel apparently no longer matters…what really mattered all along was Westernism…America.

Francis Schaeffer couldn’t have imagined what some would do with his teaching! It’s a fitting legacy to the deadly seeds he helped to plant. Sacralism waters down the gospel and in seeking to make Babylon into Zion ends up not only overthrowing the gospel (as Colson has done) but leads to startling consequences.

Here Colson argues against multiculturalism being taught in schools and how it has lead to moral relativism. As usual I don’t agree with his assessment though I have no problem admitting our culture in general has lost the ability to find any kind of moral grounding. Morals and Ethics are metaphysical questions… Western Enlightenment Rationalism with its closed universe has rejected the whole concept of metaphysics. Postmodernism is looking for answers beyond scientific naturalism but doesn’t know where to find them. Past societies have been able to figure out at least some of the basics with regard to these questions and even if grounded in bad metaphysics, fallen depraved men (via the General Benevolence/Common Grace of God) were able to draft societal standards that promoted some kind of imperfect civilization.

I would argue American narcissism and extreme self-absorption are driving much of the ethical malaise gripping our youth. They are the spoiled children of a decadent generation. Hard times, the sorrows of life, or as is commonly called…the school of hard knocks…will knock some limited sense into them, or yes, this society will implode in a generation or so. As people deal with raising their children and wrestle with hard questions they are forced to deal with some of these issues. Many wrestle with them too late to rescue their children.

Constantinian morality has granted a form of godliness but in denying the power thereof (because the Gospel cannot be legislated) has made it very difficult to evangelize these people. We are now reaching the point where we have adults who have never been to church and have had little to no contact with Christianity. The Gospel message will be something new and quite foreign to them. I have some hope in this regard!

In the past, for many people, to accept what you’re saying when you preach the gospel to them is to acknowledge the Christianity they grew up with and that of their parents is false…a harder pill to swallow. And frustrating from my standpoint when they go back to the United Methodist or Presbyterian Church USA ‘minister’ for affirmation that the Bible doesn’t really say all that stuff about sin, Christ, consequences and so forth. Since I don’t wear a robe and have a big building with a steeple, I don’t have the cultural authority and my words lose their weight. The false teacher tickles their ears and assuages their troubled conscience…sending them to hell… but at least they teach them to do good and love their neighbour right? Colson would be pleased. At least people go to hell waving the flag and feeling good about themselves.

Perhaps the coming cultural implosion will generate the hard times and lead people to re-think some things? We’ll see, won’t we? Again a rescued society doesn’t mean a Christian victory, it just means a more tolerable place to live. But I think we’ve already gone way beyond the point of return. I think the cancer is terminal. It seems inevitable. Lo, it is even at the door. It’s not because America forgot God…it’s because America became an Empire and is now following the path of Empire. If more people bothered to read history they would see this.

Multiculturalism can be a good thing in terms of breaking through the narcissistic self-focused mindset of American culture. It can teach young people to take note of people in other countries…yes, they’re human beings too! Most are just normal folks that want the same things in life that we do…peace and security to raise their children and grow old without fear. They don’t like it when other countries conquer them, bomb them, and impose their will on them… smashing a boot down on their customs.

Is it bad for those trying to construct a Sacralist culture? Of course. Sacralism wants to teach its culture is superior. Now if Constantinianism accurately represents Biblical Christianity and thus was part of the gospel, then certainly we would be under Divine Mandate to stand for it. But if it is a false construct, which it is, then look at the results. Rather than teach humanity, love and respect for others, it teaches pride and cultural bigotry. It ends up promoting an ethic antithetical to Christianity and certainly crushes the Fruits of the Spirit and their ability to impact culture.

Moral relativism? Isn’t that what Sacralism does? How many American Christians, blinded by Sacralism and Nationalism turn a blind eye to the sufferings of millions of people around the world? They’re viewed as lesser people. No one comes out and says that, though it was certainly the impression I got growing up in a Right Wing Nationalist pseudo-Christian home.

Bombing becomes…the right and just thing to do. Assassination becomes a moral response. Exploitation becomes stewardship.

Colson proudly signed the Land Letter urging Bush to invade Iraq in 2003. Sacral thinking has led to erroneous extra- and anti- Biblical concepts like the Just War Theory and the doctrine of resistance based on the Lesser Magistrate. These dreamed up formulations have given Sacralists carte blanche to wage war and shed blood.

Moral Relativism? My goodness, this monster, this servant of the enemy is responsible for many souls being led astray and in terms of this age…the man’s got blood on his hands and through his teaching, enables others to turn a blind eye to the world of suffering his sick and twisted Empire has inflicted on multitudes.

Moral Relativism? It can come from many sources. But Sacral Nationalism/Culturalism brings it about like no other force can. It leads peoples to become convinced that God is on their side. Their cause is right as they bomb people of others cultures and races into oblivion for their business interests and as they cleanse their land of lesser cultured/raced vermin…putting them into camps and worse. After all they’re not like us right? They only think…evil and twisted thoughts. German Sacralism led good upright Lutherans to turn a blind eye to, and in many cases openly participate in, mass murder on a hellish scale.

With Colson all I can say is…blind leading the blind. Whenever I read 2 Corinthians 11. 13-15 I think of people like him. They have plagued the Church from the beginning. When Colson dies, there will be five more to take his place.

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

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

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.

I suppose when he reads Christians who critique him he thinks he’s being persecuted, a martyr suffering for the cause of Christ. All I can say is…Matthew 7, starting at verse 13…

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


LEW said...

Would you please unpack this statement -- "Sacral thinking has led to erroneous extra- and anti- Biblical concepts like the Just War Theory and the doctrine of resistance based on the Lesser Magistrate." -- sometime? Or, if you have already done so, please forgive me and point me to the link.

Protoprotestant said...

Sure I’d be happy to elaborate a bit. I’ve written about these topics but to be quite honest, it was awhile back and I don’t remember which post.
Basically what I’m getting at is this…when you assume the Sacral model for society, that society has a Holy Mandate. Its policies, domestic and foreign are tied in with the state or cultural form of religion. Christian Sacralism has usually manifested itself in some form of Constantinianism…state sponsored religion…shields and flags with crosses on them etc…
This affects the whole concept of war and government…Kings or councils, whatever form of government is viewed as something God given. Foreign policy is looked at in terms of…it’s us (God’s people) vs. them (those who aren’t)…and out of this many ideas have been put forth.
One is the theory of Just War. Now, I’m not an absolute pacifist. I do think a father can defend his family, defend the defenseless. But generally speaking I would tend toward pacifism. I guess where it gets tricky is defining what is legitimate defense.
Some argue that defending your society is essentially defending your larger family…and usually those who argue this way place a great emphasis on keeping society as a monolithic cultural, linguistic, maybe even racial family. Of course that line of argument is endless and can be used to justify virtually anything.
I think most wars are rackets…manipulation and aggression. There are cases when countries are invaded and people defend themselves, but usually there’s a whole lot more to the story. And even in many cases, I still don’t see that changing government is a legitimate reason for me to kill someone. Say we’re going to be attacked and overrun by China…we’ll all end up speaking Mandarin someone cries in horror. Well, so what? Is my culture and its language sacral? Is it ordained by God that I can break his commandments for the greater good…to defend my sacral culture? My English tongue? I don’t think so.
There are aspects to Just War theory that are certainly reasonable. However again when crafted to work with a “Christian” government you can enter into an endless stream of justifications and arguments. Attacking Iraq becomes defensive. In a complex world you can argue another country embargoing bananas will harm your economy, destroy your infrastructure, and bring your country down…and suddenly someone not selling you bananas means you have to attack at once! I’m being hyperbolic…but only a little.
The other arguments to the theory…that the end result of the war must not create a worse situation than already existed…well, who can judge that? Again to use a contemporary example…you’re hard pressed to find a non-Kurdish Iraqi (even those that hated Saddam) that think things are now better. All would say the American invasion eliminated Saddam which was good but overall made things much worse. But many if not most Americans would say the opposite.

Protoprotestant said...

I think to even approach these questions using the Just War grid is almost a bit na├»ve…and you end up with each side trying to argue they’re in the right. The bottom line for me is…it’s extra-biblical…the Bible nowhere teaches this. The Old Testament certainly doesn’t and the New Testament rejects the whole concept of Christian state or society apart from the Church. So we have what I would argue is a pretty serious theological error wedded to an extra-Biblical construct…and its result? Christians taking up the sword thinking they do God service.
With regard to the Lesser Magistrate…this is the whole idea that the individual citizen shouldn’t rise up and fight against the government. Clearly the Bible doesn’t support this. But the Lesser Magistrate…like a governor of a state for example can charge the higher government, the Executive or a Sovereign with violating the law. The Lesser power now (it’s argued) has a duty to RESIST the higher power. The average citizen can obey the Lesser Magistrate and take up arms against the greater.
It’s just more slippery casuistry resting on extra-Biblical foundations. The end result…you the individual citizen CAN INDEED take up arms against the government. Rather than obey the Bible this doctrine essentially tells us we can pick up a gun and fight the government.
Let’s face it…if the 1776 uprising had failed…it would have gone down in history as the American Rebellion instead of the American Revolution. It was illegitimate and wrong. The colonials were wrong to do it. The Christians who did so based off these extra-Biblical ideas were in sin. That said…I will be the first to admit it’s easy to make these judgments 200+ years after the fact. Living in those times was complicated just as it is today and making decisions can be challenging.
But rather than say….they messed up, but I can understand why some of them did so….no we have those who argue they could, should, and had to rise up and fight George III…and it was the Christian thing to do…and don’t you know it was some kind of special redemptive-ish work of God to establish the United States.
Of course the New Testament does not support any such argument. Sacralism and its corollary doctrines step into the gap and provide answers.
The Lesser Magistrate doctrine grew out of the Reformation and the religious wars it brought about. For Protestants it was Reformation…culturally speaking it was a European Civil War, a grand revolution. Protestants had to come up with ways to justify taking up the sword against Catholic monarchs….hence the Lesser Magistrate doctrine.
Our world is complicated. These questions aren’t easy. I can think of dozens of situations where I have to say…I don’t know what I’d do. There are often no good answers. But that’s one thing. It’s something else to try and come up with doctrines that vindicate actions which even though an individual may not have a choice….they’re still wrong and undesirable.

Protoprotestant said...

I’m not sure if that helps you. I don’t know exactly where you’re coming from or how familiar you are with these issues. If you’d like me to try and elaborate some more, let me know. Thanks for being interested. If you listen to Christian radio or read some of the popular books of recent years, you see these ideas thrown around. They all rest on extra-Biblical presuppositions. That doesn’t automatically mean they’re wrong, but I’m arguing their presuppositions regarding the state are incorrect and hence these doctrines are just symptoms of that.
Hope that helps.

Lew said...

Thank you for the responses. Well I'm a disaffected culture warrior (and a repentant ex-theonomist), thinking that we evangelicals took a very wrong turn a while back; I'm open to listening. I'm a newbie to the framework of this site, however. Hence, my question. I'll keep exploring your site and possibly be back with questions once I've read a bit more at this site. Again, thank you.

Protoprotestant said...

Wow, you are most welcome. Very interesting. I'm quite sympathetic to where you're coming from.

I'm often writing against what I used to quite zealously stand for.

I hope you find some things of interest. Even if you don't agree with all my assessments and conclusions...perhaps the issues and questions will be helpful. I think (from what I've gathered) that's what draws a lot of folks here. I'm writing about things they either haven't thought about or I'm bringing things together in a different way than they're used to thinking about them.

LOTS of readers don't agree with me...so don't feel like you have to. I'll look forward to any comments you might have. Don't be shy.

A question...when do you think the wrong turn was taken? 1980's? Much earlier? Just curious. There are many different takes on this and different ways of trying to explain what was happening in the past.


Anonymous said...

Welcome, Lew. I take a liberty to welcome you to a blog that isn't mine, this excellent blog belongs to Protoprotestant, but I'm a regular here and I welcome you to the discussion.

It encourages me that you are a disaffected culture warrior and an EX-theonomist! Thank you for telling us, because it is good to hear that people do come out of that.

I am a former religious right political conservative; now coming back home to being a Kingdom-minded christian separating from this world and its ways. I was influenced by the culture war stuff, not really embracing it but agreeing with some of its points as I sought merely to be christian in a fallen world. Proto will tell you as I can, that we may do some of the same things as the culture warriors and sacralists, but for very different reasons.

The realization, come to by the grace of our Lord, that sacralism/constantinianism is the root of the problem, has been so liberating!

Proto: I think the American church, at least the parts I was in, by and large took the wrong turn in the late 80's, when it got faddish to be "actively" pro-life in an aggressive and activist way. Operation rescue brought in a very unchristlike spirit and appealed to religious/politcal ambitions in many men. At the same time, much popular "worship" music became militant arrogant "let's kick the devil's butt" garbage. It was a toxic mix.


Protoprotestant said...

Thanks Victoria. That reminded me of a time when we were in a Christian Missionary Alliance and to our disappointment it turned out to be a kind of rock concert instead of meeting of the Church. Well, they considered it a worship service.

We kind of gritted our teeth and figured well, we'll wait for the sermon and see how that is. Our kids were just sitting there wide eyed gripping the chairs they were sitting it. It was LOUD and they had never seen anything like that before. Funny isn't it? Because that's what a whole of evangelical churches do nowadays.

Anyway, the music went on and on...we were about 45mins into the thing and then they started singing a hymn based on Romans 16.20 about how the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet. Well the 'worship leader'...you can read about worship leaders in 1Timothy 7 right?...anyway, he wanted everyone to get out into the aisle and when they reached the part about crushing, everyone was supposed to the stomp and mash their feet into the floor, jumping up and down and what not.

Sadly these folks just didn't know what they were doing. Apparently the gathering of the Church to them is a time for entertainment. The people are the audience, getting to watch and participate in a show. They had no concept that God is in fact the audience, the recipient of our worship.

Alas. We quietly just got up and walked out. We'd had enough.

eliyahu said...

Hi Proto: great topic and your response was very accurate. I'm impressed with the clarity you described this sad situation with and how it's been polluting the church for 16 (maybe even 19) centuries. And the modern "conservative" Christians' laments of "liberalism" in the church of the last 40 years is just as bad as the worldly mixture conservatives have been living in, propegating and defending for over a millenium and a half. We all have had a part in this, and are susceptible, but can help one another out of it with the testimony of Christ in our own lives. God bless you bro in Jesus' name!


Protoprotestant said...

Thanks Eliyahu....your comment is certainly an encouragement.