Voices

Unlikely as uphill erosion

Organizational drift (con't.): 16 more reasons for the one-way flow

Issue: "Nuclear threat in Korea," Aug. 16, 2003

We took a brief look in this column last week at the regular tendency of institutions and organizations of all kinds to drift from the right to the left, from orthodoxy to heterodoxy, from faithfulness to unfaithfulness, from discipline to permissiveness.

The pattern, I asserted, is unmistakable. And so, after asking a number of folks around me why they think the flow is so typically in just one direction, I listed here last week some of their responses. And I promised to follow up this week with still a few more. Here they are:

Organizations, movements, etc., always want to grow. How do you grow? By including more people. Very often, you include more people by compromising. When you decide to stand up for an issue, you have to deal with the fallout. Who likes that?

The "seeker friendly" movement-exalting the "marketing" impulse over the "truth" obligation-tends to compromise the truth. "Be nice, be soft, or people will leave in droves," seems too often to be the operative maxim.

Good scholars need to question and challenge what is commonly accepted, in order to advance knowledge. Good Christians need to believe what the Bible says. This creates a tension.

People who weren't there at the beginning lack the zeal and the enthusiasm to take the time to understand the history and the issues. We all need to spend more time understanding our own history.

Charity is often inclined to think the best, especially when small shifts are afoot. There is a penchant to avoid conflict-especially with regard to minutiae-that inclines the rebellious heart (through pacifism or perhaps passiveness) to contribute to such declension.

Our sinful human nature is prone to error and laziness. The trend continues because it is the easiest. It requires the least intellectual work.

Decay is natural in a fallen world-unless there's salt to act as a preservative. The best thing Christians can do is to remain salty.

We erect all manner of idols (work, family, diversions, avocations, the pursuit of wealth and success) which we regard as harmless, since they are the hallmarks of our American society and culture, and which God, in His goodness, allows us to enjoy in unprecedented measure. But at the same time, He sends a wasting disease into our souls (Psalm 106:15) whereby we, while professing faith in Christ, seek fulfillment in the world. In short: We are an undisciplined, world-enamored, pathetic people who know next to nothing about loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength. "Other than that," this friend wrote me, "we're in pretty good shape."

We must continually fill ourselves up with the Word (which is the sword of the Spirit), be relentlessly vigilant and discerning, courageously and persuasively see and name things as the Bible sees and names them, and take our lumps in the culture.

Syncretism plays a role. We compromise (sometimes called consensus) A with B. Then, B with C, C with D, etc. Gradual drift that carries us far from where we should be.

For liberals, the goodness of man is a bedrock assumption. They embrace it without question as a policy and a worldview.

For conservatives, there is something dirty and unspiritual about politics (including church politics), and they won't participate. That kind of false spirituality or Gnosticism is common among evangelical Christians.

The taken-for-granted patterns of thought are dictated by our education and the media.

Conservatives themselves become too extreme, and provoke their own to leave the fold.

Not to care what the world thinks, only to care what God thinks, that is true liberty. But most of us prefer a strange kind of bondage.

We come to favor people we love and respect over truth itself.

Enough? It is for me, and I'm still thinking.

Not all my friends thought my premise was true. Several said what may seem like a right-to-left trend is really only part of an overall much larger back-and-forth fluctuation, of which we right now see only a small part. I appreciate that caution. At the same time, I've never witnessed up-the-hill erosion. I've never watched attics get flooded while basements remain dry.

The Bible promises a new heaven and a new earth. I am not privy to the detailed schedule by which that will happen. But I do have a strong hunch that when it happens, it's going to feel more like a move to the right than one to the left.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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