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Protestant Idolatry and the Collapse of Culture
(Don't Blame Rome. They Flamed Out Centuries Ago.)
Unless one is looking to start something, one should never resort to the use of sweeping generalizations. So, having established that condition, let us begin. The Church in America is responsible for all that is despicable about our present culture. Not responsible because she sat idly by and watched it all happen, but because it’s her baby.
It has often been said that culture is religion externalized. Any culture will look and smell the way its religion does. And because our religion is so pathetic, bathrooms have become battlegrounds. Perhaps this is why American Churchianity has for so long used an impotent substitute in the Lord's Supper, betraying some underlying suspicion of the potency of her gospel. For all of our hot air, our churches lack the pneumatic power to blow the fuzz off a peanut.
The gospel is central to all of Christianity, and the Church has been busy presenting her own emasculated Reader's Digest version to the public. A man-centered foolishness has landed us in many forms of the ridiculous. From autonomy to grunge, abortion to a soft currency, all our culture's flaws can be traced back to various lies in our modernistic gospel. And when I say our modernistic gospel I do mean our. Don’t blame Osteen & Company for the shallow state of your own congregants either. They couldn't pick Norman Vincent Peale out of a line up any more than they could cite four sturdy references from Paul.
We see culture born from religion throughout history. The Romans and Greeks worshiped powerful, beautiful, and wicked deities. Their culture mirrored their worship. Where did the culture of the Aztecs find its origin? And the Vikings? Both worshiped gods with a bloodlust not because they themselves were bloodthirsty, they obtained their bloodthirst through the worship of their gods. Muslims serve a non-Trinitarian monad, with whom they can have no communication. Is it a coincidence that Muslim fathers have the same austere relationship with their children and wives that their god has to them? The truth is that all men are made in the image of the one true God, but all men also take upon themselves the image of the god they purport to serve. The Christian is progressively sanctified, gradually reflecting a more perfect image of God. The Viking, Roman, or atheist gradually takes on the image of his god, becoming harder, crueler, or weaker in his deity's service.
National or ethnic culture is just a bigger picture of the same thing. When our country was overwhelmingly populated by Christians, our culture bore a Christian image. Now that our churches worship a spineless god, we have become a spineless culture. Pelagianism has given birth. Her large litter includes political correctness, women in combat, gender confusion, and the death of good poetry. Such is the fruit of an emotionally based, man-centered religion.
But how did this revolution take place? For if indeed all our problems are rooted in flawed religion, then it has been a revolution, for this country had a Reformed culture at its birth. When did all the evil Socinian folk invade? Truthfully, they did not invade and are not to blame for our cultural degeneracy. They certainly may be encouraging it now, but they did not introduce the evil. Naïve Anglicans and their unruly Puritan offspring have been the problem in our culture—moving from sanctified nominalism to the halfway covenant—and they have not learned from their mistakes.
American Protestantism became intellectually corrupt throughout the 19th century after losing its wits through two "awakenings". In reaction to the emotional fits encouraged by the 'enthusiasts,' many members of the clergy locked themselves away in the cerebral cortex, and imprisoned theology between the ears and behind the eyes in order to keep it from running wild in the streets. But this too had a deleterious effect. Young men, trained in Germany, pushed the envelope of what was considered to be doctrinally acceptable. And why not? Doctrine was an abstract object was it not? It had all of the cultural potency of the number 17. So they pushed more and the old guard failed to repel the attack. Why? Because for a long time, they themselves had been living inconsistently with their own stated first principles. They had scrapped the truth in effect but had stopped short of throwing it all away in theory. The next generation did that for them. Reformed thought was not overthrown, it devoured itself.
Today it seems that the Reformation once again has a pulse. This is no illusion, but it is deceiving. Many have merely returned to the ways of our foundered fathers. They talk of their newly recovered doctrine of salvation, they have familiarized themselves with the ins and outs of eschatology, and as a result they have lots of impressive sounding words they can roll around on their pink tongues. But they stop short of actually allowing the truth to run its course. After all, truth is such a heavy thing and they don’t want their lives to be unnecessarily encumbered by it. Better to just keep things academic.
Thick-bearded TheoBros ™ sit on the front porch and discuss the Augustinian theory of walking, and debate over which direction they had best proceed, and yet they remain firmly ensconced on their soft Pelagian rears. They are just as effeminate in their religion as the people they most look down upon. Nero may have fiddled while Rome was burning but at least he wasn't polishing his nails to the throaty tones of Sovereign Grace Music.
In truth many Arminians are much better Christians than the Reformed fellas hiding out in the forests between the Two Kingdoms. For they have told their Father that they will not go to the vineyard, and yet have gone. But neither is desirable; a culture can't be built with such men, and even less with the men who say that they go but do not.
Our culture is currently one built upon hypocrisy. It is a lost culture of a lost religion. The Church has stumbled and fallen. Much was given to our fathers, and we have lost it. We had truth, and now we have soft opinions, and our civil order has paid the price. We had men of God; now we have perpetual juveniles. Our idolatry has led to infidelity. The Church has played the harlot, and we live among her bastards. We must repent and believe the gospel, for we bear the image of our god.