Should Christians fight the culture war?

This is what the ancient ruins of Corinth look like today. Special thanks to Joe for the image, who had the chance to visit this site last year.

The Apostle Paul spent most of his ministry in places like Greece and Rome, far away from the church at Jerusalem and God’s chosen people, the Hebrews. The Grecco-Roman world was populated by a pantheon of pagan gods and goddesses, whose stories of jelousy and betrayal make our soap operas look like children’s stories. It is probably safe to say most Greek adult men were bisexual (I was actually taught they all were.) A skilled craftsmen, for instance, would have had a wife and children at home, but also have been having sex with a younger apprentice who was studying the master’s trade. This was typical in the culture. The public bath houses were “meeting places” for leaders of the city and merchants to meet daily. The original Olympic games were held nude; and only men were allowed.

Paul would have been surrounded by it. There’s no way he missed the decadent and sinful way of life going on all around him. But we don’t see Paul marching through the streets of Corinth or Ephesus wearing a sandwich board sign declaring that “God hates fags,” Fred Phelps style. What is Paul doing? He is using the Old Testament prophets to show that Jesus is the Messiah. He is planting churches and training church leaders.

Should we be fighting the culture war? Between the teachings of Jesus and Paul, we are taught to respect the leaders of this world, as long as they do not go against the laws of God. We are instructed as much as possible to live at peace with all men. Jesus advocated paying taxes, even though he knew in the days of the Roman Empire that those taxes supported the elegant lifestyles of the Roman governors, and helped raise an army or Roman soldiers to keep people like the Jews in subjection. We are taught to live differently than the culture, not to be up at arms against it. We are a part of the culture, there is no denying that. If we isolate ourselves from the culture we live in completely, we cannot live out our witness, and be a city set on a hill. We could not care for the widow and the fatherless. The people of our culture need to see us living differently, with a different standard or morality, a different set of goals and priorities, and with a different attitude toward money, possessions, etc. If Jesus and Paul did not fight the first century culture war, we have no Biblical basis for fighting one now. An evil culture isn’t something new that has come along in recent history.

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8 thoughts on “Should Christians fight the culture war?

  1. Good post. I believe that we simply cannot impose a Christian culture on an ungodly one. Rather, as a process of positive influence and winsome character, Christians should come to hope for a change in culture as a result of their faith being lived out in the context of their surroundings. In other words, Jesus and Paul didn’t set out to change cultures – they set out to change lives.

  2. Clark, I left a similar comment at a blog listed in your blogroll. So this may seem redundant to you or some of your readers. But I am going to ask it in a more serious manner here (as no one even responded to it in the other blog).

    Are we sure there isn’t a culture war to fight?

    Is it possible that the “culture war” we think of when here that phrase isn’t the right one? The issues are the wrong issues?

    I wonder if Jesus was a culture war warrior.

    I know Rome was in charge and all, but within the context of Israel, they had the benefit of Rome allowing them to still practice their Jewish faith while under Roman rule. I think this is evident by the fact that the Religious higher-ups of the Jewish faith held a lot of sway within Israel. They had a lot of influence and kind of got what they wanted. Not all the time and not with all people. It appears it was mostly with the ordinary people, those in the margins and I’m not saying they had carte blanche, but it’s pretty evident from reading the Gospels.

    Jesus didn’t go after Rome, he went after the anti-beattitude people.

    It’s like he purposely and methodically broke down these people, exposing them for what they were and taking away the culture and lifestyle they were trying to get people to live.

    The problem is that, the things we thing of when we here “culture war” wouldn’t even register with Jesus, the Pharisees, Rome, the apostles, anyone really.

    Well maybe the homosexual lifestyle.

    But abortion? Wasn’t even viewed as acceptable, honorable, or anything.

    Pledge of Allegiance, in “God we Trust” on coins, Patriotism, etc. – there were Zionist around then and Jesus doesn’t address them or deal with them to stop, I know, but I think more than that Jesus had a “you shouldn’t pledge allegiance to anything but God” attitude.

    Women in the Military? – Not a problem in Roman days, they had their own army and kind of made the rules up themselves.

    I know there are a whole slew of others, but these are the big hitters…..

    But what you did to get back to God, how you believed in him, what you did with your time, money, and resources, how you treated other people, he did “go to battle” over those kind of things.

    So maybe it is a culture war, just not the one most people are advocating when they say we must fight the “culture war.”

    Maybe if we lived better lives and did more for Kingdom expansion with our time, money, and resources, the ideas of abortion, homosexuality, et. al wouldn’t be an issue, it’d just be accepted how wrong and ungodly they actually are.

    So, should we fight the culture war? Not that “culture war” but a different one?

  3. Pingback: On the Subject of Theology « The Master’s Table

  4. I’m currently studying Biblical Greek. And I’m starting to realize that this “culture war” is not what Jesus wanted. Those on the status-quo side are acting like the religious elite in the NT. Its like they don’t understand the good news. Its all about stopping some group of sinners without any introspection into their own lives. …..And the message is lost.

    There are 2 things I find sad:
    1) The hot topic issues: sexuality, marriage, abortion, prosperity, etc. These are not new as of 30 years ago. These are not new as of 50 years ago. Try more 3000 to 5000 years ago.
    2) The word evangelize, seems to now mean what modern people do rather than what it was supposed to mean. the transliterated word is euangelionize. eu + angelion + ize. or good + news(or message) + to do. So it means “to do the good news”. I’m not going to go into the other words for preaching but if you look at the greek evangelize was far more than preaching and converting. It was living it. Unfortunatly this has been lost in modern times.

  5. Please see this blog for a deeper treatment of the culture war, and a biblical understanding of the conflict of 2 kingdoms.

    http://blog.engagingtheculture.org

    Moderator’s note: I fixed the above link so it works correctly. Originally you had written “engagin the culture” and not “engaging the culture.” No biggie, but the link didn’t work and it had me scratching my head for a few minutes.

  6. Pingback: Can a Homosexual be a Christian? « The Master's Table

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