Saturday, January 26, 2008

Right Angles

A while back, I was talking to someone in a church membership class about our church’s traditional position on women in ministry (complementarian, for those who are into the lingo). When I was challenged on this, I pointed out that the church always has a responsibility to be clear on biblical issues, but particularly when the surrounding culture has abandoned those ideas or is confused about them. I asked, “Can you think of another issue in our culture that is more muddled and unbiblical than gender?” I urged that we need to be at right-angles to the culture when the culture is clearly at odds with biblical teaching. When the would flounders, the church must speak with an authoritative voice.

This isn’t a post on gender issues, it’s a post on Christianity and culture issues. How should we speak to and about a watching world in order to be most honouring to God and most useful in our generation regarding Gospel proclamation?

The contemporary evangelical church is full of “we’ll come along-side, we’re not much different than you” voices. What we need desperately are some prophets; prophets who are willing to stand at right angles to culture – including the contemporary evangelical culture – and say hard things.

I'm thankful that the church has some of those prophetic voices; John Piper, Albert Mohler and Ravi Zacharias spring to mind, as do Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson. These men are not afraid to stand at right angles to the prevailing winds of mainstream doctrine and thought.

I think it was Chesterton who said that any old dead thing can float downstream, and so much of what is popular today is caught up in the flotsam and jetsam of trendy Western culture (this brings up another value of the prophet: Their messages don't go out of style).

The quote in the post below by David Wells (an excellent prophet for the church, by the way), is a great example of speaking at right angles to the latest trends in the evangelical world. The Kingdom of God is God's! We who love the truth of God's Word ought to be alarmed by those who are teaching the latest brand of "kingdom now" doctrine that is coming largely from the Emergent circles. Brian McLaren's, The Secret Message of Jesus is a good example of this "radical new understanding" (read the first appendix for a defense of this "new" teaching). His essential message is that the church must downplay its emphasis on individual salvation and its focus on Heaven and work to realize the kingdom here and now through social action. In truth, this is a recycled version of the Social Gospel movement of the early 20th Century.

So then, they're saying, "We're going to focus on peace and love and making the world a better place without judging anyone for their religious beliefs." Find the right-angled, prophetic word in that statement. Radical, eh?

If we love truth, we must speak and live at right angles to conventional thinking. Likewise, if we love people, we must tell them the truth about our Holy God, sin, Heaven and Hell. If people are going to hear us, we're going to have to speak up and speak clearly - particularly on the many areas that are fuzzy and confused in popular thinking.

What got me thinking along these lines this morning was a quote that I came across as I was reading my blogs:

"To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."-- Flannery O’Connor

That's exactly what I'm talking about (and doesn't that remind you of the Old Testament prophets). We must make truth-connections with people - even people in our pews. Before our world goes totally deaf and blind, right-angles must be primary mode of operation for the church in the 21st Century.

May God raise up many more prophetic voices.


deafsingle said...


John K said...

Great post, Pastor Terry. I wish I could think of something to comment, but, well, I just wanted to say I enjoyed it.