Where can we go from here? As a culture the West seems to be hitting a dead end. But what is a dead end but another boundary? God has set boundaries even for the ocean in His wisdom. (Proverbs 8:29) Every cultural shift has a driving ideal system. We've gone from an Enlightenment worldview, to a Romantic one, to a modern, then post-modern. All of these systems of thought initially seemed to have perks and to make sense, but have come short of what we know to be true. Right now some scholars are looking to find an alternative to the post-modern mindset, but it is unclear as to what direction we will or should go. I say: "Go back to the Old Path; go back to the Way."
There are several points which I aim to cover in this post which came across my mind during a midnight musing of mine. These are things which I see lacking in the American culture, and for those of you who want things to change, consider this a "to-do list".
- Develop strong Christian leaders in the church
- Develop a Christian community that creates without simply imitating the world with a "Christian" slant, especially in the fine arts
- Develop Christian scholarship
- Redefine beauty, truth, and hope back to their original meanings and spread these concepts
- Communicate better within the Christian culture; between church members, churches of like denomination and churches of differing denomination
- Communicate better with the world's culture (differentiate Christianity from the rest)
Our churches all have their problems. Paul recognized that, therefore he wrote more than half of the New Testament. (In order to address the problems he saw and heard about.) The apostle John also saw this and wrote three books addressing such issues. Christ even addressed seven churches and their problems in Revelation 2-3. Leaders like Paul and John already exist in our culture. They even write to get their warnings and advice out, similar to the way Paul and John did. However, many churches simply read the advice and the warnings and change nothing. First century churches would almost always address the problems pointed out to them and change. This was because of local leadership and a strong desire to grow in the local congregations. Paul mentions this in many of his letters. (Ephesians 1:15-18, 2 Corinthians 7:13-16) For that desire we need local leaders as well, not just pastors, but members of the church.
Pop culture is not evil, unless it is an evil which is popular in the culture. Yet Christians still should be different. It isn't bad that Christians have rock bands and write popular fiction novels. (I listen to and read that sort of product quite often.) What is bad is that there are hardly any Christians writing great novels like Pilgrims Progress or In His Steps, or painting "The Last Supper" or sculpting "David". Christians had always been leaders in American (and Western) culture until the late 1800s when they began to step away from culture. If we had more of a community to develop our creative members into such artists we could once again lead our culture back to Christ.
With the previous two points comes one which is sadly neglected in most churches: learning. We do learn about how (badly) Samson dealt with his Nazarite vow and also how Noah built a floating zoo, and we can still learn from these things. However, not many people know the stories of Ezra or Nehemiah. And those who do may not know about the different rebellions in the desert committed by the Israelite people before coming into the Promised Land. And these are just content focused tidbits. Even fewer know much of the symbolism God worked into the Old Testament's actual events. (Now there are many churches which teach these things, however, there are many more which do not and simply repeat the story of Moses and the burning bush without much expounding, even after you've become an adult.) Our Sunday School classes and sermons should not only motivate and convict, they should teach. And our congregations should be studying the Bible for themselves and asking questions. All of these things should help the previous tasks and the following as well.
Since the Christians pulled away from mainstream culture it has had a chance to form its own construction of what beauty, truth, hope and other concepts are. We need to reconstruct them. Beauty has a standard, both inward, and outward. Truth is definite. And Hope is tangible.
The standard of beauty is God Himself, however, we cannot reach that standard so we do the best we can. Inwardly God give instructions for beauty all throughout the Word. To act in the manner that Christ acted while He was on earth should be our goal. Outwardly (with people, art, and other miscellaneous things) beauty still finds its origin in God. When God made the world He said it was good. (Genesis 1:31) God, being Himself the standard for beauty, created beautiful things. We can see what he has made and in our own ways do our best to capture the beauty He has created.
Truth, likewise, is sustained in God and emanates from Him. Jesus even says, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life..." (John 14:6, italics mine). We know Jesus never changes, therefore we know that the Truth of truths never changes. (I'm not talking about realative truths like the age of a person, which change with time, but about truths which are more substantial.) Though a person's age may change over time, the truth is that they are one age at one time and at another time they will be another age. This truth does not change. God has clearly laid out many truths in His Word and in nature, our job is to seek them out and to pinpoint where truth lies, not simply to accept every idea we hear as "God's truth", but to verify, if possible. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
Hope is tangible. I don't mean by that that we can touch hope. I mean that we can (and as Christians always do) have hope. It is not elusive. We always have hope, we simply do not always believe it or claim it as our own. (Ephesians 1:18-19, Hebrews 6:19-20) It's hard to have faith when it comes to hope, because we do not yet have what we hope for, but that's only natural."For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he already sees?" (Romans 8:24)
(The spreading of these concepts can be achieved through points number two, five, and six.)
The fifth and sixth points share the underlying reasoning: unity. (Ephesians 4:3, 11-13) Without intercommunication and intra-communication the church can be carried away by false doctrine. (Ephesians 4:14) And unified communication also presents a much less confusing Gospel. With all of the disagreement on secondary issues and on matters of indifference (like the color of the carpet) our Gospel can be bogged down, but it is a simple message.
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also." (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) And "...Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved..." (Acts 16:31). "For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 2:17)
Let me say that this is a lot to do. (So let's get a lot of people working on it.) "Many hands make light work."
( Proverbs 8:29, Revelation 2-3, Ephesians 1:15-18, 2 Corinthians 7:13-16, Genesis 1:31, John 14:6, Ephesians 1:18-19, Hebrews 6:19-20, Romans 8:24, Ephesians 4:3, Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Acts 16:31, 2 Corinthians 2:17)
P.S. Thanks for reading any or all of this. (I know it's a lot, I'm making up for the summer.) The next post will be shorter.