(Continued from part one)
How did we get here?As I mentioned, my reading for the morning of November 4 included 2 Kings 17. It seemed portentous, though I hoped it wasn't!
Israel: going, going.... The first six verses detail the political crumbling and collapse of Israel. The inspired historian immediately reveals why disaster struck:
And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the LORD carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the LORD to anger, and they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this." (2 Kings 17:7-12)I hasten to say two things: first, America isn't Israel; second, the parallels can only be overlooked by sheer willpower.
America: not the same. God has no national covenant with America. The Pilgrims were certainly themselves Christians, and made a Christian covenant on their arrival here. Certainly the nation's foundation was laid by Christians, and by men whose thought reflected a Biblical framework, though scholars debate the exact extent.
But for all that, there is no direct analogy to God acting by prophetic revelation and miracle to establish a nation bound to Him through a bilateral covenant, as He did with Israel.
America: worse. Having said that, the pan-canonical principle obtains: greater privilege means greater responsibility. "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more" (Luke 12:48b). This is true both individually (James 3:1), and nationally (Amos 3:2).
As far as I know, no nation in history has enjoyed greater freedom and ability to read and study the Word of God, nor greater liberty to preach and practice what we find therein. Bibles, study guides, helps of all sorts, scholars, pastors, churches — we have them all in unprecedented abundance. If I can locate a place and gather some people, I can preach the Word to them, and the government won't say "Boo."
What we've done with what we had. Yet what have we done with it? What have we done with all that? Every reader of this blog — the high school students, the moms, the unemployed, the lawyers, the truck drivers, the security guards, the cooks — every one of you has instant access to Biblical resources that Augustine, Chrysostom, Anselm, Aquinas, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Hus, Calvin, Luther, Knox, Zwingli, Charnock, Owen, Edwards, Whitfield, Spurgeon, Ryle, the Hodges, Warfield, Machen and all the rest could not even dream of.
And what have we done with it, as a nation? What have we to show for it? Is our Biblical knowledge correspondingly deeper than our forebears'? Is our holiness correspondingly richer? Our spiritual life more dynamic? Our spiritual fruit more abundant? Our achievements in terms of mission and evangelism and discipleship broader and deeper and more profound, in due measure to the superiority of our resources?
Alas, you know the answer to that, too well.
Sad state of affairs. David Wells and Iain Murray have documented the decline and failure of evangelicalism in America. You don't have to read them; read the meta at various good Christian blogs. I have several in mind. Some of the very best posts available, with some of the most clueless, muddled, arrogantly misled commenters. We get them at Pyro and here, though not as frequently, since we (unlike some) moderate our meta's fairly closely.
But all around, you find "evangelicals" enamored with trying as hard as they can to sell off their birthright to be more acceptable to the world — the kin of Tony Campolo and Brian Maclaren and Jim Wallis and the like.
What we see, all too often, are professed Christians with an unclear, edgeless Gospel, little or no clue as to how to apply the Bible to life — but a burning desire to fit in with the Christ-hating world.
Moral nadir: babies for Molech. The quintessence of our ethical blindness is seen in the issue of abortion. Here, perhaps, is the defining moral issue of our time. I happen to believe that no Bible-believing Christian ever had reason to be fuzzy on the issue. Now in addition to that, science has triple-underscored and bolded the humanity of the victims of this modern Holocaust, and the inhumanity of their sacrifice on the altar of license and selfishness.
Yet, while the apostate Roman Catholic church is fairly consistent on the issue, "evangelicals" can't figure out whether there's a moral aspect to aiming Barack Obama — the most viciously pro-abort candidate ever to seek the White House — at the unborn, and pulling the trigger by pulling the lever.
Whence? So how did we get here?
We loved the world, and the things of the world. We loved fitting in. We were desperate to be liked, accepted, respected, both institutionally and individually. We let ourselves get caught up in the Zeitgeist of consumerism, emotionalism, radical introversion and subjectivity. We tolerated watery preaching and weak pulpits, doctrinal drift and apostasy, and produced spineless non-leaders. Whole "Christian" movements grew and prospered that practically demoted the Word of God to ancillary status.
And as we read in 2 Kings 17:13, "Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, 'Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.'"
And so indeed God prepared and sent J. Gresham Machen, Carl F. H. Henry, Francis Schaeffer and a host of others, reasoning and warning and pleading.
"But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God" (2 Kings 17:14).
So what does God do in such cases?
Judgment by abandonment. Well, sometimes God allows outer judgment; but always He imposes inner consequences. We read that those who refuse to listen "shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices" (Proverbs 1:31), and that "the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them" (v. 32). This is that same pattern we see in Romans 1:18-32. God punishes sin with sin. Apart from repentance, sin snowballs. God "delivers over" apostates to further apostasy.
And so it is with our country. Tragedy of tragedies, evangelicals have lost the evangel, the Gospel. They do not see the Cross as their only glory, nor the world as crucified to them thereby, and they to the world (Galatians 6:14). So they compromise, they kiss up, they declare peace — and their children, more consistent than they, simply fall away.
Now we have those with (at best) a form of religion, but no power to it, no inner reality (2 Timothy 3:5). Arrogant, unteachable, self-filled, bloated Christianoids without the touch of the Cross to convert them, regenerate them, humble their pride, and yoke them to Christ to learn of His word.
And that's how we got here. "Evangelicalism" is filled with Laodiceans who imagine themselves full and rich, but are actually "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). We should be holding the Gospel out to the nation, and we barely know it ourselves.
So God has given us our way. We didn't see fit to do it by the Book; so our own blind, chaotic, lost way has come back on us.
And now a hollow suit, a cool man marinated in Marxism and liberation theology and racist hatred, perfectly happy to let babies pass through the fire to the Molech of sexual license and convenience, is about to take the most powerful seat in the land.
So... what's the plan?
Next time, Lord willing. Then I plan to open Comments.
This way to Part Three.