Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pulpits, White Coats, and Mystic Entertainers

Where is the power base in a community?  There was a time in early American history when the pastor standing behind the pulpit was the power person in the community (this was probably not as true in the frontier areas).  This was true for two reasons:  first, the pastor was the most educated man in the community, and second, there was an acknowledgment by the community at large that God was sovereign and to Him they were accountable.

But that all changed with the inculcation of scientism which defined the era now known as modernity.  The change began to occur in the late 19th century and certainly became full-blown in the 20th century.  Essentially, science was considered by the community to be the context of truth, and scientism (scientific method based on the assumption that reality is only defined by material nature; this is in contrast to early scientists in Europe who based their scientific method on the created order) became the order of the day.  Thus, the power moved from the man behind the pulpit to the man who wore the white medical coat.  Studies have shown that people today trust those who wear the white medical smock.  Whether or not we realize this, this is the consequence of the effects of scientism in modernity.

But now things are changing again.  The advent of Eastern Religious thought garbed in western ideology (or I should say preferential philosophical desire) resulted in New Age teaching, Post-Modern religious blubbery, and radical individualism (meaning, "I make my own religion, thank you very much!").  Now, who bears the power of the community?  It may be argued, in light of recent developments, that those who become popular through entertainment and media become the voices of truth to the masses.  It is almost as if one assumes that one on television, or anyone in the movies, or anyone who sings songs in the pop culture, becomes suddenly an expert on everything.  And these mystic entertainers tell us what to drive (God forbid that we drive SUVs), and what to eat (i.e. "We must defend the defenseless chickens from that great tyranny known as 'Kentucky Fried Chicken"), and how to save the planet (Lord knows how many times someone tries to make us feel guilty if we don't try to save the planet). These mystic entertainers have become the power-brokers for radical environmentalism and, perhaps, the instrumentation of political and social engineers.

What is a Christian to do in such situations?  First, we must learn what the Christian faith is in its fullest extent.  This is commonly referred to as a "worldview" in the modern era.  The Christian faith says something about ultimate reality (God), the nature of material reality (creation), the nature of truth and morality, the purpose of history (God's sovereign will achieved in the incarnation of Christ applied redemptively in human history through the church and the ministry of the Holy Spirit), and the meaning of death and eternity.  Every Christian can and must be ready to respond to these great questions if they want to present themselves as a logical, consistent, biblical Christian.  Second, the Christian must courageously link himself to the teachings of Scripture for authority and instruction.  The Berean Christians have become model Christians in this regard (see Acts 17) where they even put Paul to the test of Scripture. Finally, we must exercise integrity in living out this vision.  The Christian must resist the temptation to accommodate the spirit of the age (and the pressure of media, political parties, unions, and other organizations) if one is to live an eternal life focus.  As one has quaintly put, "If we marry the spirit of the age in which we live, then we will become a widow in the next."  May God help us to look to the Lord in these things; He is the sovereign of heaven and earth.  Amen.


  1. I find a couple of things interesting in your thoughts here. First of all, the Eastern Religions that you speak of provide an interesting difficulty. Mostly I mean that the "Eastern Religions" in the West that you refer to generally barely resemble the the root religion that actually came from the East. Typically what they end up being are synchrotistic amalgamations of the original and whatever folk religions are present in the area. Typically in the East you find tenants of say, Buddhism, combined with local ancestor worship or worship of the local God, or gods. However, in the states you find that the 'Eastern Religions' can only try to sync with the ideologies inherent in Western philosophy. Since there are no gods to sync with, the self becomes the new god. So the radical individualism probably comes more from our Greek past and the focus of individual rights and freedoms which get amplified by certain Eastern religions because of the lack of other gods to fill the gap. Many Eastern religions generally end up moving away from their original base and move to more devotional forms, so in the West we simply become devoted to ourselves.

    The second thing I found interesting was the mention of certain mystic entertainers telling us what we ought to think. What I found interesting was not what they were saying but your apparent opposition to it. You see, they appeal to not drive SUVs and the appeal to take care of the environment are linked, and there should be a certain amount of guilt on our part tied to it. Not because the mystics tell us to, but because God has entrusted stewardship to us. And as stewards we ought to care about animals, displaying mercy in the way we raise them and gather food from them, it is a reflection not merely of our need for food but our view of life and mercy.

    Now, do I occasionally eat at KFC? Sure. Do I waist gas from time to time? Sure I do. Do I recycle everything I use? No, not really. However, I do recognize what and why these 'mystics' are saying what they are saying. You see, us living in harmony is actually returning to creation order and is possibly more human than we would like to admit. I believe, as I think Francis Schaeffer did, in the redemption of culture. People don't always get things wrong outside of Christianity and we need to recognize it when the get it right and show them that their feelings of environmentalism and mercy are in fact they very things taught by Christ. We need to show them that they don't have the corner on truth, but merely borrowing it from us.

    What do you think?

  2. sorry for all the typoes above.

  3. Rick, thanks for engaging my thoughts. I find our discussions stimulating and thought-provoking. My response on several points include the following: the environmental views of radical liberalism is a poor context for maintaining a faithful hold onto biblical stewardship. There is way too much philosophical and theological baggage with the movement. In addition, I rebel against being told what to do by someone whose only qualifications is that they are good actors and actresses - huh? I smell manipulation here. And in regard to redeeming culture, I'm not so sure...I think culture changes as people are changed. The engagement of culture might be best analyzed as seeing where we are as a people by our reflection in our culture. Culture simply tells us where we are, and where we are, seems to me, is we are morally and spiritually bankrupt. I agree that by the time Eastern thought gets amalgomated into western form it hardly resembles the original thing. But that does not validate the original view which is rooted in falsehood. By the way, I am not one to defend "traditionalism" as we think of it in the modern evangelical church. I think a return to raw Christianity is a return to mature thinking about all great issues conceptionalized in a Christian way. I'm tired now, and my brain hurts. I don't think I dealt well with all your points, but I will try later. I continue to think of you and Erin fondly and pray for you guys. Pray for me, a struggling sinner-saint seeking to honor God and do good for someone.

  4. I understand what you are saying. I'm in no way defending the views of Eastern Religions, I was merely pointing out that the phenomenon of Eastern Religions in the West only serve to be slaves to the master of the self.

    David Hesselgrave wrote, "Man's relationship to God precedes and proscribes all other relationships. In this sense true religion is prior to culture, not simply a part of it." If I read you correctly it seems that this hits close to the center of your thoughts. He later says, "for all culture needs is transformation in motivation if not in content."

    I found this interesting because I think it hit on an important nerve. Changing the 'content' of culture is not necessarily always necessary. But, the changing of motivation is. The Christian life does not always change the outward but it will always, and by necessity change the inward. Again, "As A.J. Bavnick puts it, the Christian life takes possession of the heathen forms of life and thereby makes them new."

    So, as you say above, there is a lot of philosophical and motivational baggage that comes along with a lot of the save the planet jargon we hear. But it appears that your distaste comes more from the that baggage and the inward motivation than perhaps the outward practices being espoused.

    I need to be careful to remember in my own engagement of culture that Christ never meant to simply use culture for his purpose, but that it must be under the authority of Christ himself. He brings culture under his authority and transforms it, if not the outward, than the inward. We must be careful not to fool ourselves into thinking that we may somehow assert our own authority.

    Bavnick argues that Christ really does make the content new as well, although the form may not change. But this means he is arguing that metaphysical reality is in actuality the real content and the form is merely what we are able to observe.

    G.K. Chesterton made an interesting observation along these lines when he comments about burial rituals. We look at the past and assume their beliefs in burial given what we can observe. But if someone were to look at our own rituals they might blindly think we believed the dead needed comfortable beds and nice smelling flowers to be happy, or so our rituals would appear. But of course we would deny this and assert that our internal motivations actually make up the content of the outward form. Ahh...but I digress and have ventured off onto a rabbit trail here. Well, until next time.

    Grace and Peace,