“And the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” (I Chronicles 12:32)
“So that will be the burden of this rubric: to scrutinize the times in which we live in order that we may grow in our understanding of the times, and consider what we ought to do.”
That quote from the first article written for this rubric back in September of 2002 has governed the subsequent 43 articles that have found their way into this column. For the most part those articles examined the primary worldviews of our day and traced some of the consequences of the ideas that they advance. In this, the last article for this column, we will discuss the critical importance for modern-day Issachar to grow in understanding of false worldviews in order rightly to do battle against them.
Ignorance Is Not an Option
Modern-day Issachar ignores present-day world-views at her own peril. A December 13, 2013 Worldview Weekend Exclusive Newsletter warns that worldview ignorance results in self-professing Christian adults and young people ending up with worldviews that are no different from those who are outside of the church. The newsletter goes on to demonstrate that with the following statistics for present beliefs among Christian adults:
- 64% believe moral truth depends on the situation.
- 84% believe male/female co-habitation outside of marriage is acceptable.
- 55% believe a good person can earn his or her salvation.
- 44% believe Jesus Christ committed sins while on earth. Some statistics for college students are even more troubling: l 65% embrace socialist and communistic ideals.
- 88% of students from “Christian” homes deny their faith before they graduate from college.
- 91% of students from evangelical churches do not believe in absolute moral truth.
- No doubt these statistics reflect the fact that college students are under the influence of some very liberal professors. If these grave statistics are even close to reality, modern-day Issachar has much work to do. This work, some would say, includes the church joining the ranks in the Culture War.
The Culture War
It is true there is a Culture War that is going on in the West against what is called the Judeo-Christian worldview. Since the 1930s there has been a striking similarity between the tactics being used in the battle against the Judeo-Christian worldview and the battle plan laid out by Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, in his Prison Notebooks. Gramsci maintained that a successful Marxist revolution in the West must first address the culture.
Rather than seize power first and impose a cultural revolution from above, Gramsci argued, Marxists in the West must first change the culture; then power would fall into their laps like ripened fruit. But to change the culture would require a “long march through the institutions”—the arts, cinema, theater, schools, colleges, seminaries, newspapers, magazines, and the new electronic medium, radio. One by one, each had to be captured and converted and politicized into an agency of revolution. Then the people could be slowly educated to understand and even welcome the revolution.
Gramsci urged his fellow Marxists to form popular fronts with Western intellectuals who shared their contempt for Christianity and bourgeois culture and who shaped the minds of the young. Message to the comrades: “It’s the culture, stupid!” Since Western culture had given birth to capitalism and sustained it, if that culture could be subverted, the system would fall of its own weight.1
It is this leftist attack on Western culture that many religious groups are using as a rallying cry around which to unite for the purpose of “taking back the culture.” Typical is this cry of televangelist James Robison, “…I’ve got to be honest with you. If Catholics, evangelicals, protestants, if we would just come together on common ground, you talk about a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. You talk about a city set on a hill that could light up the way the world should walk and reveal the way not to walk as well as to walk. I think it’s going to happen.”2
Responses to the Culture War
In response to Robison’s and many other similar take-back- the-culture cries, organizations like the Freedom Federation have mobilized to rescue Western Culture. This strange alliance of conservatives, evangelicals, neoevangelicals, the New- Religious Right, the Word of Faith, and the New Apostolic Reformation says this about themselves on their website:
These organizations represent some of the Nation’s largest constituents of youth, Hispanics, African-Americans, women, clergy, and churches. The common shared interests include faith, moral values, and freedom. The Freedom Federation is committed to core values expressed in the Declaration of American Values, a document which sets forth foundational values. Based on these shared core values, the leaders of these national organizations will work together on common interests to plan, strategize, coordinate, message, and mobilize their various constituents to mobilize a movement to advance these shared core values.3
Freedom Federation is but one of a number of strange convergences that have united to push back against the attacks on the freedoms present in Western Culture. It’s hard to imagine the Religious Right, the Tea Party, the dominion theology crowd, and even Mormon Glenn Beck agreeing on much of anything, but it appears to be happening as they align themselves to do battle for God and country. It is amazing what a common enemy can sometimes accomplish.
Even more surprising is the movement to bring evangelicals and progressives together. The leadership team responsible for promoting this union included on the agenda a report titled: “Come Let Us Reason Together: A Fresh Look at Shared Cultural Values Between Evangelicals and Progressives.” One wonders what those “shared values” might be. No doubt the Marxist “social justice” theme is high on the list. The leadership team also provided a document that calls for these evangelicals and progressives to merge. Responding to this call are a number of neo-evangelicals, members of the New Religious Right, New Apostolic Reformation, and Emergent Church leaders. Standard Bearer readers may be familiar with some of the names of those who endorsed it: Rev. Brian McLaren, author of Everything Must Change; Dr. Richard Mouw, president, Fuller Theological Seminary; Dr. Tony Campolo, professor emeritus, Eastern University; Rev. Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners; and Dr. Ronald Sider, president, Evangelicals for Social Action.4
Furthermore, these unholy alliances promote religious pluralism, solidarity, common good, and interfaith dialogue. Expression of their approach to this agenda is provided by Douglas Kindschi, director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University:
We acknowledge there is ultimate truth but in our own finite creatureliness, we acknowledge we do not possess the ultimate truth. This kind of respect can lead to acceptance of the other as a truth seeker, but, like oneself, not perfect in understanding.
This reminds me of the concept of “holy envy” from Krister Stendahl, former dean at Harvard School of Divinity…. He urged that our dialogue be so respectful and open to new insight that we would experience holy envy—that is, being “willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own.”5
No doubt our Lord understood nothing of Kindschi’s false humility of not possessing ultimate truth or Stendahl’s “holy envy” of the religious traditions of the Greeks, Romans, and Jewish leaders of His day when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” ().
Not a Culture War, But a Spiritual Battle
Clearly these unholy alliances lead to outcomes that Issachar must avoid. While one might sympathize with the concern for the growing cultural decline that these movements intend to correct, jumping on the “take-back-the-culture” bandwagon is not present-day Issachar’s answer. Some well-meaning Christians may think that by joining this conflict they will be defending liberty for the sake of the gospel, when in reality they will be compromising the gospel for the sake of liberty. Make no mistake, these compromising unions are rooted in a false worldview: a worldview that declares that there is good to be found in all men and that by joining them in their good Culture War good things will be accomplished. Nothing else but a false worldview rooted in common grace theology is this.
Modern-day Issachar understands that the Culture War confronts only the consequences of a much deeper malady: a false worldview. Issachar’s is the spiritual battle of the antithesis, not a culture war. A culture that is rooted in the totally depraved nature of fallen man is a lost cause and fit for destruction. Instead, while living in this world with its doomed culture, modern-day Issachar is privileged to fight for a far different cause: the noble cause of the Lord Jesus Christ:
15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him:
17. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell ().
With this grand understanding of Christ as the heart and soul of his worldview, modern-day Issachar is prepared to fight this battle of faith. And what a tremendous incentive this truth provides Issachar in the home, church, and school to arm her children with the knowledge of the Scriptures, an understanding of false worldviews, and the sanctified judgment to evaluate them correctly, lest those raised in covenant homes end up as one of those troubling statistics earlier listed in this article.
To understand the times is to understand worldview. Thus equipped, Issachar’s battle cry continues to be “understand the times and live!”
1 Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West (St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 2002), 77.
2 Brannon Howse, Religious Trojan Horse (Collier, TN; Worldview Weekend Publishing, 2012), 320.
3 The Freedom Federation website, posted at: http://freedomfederation. org/content/members
4 Howse, 341-342.
5 Douglas Kindschi, “How can we move beyond mere tolerance?” The Grand Rapids Press 20 February, 2014, B, 1.