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Krieg Barrie/WORLD

A 'day of small things'

Get ready to serve the casualties of a coming cultural ugliness

Issue: "Our long war," March 8, 2008

One thoughtful article on the internet observed that Bible-believing Christians have not achieved much in politics because they have not devoted themselves to the larger arena of cultural conflict. Politics mostly follows culture rather than leading it. The cultural idea that women have an alleged right to sexual "freedom" preceded the striking down of restrictions on abortion. A temporary victory in the voting booth does not reverse a downward moral trend driven by cultural gatekeepers in news media, entertainment, art, and education. Politics is not a cure-all.

So shall we train Christian people to take positions of power in education and the media? Such training is a good thing, and we should stretch our imaginations as to what God may do through us: "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). Faithful Christians already hold positions here and there in universities and in journalism. A number of Christians are doing good work in movies, and are to be commended for it.

But I fear that we may still fall into the trap of idolizing power. The power of the Christian faith is the power of the cross, power in human weakness, the power of God's love. Christian faith spread in the Roman Empire not by strategically placing Christians in the Roman Senate and in the aristocracy, but by people hearing God's good news-the "foolishness" of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Christianity spread by orphanages, by caring for the sick, and by returning good for evil.

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Bible-believing faith is despised by The New York Times. And most university professors think that Bible-believing Christians are a danger to the future of America. So be it. Let us be content to strive to be faithful husbands and wives and parents and employees and students and neighbors and citizens where we are. If later God sees fit to exalt us to a position of power and responsibility, we may effectively use the godly skills that we have developed.

But for many of us, I suspect that this is a "day of small things." Our environment is in spiritual decline. Unless God brings widespread repentance and turning to the Lord, we may see more suffering, more cultural ugliness, more hostility to Christian principles rather than less. That should not keep us from joy in serving the Lord now, where He has put us, and from having a firm confidence in the blessing and mercy that God will give us even in the midst of cultural disaster. "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).

If cultural disasters come, suffering will come in their wake. We should be ready to bring God's good news to those who suffer emotional trauma as they see their former idols disintegrating in the disasters. "And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go" (Jeremiah 45:5).

-Vern Poythress is professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa.

Vern S. Poythress
Vern S. Poythress

Vern is professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.


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