The church becomes countercultural by sinking its roots ever deeper into God's heavenly gifts.
by Michael S. Horton
|Michael S. Horton doesn't like the ideas of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement.|
|Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
January 2006, Vol. 50, No. 1, Page 42
|It was confusing to grow up singing both "This World Is Not My Home" and "This Is My Father's World." Those hymns embody two common and seemingly contradictory Christian responses to culture. One sees this world as a wasteland of godlessness, with which the Christian should have as little as possible to do. The other regards cultural transformation as virtually identical to "kingdom activity."||There is more than one definition of "world" in Scripture. Many people fail to make this distinction, as they do with words like "flesh." The bones in my hand are covered with "flesh." This is not a bad thing. God created the world. This too, is not a bad thing.
The whole planet shall be Christianized:
This "good news" is "the Gospel":
But "the world" also represents the unconverted in rebellion against King Jesus:
|Certainly the answer does not lie in any intrinsic opposition of heaven and earth. After all, Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Rather, the answer||What's the question? No question arises if we simply read the Bible sensibly and intelligently. In order for all nations to be "blessed," they must obey God's commandments (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28). That's why Jesus commanded us to teach them everything He commanded; to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). Our goal is to transform sinners into saints. That's the "answer."|
|the answer is to be sought in understanding the particular moment in redemptive history where God has placed us.||Uh oh. Whenever the answer found in God's Law is rejected in favor of an "answer" found in eschatology, we're usually in trouble.|
|We are not yet in the Promised Land,||This is a major claim. Everything in Horton's article stems from this assumption. Is it a Biblical assumption? I suppose most people think so. I don't. Abraham was promised land.  Actually, his descendants were promised land.  They received it.  God kept His promise [proof for -]. And yet they were looking for something more. They believed that God had promised more than the tract of real estate. With the Psalmist above, they believed that God had promised Himself the entire world. This promise is fulfilled in Christ. That "particular moment" of fulfillment came at the first Christmas. The Advent of the promised Messiah meant the invitation
of all nations (Gentiles) into the household of faith. The "New Israel" consists of all nations, who are made a part of the New Israel not by genetic birth or circumcision, but by faith in Christ, and they receive the promise that Abraham looked forward to:
The promise to the New Israel is not just the land between the Tigris and Euphrates, but the entire planet:
The "moment" that Horton looks for was when Christ came:
The "promised land" is the promised world.
|We are not yet in the Promised Land, where the kingdom of God may be directly identified with earthly kingdoms and cultural pursuits. Yet we are no longer in Egypt. We are pilgrims in between, on the way.||Horton appears not to like "cultural pursuits." He has chosen to become an "ordained minister" and teach in a "seminary." But the rest of us are engaged in "cultural pursuits," as butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. Contrary to what many "ordained" people believe, our "mundane" work is holy, and part of the Kingdom of God:|
Why is it Horton believes we are NOT in the day Abraham looked forward to? "Well, because Jesus is not with us." But He is:
But . . . But . . But . . .
Name the deficiency, inadequacy, or yet-to-be-fulfilled promise, and the New Testament says we already have it. What we don't have is a "glorious," "powerful," top-down, socialist Reich led by Jesus from a throne in Jerusalem. But the Bible didn't really promise that. The Jews were hoping for something like that. But that's not what the Bible really promised.
|In Babylon, God commanded the exiles to "build houses and settle down," pursuing the good of their conquering neighbors (Jer. 29). At the same time, he prophesied a new city, an everlasting empire, as the true homeland that would surpass anything Israel had experienced in Canaan.||The world today, with billions of human beings living well-fed and in peace, surpasses "anything Israel had experienced in Canaan." Every single person named in the Bible, if he or she were transported through time into our day, would say that God has kept His promises more than anyone alive before Christ's advent could have possibly even imagined. War and poverty remain in isolated outposts of the world chiefly because of those who believe God has predestined these things to persist until a second advent of the same Messiah who already came. War and poverty could be eliminated tomorrow, if Christians -- 200 million in America alone -- purposed to eliminate them. I would be happy to prove that
claim to Prof. Horton if he would like to know how it could be done. Here's a hint:
The U.S. has spent a trillion dollars destroying one neighborhood after another in Iraq. Suppose we simply gave all that money to Iraqi families as small business venture capital -- after we used our tithes and offerings to eliminate all illiteracy and sickness. Who would Osama bin Laden recruit to destroy "the Great Satan?" If Americans were generous Christians and exported more Bibles and charity than pornography and military bases, who would attack America? What would happen if every pulpit in America started advancing this "postmillennial" vision of the New Heavens and New Earth?
Answer: they would be rebuked by the Rev. Prof. Horton.
|So both of my childhood hymns tell the truth in their own way: We are pilgrims and strangers in this age, but we "pass through" to the age to come (not some ethereal state of spiritual bliss), which, even now in this present evil age, is dawning.||"The Age to come" dawned 2,000 years ago. (Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:78; 2 Peter 1:19; Romans 13:11-12). In AD70 the scaffolding of the Old Age fell, exposing the New Creation.|
|The challenge is to know what time it is: what the kingdom is, how it comes, and where we should find it right now.||It might also help to define "the kingdom."|
|Is Christianity a Culture?|
|In the Old Covenant, the kingdom of God was identified with the nation of Israel, anticipating the Last Day by executing on a small scale the judgment and blessings that will come one day to the whole world.||I would like to see Biblical proof of this proposition.
Here's the big question: how is it -- what is the mechanism -- what is the system -- by which "judgment and blessings" come to the whole world? Is "judgment" seen in Matthew 18:15ff and 1 Corinthians 6:1-11? Would Bible saints see "blessings" today, a result of Christian capitalism rather than atheistic socialism?
|Yet Jesus introduced a different polity with the New Covenant. Instead of calling on God's people to drive out the Canaanites in holy war,||In his writings, Horton seems obsessed with the extermination of the ungodly in the Promised Land. This was a limited, temporary, local command. It was not a paradigm for all of Israel's relations with non-Israelites throughout all time. It may be that Jews converted it into a paradigm, but that was sinful, and Jesus rebuked them for that unBiblical use of God's revelation.|
|Jesus pointed out that God blesses both believers and unbelievers.||Jesus did not criticize or rebuke God's directive to exterminate the Canaanites at the time of Joshua. He did not annul it or apologize for it. It was a command for the generation entering the Promised Land, and no other generation, for no other Gentile nation. Even in the Old Testament, God was externally gracious to unbelievers (Job 5:10; 37:6; Job 38:26-28; Psalm 65:9-13; Psalm 147:8; Jeremiah 5:24; Job 25:3; Psalm 145:9; Acts 14:15-17). This is not "the introduction of a different polity."|
|He expects his people to love and serve rather than judge and condemn their neighbors, even their enemies (Matt. 5:43–48; see also Matt. 7:1–6).||We are commanded to judge and condemn the guilty, but also to forgive them when they repent. God commanded love of neighbor and enemy in the Old Covenant:
Jesus wrote that.
|The wheat and the weeds are to be allowed to grow together, separated only at the final harvest (Matt. 13:24–30).||The tares spoken of in this parable were harvested at the end of the Old Testament age, in AD70. Is Horton saying we are not to evangelize "tares" and convert them into "wheat?"|
|The kingdom at present is hidden under suffering and the Cross, conquering through Word and sacrament, yet one day it will be consummated as a kingdom of glory and power.||This is premillennialism. It is error. Horton envisions a future police state as the embodiment of Christ's Kingdom. Christ repudiated that thinking. Christ rules over a Free Market. Christ's Kingdom is not tiny and "hidden," it is huge, global, extravagant, beyond the dreams of everyone in the Bible, and we should be on our knees in gratitude. They would, if they were here today.|
|First the Cross, weakness, and suffering; then glory, power, and the announcement that the kingdoms of this world have been made the kingdom of Christ (Rev. 11:15; see also Heb. 2:5–18).||Suffering is not excluded by this brand of postmillennialism. But when we suffer, we also reign. There is no future "reign" of the saints that's qualitatively different from the reign we enjoy today.|
|So what is the relationship of Christians to culture in this time between the times? Is Jesus Christ Lord over secular powers and principalities? At least in Reformed theology, the answer is yes,||Christ’s Binding of Satan, unleashing the Free Market.|
|though he is Lord in different ways over the world and the church. God presently rules the world through providence and common grace, while he rules the church through Word, sacrament, and covenantal nurture.||This is "two kingdoms" nonsense. The Bible does not say that God rules in two different ways. Members of the church are not immune from Providence. The world is subject to God's Word, and obligated to be nurtured by Christ through His Covenant.|
|This means that there is no difference between Christians and non-Christians with respect to their vocations.||What does this sentence mean? What does it prove? Didn't Horton just claim that God rules believers and unbelievers in two different ways?|
|"We urge you, brothers, to [love one another] more and more," Paul writes. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1 Thess. 4:10–12).||What does this verse prove? Who disagrees with it? Does it prove that nobody should be an ordained minister?|
|There are no calls in the New Testament either to withdraw into a private ghetto or to "take back" the realms of cultural and political activity.||Actually, there are calls to both.
• We are called to be "separate" (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). "Back to the land" and "homeschooling" are legitimate ways to answer this call. Call it a "ghetto" if you want.
• We are called to "redeem" the days, which is synecdoche for redeeming history, which is "buy back," a close kin to "take back." Clearly, our call is to "take back" the world from slavery to Satan, and give it to Christ. "Take back" the world from the seed of the First Adam for use by the seed of the Second Adam.
How do we "take back" something that we are supposed to be "separated" from? It takes wisdom to understand this. Does Dr. Horton have Biblical wisdom?
|Rather, we find exhortations, like Paul's, to the inauspicious yet crucial task of loving and serving our neighbors with excellence.||Not "rather": this is how we "take back" the fallen world. Not by military invasions. Not by government welfare. But by neighborly love and service. Should Christians exhort unbelievers to serve rather than enslave? Would John the Baptist rebuke king Herod?|
|Until Christ returns, believers will share with unbelievers in pain and pleasure, poverty and wealth, hurricanes and holidays. A believer, however, will not be anxious about the future and will not "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope," as Paul adds (1 Thess. 4:13), but will be energized in the most mundane daily pursuits by the knowledge that God will raise the dead and set everything right (1 Thess. 4:14–18). We groan inwardly for that final redemption with the whole of creation, precisely because we already have within us the Spirit as a down payment and guarantee (Rom. 8:18–25).||These verses do not prove Horton's point.|
|The earthly citizenship to which Jesus, Paul, and Peter referred is therefore a common sphere for believers and unbelievers.||What motivates Horton to say this? "Common" was what characterized the ancient empires. In the New Creation, every area of life is sacred. "Lowest common denominator" is a theology for socialism. poverty, and mass death.
The question is, should Christian morality, or nihilistic atheist immorality, characterize this allegedly "common" sphere? What pleases the Lord most?
|The second-century Epistle to Diognetus offers a self-portrait of the early Christian community:|
|For Christians are distinguished from the rest of men neither by country nor by language nor by customs. For nowhere do they dwell in cities of their own; they do not use any strange form of speech. … But while they dwell in both Greek and barbarian cities, each as his lot was cast, and follow the customs of the land in dress and food and other matters of living, they show forth the remarkable and admittedly strange order of their own citizenship. They live in fatherlands of their own, but as aliens. They share all things as citizens and suffer all things as strangers. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign land. … They pass their days on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven.||Paul says if our "lot was cast" as a slave, but we have a chance to become free, we should take it (1 Corinthians 7:20-24).
These paradoxical ways of looking at life do not refute the claim that we are to exercise dominion, make disciples of all nations, and redeem the world.
|So Christians are not called to make holy apparel, speak an odd dialect of spiritual jargon, or transform their workplace, neighborhood, or nation into the kingdom of Christ.||Who says they are? Is this what Horton thinks about Abraham Kuyper, or any other believer who seeks the "Christian Reconstruction" of society? "Straw man" arguments often reveal something about the image of the opponent in the mind of the one making the argument. Why the disdain toward the Puritans and others who seek to apply God's Law to the world outside the church?|
|Rather, they are called to belong to a holy commonwealth that is distinct from the regimes of this age (Phil. 3:20–21) and to contribute as citizens and neighbors in temporal affairs. "For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come" (Heb. 13:14).||
|The church, therefore, as the communion of saints gathered by God for preaching, teaching, sacrament, prayer, and fellowship (Acts 2:46–47), is distinct from the broader cultural activities to which Christians are called in love and service to their neighbors. In our day, this pattern is often reversed, creating a pseudo-Christian subculture that fails to take either calling seriously. Instead of being in the world but not of it, we easily become of the world but not in it.||"The church, therefore . . . is distinct" from everything else. NOW who has the "ghetto" mentality? Distinctively Christian in our churches; indistinguishable from unbelievers in the rest of our lives.|
|But the church is not really a culture. The kingdom of God is never something that we bring into being, but something that we are receiving.||"Thy kingdom come" into being . . . .
Of course, God does the growing, but the kingdom grows. And we are required to participate in the growth by planting and watering. We are commanded to build the kingdom of God.
|Cultural advances occur by concentrated and collective effort, while the kingdom of God comes to us through baptism, preaching, teaching, Eucharist, prayer, and fellowship.||All of Horton's thousands of errors are tightly packed into this one heretical sentence. Entire books have already been written exposing these errors. We'll come back to this sentence below.|
|"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire' " (Heb. 12:28–29). There is nothing more important for the church than to receive and proclaim the kingdom in joyful assembly, raising children in the covenant of grace.||Yes, we are receiving a kingdom. We don't wait until the Second Coming to begin receiving this Kingdom. It is growing now.
"assembly" = Greek ekklesia = "church"
"Raising children in the Covenant of Grace" does not mean only in "Sunday School." It means raising them to be Christian butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, doctors, chemists, physicists, and ... yes, Christian plumbers. (More on that in a moment.)
|They are heirs with us of that future place for those "who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age"—a holy land "which drinks in the rain often falling on it" and is "farmed" so that it reaps its Sabbath blessing (Heb. 6:4–8).||These verses do not prove (1) premillennialism: that the kingdom is only future (2) the antinomian, neoplatonic "two-kingdom" theology which holds that the Kingdom of God is only in church.|
|A Counterculture?||Church vs. "culture"|
|If the church is not to be identified with culture,||"Culture" in this sentence means "science, commerce, the arts, education, technology, industry, and everything else that exists outside the walls of the church or seminary." Am I being unfair to say that? I really don't think so.|
|is it necessarily a counterculture? If Christians as well as non-Christians participate in the common curse and common grace of this age in secular affairs, then there is no "Christian politics" or "Christian art" or "Christian literature," any more than there is "Christian plumbing."||Ha ha. "Christian plumbing." Cute. This paragraph is as egregiously heretical as the "collectivist" paragraph above. We'll go ahead and dissect it here.
Consider these two books:
"Natural Philosophy" is what "science" used to be called. The "New Atheists" (Dawkins, Hitchens, Sam Harris, et al), following the lead of the older atheists (Ingersoll, Nietzsche, et al), will have you believe that religion (Christianity) is an impediment to science. Wrong. It is Christianity that created science. The vast majority of these argumentative atheists have contributed nothing to science, whereas all the great innovations of what we consider science, industry, and civilization were the product of Christians. To the chagrin of modern evolutionary scientists, Isaac Newton wrote more books on the Bible and theology than he did on science per se.
It was, moreover, only in a Christian context -- where the central planning of the Divine Pagan Empire had been replaced by Market Providence -- a "Free Market" governed by "the Invisible Hand" -- where these inventions could be enjoyed by the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, and not just the philosopher-kings. There was plumbing in Rome, but it was largely limited to the homosexual baths of royalty. One source notes,
Why have the Indus Valley, Chinese, Persian, Greek, and Roman "civilizations" all fallen? Why is it that only Christian culture can possibly survive?
Consistent non-Christian thought leads to tyranny or chaos.
There was no plumbing in the ancient homes of pagan empires.
(Only in Christian nations are there "six-packs.")
Horton is on the side of the atheists -- either Pharaoh or the Ik -- with his crack about "Christian plumbing."
I have yet to find out if Thomas Crapper was a Christian.
|Cultural advances occur by concentrated and collective effort, while the kingdom of God comes to us through baptism, preaching, teaching, Eucharist, prayer, and fellowship.||Now let's talk about the paragraph above (which has been reproduced at left). His laugh-line about "Christian plumbing" put Horton on the side of the atheists. This line about "cultural advances" and "concentrated and collective effort" puts Horton on the side of the communists.|
|[Back to Horton:]||By "cultural advances," Horton includes plumbing. He's saying plumbing requires a federal "Department of Plumbing." He's saying the pagans are better at bringing plumbing to the world than Christians. The Emperor builds our houses, and raises our material standard of living, while the Christians baptize, preach, teach, do sacraments, pray, and "fellowship" (in a "Fellowship Hall" equipped with union plumbing, no doubt). This is such screwed-up thinking that it's hard to know where to begin -- and yet millions of Christians today are Hortonites. Millions of Christian believe -- with the New Atheists -- that secularism improves our world, Christians merely follow their secular lead
Monday-Friday, worshiping on Sunday morning, until Christians leave the world. And the epitome of secularism is Lester Frank Ward's "Administrative State." The planned economy. Obama is the New Caesar, and Horton is his prophet.
Here is the history of "cultural advances" vs. "concentrated and collective effort."
It was not until the Advent of Christ that anyone could even imagine a world where at least three Billion ordinary human beings enjoy the benefits of plumbing. All the emperors of the ancient world would be staggered at what the King of kings has accomplished. They couldn't do it. He has. No empire or bureaucracy could do it. "Concentrated and collective effort" could not even make a toaster. Or a pencil.
If you ask most Christians to explain why the Free Market works, you'll get blank stares. If you propose eliminating "concentrated and collective effort," and return to a Free Market, you'll get howls of protest.
Suppose we enjoyed "liberty in Christ" but lived under a completely socialist government. All of our shoes are made by the government and distributed to the people by the government "Ministry of Shoes." Suppose someone proposed turning over the business of making shoes to a competitive, profit-based system. We might hear something like this:
Libertarian economist Murray Rothbard answers these questions:
This is the application of "the Priesthood of All Believers" in economics, science, commerce, industry, and in every area of life. This is what Horton opposes. He even opposes the discussion of these issues by pastors.
He wants his largely-conservative audience to think he has arrived at a paradigm which will keep left-wing politics out of the pulpit. But Horton, in the pulpit of Christianity Today, is leading Christians farther leftward than Obama and Al Gore ever could.
|The church has no authority to bind Christian (much less non-Christian) consciences beyond Scripture. When it does, the church as "counterculture" is really just another subculture, an auxiliary of one faction of the current culture wars, distracted from its proper ministry of witnessing to Christ and the new society that he is forming around himself (Gal. 3:26–29). This new society neither ignores nor is consumed by the cultural conflicts of the day.||I have some intuitions, but I really don't understand how this paragraph refutes the idea of Christian Reconstruction.|
|Recently, an older pastor told me that during the Vietnam era, two of his parishioners, one a war protestor and the other a veteran, were embroiled in a debate in the parking lot, but then joined each other at the Communion rail with their arms around each other. Here was a witness to the Sabbath rest that awaits us, realizing that we still have, for the time being, vineyards to plant and wars to be for or against as citizens.||"Recently, an older pastor told me that during the gassing of Jews era, two of his parishioners, one a gassing protestor and the other a veteran of the Gestapo, were embroiled in a debate in the parking lot, but then joined each other at the Communion rail with their arms around each other. Here was a witness to the Sabbath rest that awaits us, realizing that we still have, for the time being, vineyards to plant and wars to be for or against as citizens."
"Wars to be for...." So according to Horton, Jesus isn't really the Prince of Peace, and we don't have to work for peace, really, in "the real world" -- just "down in our hearts," when we're in church.
No war is just and worthy of our support. Pastors need to teach their congregations this worldview of peace. Nothing is sadder than a Christian who ignorantly feels he needs to support -- or march in -- a war, and the killing of other Christians, peasants, women, children.
|Ultimately, all Christians who supported the Vietnam War, and the War in Iraq, and every other war in the 20th century, will come to more perfect understanding and repent. We are commanded to beat swords into plowshares. Now.|
|Too often, of course, the contemporary church simply mirrors the culture. Increasingly, we are less a holy city drawn together around Christ and more a part of the suburban sprawl that celebrates individual autonomy, choice, entertainment, and pragmatic efficiency. These are values that can build highways and commerce, but they cannot sustain significant bonds across cultural divides and between generations. Capitulating to niche demographics and marketing, churches that once nurtured the young, middle-aged, and elderly together, with all of the indispensable gifts that each one brings to the body of Christ, often now contribute to the rending of this intergenerational fabric. If this is a worrisome trend in the social sphere, it is all the more troubling for a body that is constituted by its Lord as a covenantal community.||
This is false. Secular autonomy and consumerism are not the same thing as the science and industry of Christendom. "Pragmatic efficiency" is not the same thing as the priesthood of every believer and the Protestant work ethic. A society absorbed by autonomous secular entertainment sees its infrastructure crumble and its indebtedness increase.
These effects are not the result of pulpits that preach "Christian Reconstruction." This is the product of the "Two Kingdom" approach that relegates all of life to secular "natural law" and cloisters Christ inside the church.
|To be truly countercultural, the church must first receive and then witness to Peter's claim in Acts 2:39: "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." The promise is not only for us, but also for our children. According to recent studies by sociologists like Christian Smith, evangelical teens are only slightly less likely than their unchurched friends to adopt a working creed of "moralistic, therapeutic deism." As the diet in our churches is increasingly determined by the spirit of the age, and as youth are treated as borderline cases to be cajoled into thinking God is cool, the church risks abandoning that promise. The "pumped-up" teens in our youth groups today are often tomorrow's skeptics and burnouts. They don't need more hip Christian slogans, T-shirts, and other subcultural distractions, but the means of grace for maturing into co-heirs with Christ.||
What promise? The promise of the rapture, or the promise of Christian dominion?
Deism -- a landlord Creator -- opens the door for statism -- the state as savior. If God doesn't direct the Free Market with an invisible hand, the State must step in with "concentrated and collective effort."
None of this is a problem in churches where Rushdoony is heard from the pulpit.
|Recently, CNN reporter Anderson Cooper was asked, "Do you think part of your job is to appeal to younger viewers?" "I've never been in a meeting where people said to bring in younger people," he replied. "I think the notion of telling stories differently to appeal to younger people is a mistake. Young people want the same kind of thing older viewers do: interesting, well-told, compelling stories. If you're somehow altering what you're doing because you want to get young viewers, that's a little bit like when your parents go out to buy 'cool' clothes for you." In our culture, relevance is determined—in fact, created—by publicity. But the Word creates its own publicity as it is preached, as the story is told. It creates its own relevance, and as a result, a community that spans the generations.||Some readers might be impressed by this trenchant ecclesiastical commentary, but it doesn't prove the "Two Kingdoms" theory.|
|The promise is not only for us and for our children, Peter says, but "for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39). And how does he call them? Through the preaching of the gospel. Peter's promise, in fact, is part of such a sermon, proclaiming Christ as the center of Scripture. Refusing to set a covenantal church ("you and your children") against a missional church ("all who are far off"), the apostolic community stuck to its calling and became both an outpost and lightning rod for God's saving activity in the world.||I don't understand how we got off on this "generation gap" analysis.|
|If ours is to truly be a countercultural community, it must begin with the rejection of any notion of self-founding, either in creation or redemption. It is God's choice, not ours; God's "planned community," not ours; God's means of grace, not our ambitious programs, plans, or achievements that extend the kingdom. Being "countercultural" today often amounts to superficial moralism about sex and SUVs, or perhaps creating wholesome novels with Christian heroes, removing offensive language from music lyrics, and encouraging positive values. Beyond that, many of the churches with which I am familiar are captivated by the same obsessions as our culture: religion as individual spirituality, therapy, and sentimentalism. It all serves to keep us turned in on ourselves, like a kid at a carnival instead of a pilgrim en route.||
By "ambitious program," Horton doesn't mean building Christendom, the New Jerusalem, he means "church growth" programs, including "hip Christian slogans, T-shirts, and other subcultural distractions." We're all agreed against that.
The point is, pilgrims who are merely passing through a country have little incentive to plant roots and convert it from a superficial and fragmented materialist consumer paradise into a Christian Civilization. Horton says that shouldn't even be our goal.
|Describing the rapid decline of rural areas that are surrendering to strip malls and homogeneous multinational corporations, Wendell Berry argues, "We must learn to grow like a tree, not like a fire." Berry notes that we are losing our ability to take any place seriously, since this demands patience, love, study, and hard work—in other words, roots. Some use the word "seekers" to describe those we are trying to reach in this culture. But the truth is that they and we are more like tourists than seekers, let alone pilgrims, flying from place to place to consume experiences.||"rapid decline of rural areas" is nonsense. The entire population of the world can be housed in housing like I grew up in (4 people, 1500 sq.ft.) in one-third of the state of Texas, with another third devoted to all the industry needed by the population of the world, and the remaining third dedicated to parks and recreation. That leaves the rest of the North American continent, all of South America, Africa, Europe and Asia completely devoid of human life, utterly "rural."
"Roots" -- both physical and cultural -- are not something Horton is cultivating with his insistence that we be "pilgrims" just passing through the external world.
The roots of Christendom go back to Kings Alfred and Ethelbert, and others who developed a Christian society based on Biblical Law in the Bible, rather than Roman Law or Stoic "natural law."
|Can churches be a counterculture amidst anonymous neighborhoods and tourist destinations, the apotheoses of individual choice, niche demographics, and marketing? Yes. The church can exist amidst suburban sprawl as easily as in cities or small towns, precisely because its existence is determined by the realities of the age to come—by God's work, rather than by the narrow possibilities of our work in this present age under sin and death. After all, this is our Father's world, even though, for the moment, we are just passing through.||This paragraph plays no logical role in an argument against "Christian Reconstruction."|
|How the Kingdom Comes|
|Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.|
|January 2006, Vol. 50, No. 1, Page 42|
| Greg Bahnsen, in Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Preface to Second Edition, p. xvi, describes his position: