Uncompromised, engaged faith in a world of compromising values
by Jim Hutson
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"But dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord. Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone ask you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15 (GW)
"Research reveals that Christianity in America has become more diluted, more distorted, and less Christ-like with each subsequent generation," Josh McDowell writes. "So severe is the crisis that I dared to proclaim that if something serious does not occur in the life of the church, we may be witnessing the last Christian generation in America."
"Historically, Christians have been formidable in projecting this new and true interpretation of reality [the transformational shift in our conceptions of reality, self, human nature, knowledge, morality, and ethics] into every aspect of American life and culture," S. Michael Craven offers, "not by political coercion but through intellectual influence, missional activity, and compassionate outreach." But, in today's culture, where a candidate can be elected President through 'inclusive and universal' change even by those who claim Christianity as their religion, such formability has become systematically reduced to "religious ritual and personal piety."
As the world has become increasingly intolerant of its views and its mission, the Church has withdrawn into its beautiful buildings and subcultured language, symbols, and literature. It has strayed away from the very calling of its mission and ill-equipped those daring enough to venture into the culture of deprived and sinful world. It has become a victim of the culture, influences, and worldview of a society it was supposed to save.
S Michael Craven, president of The Center for Christ and Culture, is considered to be one of the leading cultural apologists in the modern world and offers those daring enough to engage in discussion a thought-provoking and challenging on the crisis facing the movement started by Jesus Christ and the ineffectiveness of modern Christianity in meeting that commission given in his book Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity.
"Empty-headed evangelism," Craven believes, is the "dumbed down Christian theology" that has created a generation of Christians who are afraid to engage in the hard questions that society uses to silence the witness of the followers of Christ, prevents effective discipleship, and has created a world where the immoral views of humanism are dominant. He calls for a renewed, biblical form of engagement in the battle for the lost souls of the world, in an effective and culturally changing mindset.
A way of engaging the culture in a way that historical apologetics (classical, presuppositional, and evidential) has failed to do. In "addressing the ideas or ideological influences common to a given culture," and recognizing "social issues and their underlying ideas or worldviews," missional Christianity becomes more of a "rescue force that is determined to stay until all are rescued" instead of a hit-and-run commando force that is only here to harass the enemy forces.
"The missional Christian presses into the world wherever he or she is," Craven defines this 'new', highly trained warrior. "and pushes back the darkness with the love of Christ."
In Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity, Craven not only challenges us to learn the way to effectively engage the culture that we have unknowingly allowed to affect our faith but he offers thought-provoking arguments on how those influences have brought a once effective and life changing reality to the former shadow of itself.
Post-enlightenment, postmodernism, and the persuasive consumerism of American culture have allowed "social acceptance of false moral perspectives" as culturized Christians have become increasingly unable to "articulate meaningful, rational, and compelling reasons" for the Gospel message of morality. Only 4% of American Christians use a biblical worldview as a basis for decisions, and even that worldview is more of an espousing of Christian tenets rather than a framework for 'analyzing, evaluating, and guiding' one's lifestyle.
Craven describes this necessity of having a "Christian philosophy of life….where men understand all of reality and its nature in connection with the revealed Word of God" for the effective engagement of a culture and society that has become increasingly anti-Christian. In looking at the effects of modernity and modernism, postmodernism, and consumerism upon our faith, Craven calls us to 'represent the Kingdom of God' through "distinct community…and serving the world through compassion and mercy in meeting humanity's needs and being just."
Reading his book, we are taken upon a journey of understanding the cultural influences and how they have changed the biblical context of God's grace, mercy and glory. We are offered a restoring and effective way to rejoin that unique and achievable goal of being part of God's redemptive work in a world gone crazy by understanding how the morality of our faith has been suborned by secularism. Craven looks at the cultural influences of our modern times, the social issues that plaster the landscape of American society, and calls us to engage that culture through 'demonstrating the reign of God within…authenticating community" with understanding and love.
"If we want to overcome our Culturalized Christianity to worship and serve the King of Kings; we must recover this broader understanding of our mission as Christians in the world. We must learn to properly analyze and intelligently engage the culture, and we must interact with each other and the world in a spirit of grace, love and charity."
Far from emergent, universal, and New Age spirituality movements that disengage God from life, Craven offers a means of understanding and being effective as believers in the cultural influences of our age with the effectiveness of Paul, the compassion of Peter, and the ultimate reality-changing and life-giving impact of Jesus Christ.
I would recommend picking up a copy of Craven's book and challenge you to develop an 'uncompromised faith.'
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