Imagine you were a convert to Christianity from some other place and time. Having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, you decided to forsake your society’s pagan idolatry. The person who witnessed to you told you that all non-Christians were enemies of God, fighting against the truth. You could easily see how different the bible was from what you learned growing up. Your people had their own myths about creation, which were very different what the Christians told you. Your society also had very twisted views of human nature, morality, and the meaning of life. You forsook these because the truth of Christ was so much better.
In a way, you always knew there was something wrong with how you were raised. Christianity allowed you finally to understand what was wrong. Your new Christian friends explained that it wasn’t just that your pagan upbringing had some moral failings, but that your whole society was at war with the truth, taken captive by lies originating from the devil. Because this rang true for you, you peppered your new church with questions. You wanted to really understand how to think and live like a Christian.
Because Christ literally died for you, and you truly believed he was your life, you were fully prepared to forsake everything you had ever known in order to follow him and his teaching. You were totally fearless around your unconverted family, friends and acquaintances. You were actually kind of obnoxious. You took even the smallest opportunities to talk about the differences between the Christian truth and the pagan tradition you had been brought up with. Not only was the joy you found in Christianity obvious, but your unapologetic rejection of paganism was also very plain.
One day you met a fellow convert and welcomed him as a brother in Christ. But as you grew to know him better you wondered at some of his strange ideas. He somehow didn’t seem to share your enthusiasm for Christian truth. He was always talking about how so much of what you were raised in “easily fits with the bible.” At times he seemed to have a point, other times you thought he was crazy. But you started to really wonder where his heart was. Why was his attitude so different from your own? He even seemed to be insulted when you talked about your native society being hostile to God. He seemed to want to blend the best of paganism with the teachings of Christ. It was something you’d never considered.
One day a traveling Christian preacher came to your city. His arrival created a lot of excitement. Although he’d never visited your city before, he was well-known for his understanding of the bible, and his clear preaching. Some of his insights were surprising, but it all fit so well with your initial response on coming to Christ. He talked about the spiritual darkness that held people captive throughout the world and gave real examples from your own society. He showed how paganism contrasted with the purity of Christ. As you listened, your heart yearned for your countrymen to know the truth.
You thought of your friend who always seemed to defend your society’s pagan customs, even while professing Christ. You knew he was also listening that day, and you were excited to think that finally he was hearing a proper explanation of what you’d always believed to be true about your own culture. You could never say it as well as this preacher, but you’d believed it since the day you converted, it was part of how you came to Christ.
To your dismay, when you talked with friend the next day, he was actually angry about the preacher’s message. “That wasn’t the gospel,” he announced, “the cross is a message of acceptance!” You were stunned as he argued with nearly everything the preacher had said, and not very coherently. “I refuse to believe that my society is evil,” he said. “If it was so bad, how could God love us? It would make no sense.”
After that conversation you understood that although your friend acknowledged the basic teachings of the bible, the message of Christ had never changed the way he felt about his upbringing. In fact, he refused to let it change. While you had sought out the contradictions between your old beliefs and your new faith, your friend hid from them. He lied to himself about the differences.
It was sad, but not entirely unexpected when a little more than a year later, your friend gave up on Christianity. He had tried to add Christianity to what he already believed. That approach did not bear fruit in his life, and actually seemed to make him miserable. For whatever reason, he never had that sense that he needed to leave behind his pagan thinking in every area of life.
If it is in anyway possible, I want to convince the real you to be like the fictional you in the story above. I want you to understand that the doctrines of Christ are opposed by your society’s customs and beliefs. Those who come to Christ need to reject their society’s ungodly thinking. Modern America is no exception to this. Modern America has its creation myth (evolution), its twisted view of human nature (basically good), and morality (relativism).
There are those who profess Christ but refuse to see the conflict. There are those who deny that a total transformation of our thought-life is needed. This is a dangerous denial, because it keeps us from the truth of Christianity.
We’re all tempted to see American society as respectable in a hundred ways. It’s easy to do, since we were brought up in it. We already know how to think like Americans. What we don’t know is how to think like Christ.
The truth of the bible stands opposed to the culture of our birth in lots of subtle ways. If we don’t realize it, how sad for us! American society denies the meaningfulness and dignity of human life with phrases like “dead-end job,” “safe sex” and “pro-choice.” (I’m not going to explain that, I hope to get you thinking.) We bounce between a hundred false alternatives like consumerism, minimalism, liberalism, conservatism, individualism, and collectivism.
Americans are pagan enough to think that science answers moral questions, and that the bible doesn’t say anything about science.
American Christians are secular enough to send their six-year old children to schools that are officially agnostic, if not atheistic. We compartmentalize life so much that we think it reasonable to fill our minds with God-hating musical lyrics, to be entertained by wickedness, to flirt with Darwinism and still profess Christ. We can’t wait to get home from our jobs and start “really living for Christ.”
Often, when the gospel is attacked, we say the unbelievers “have a point.” Acknowledging God wouldn’t maintain the separation of church and state. Christians can be pretty bigoted. How could an unbeliever know that God created the universe? We identify more easily with the enemies of Christ than with Christ himself.
Why, O Christian, will you be friends with the world? Why will you see things from their point of view? Why would you compromise the doctrines of Christ, or what part of life would you not want invigorated with the gospel? If he is our life, what can agreement with the world be, but making a pact with death?
I implore you, Christian, to embrace the truth that our American culture is anti-Christ. It is not merely unbelieving, it is is anti-believing. Everyday concepts and modes of thinking are cleverly designed to rob us of the life of Christ. Oh, how I wish that just once we could see American culture as some alien thing, as being as contrary to Christ as it really is. Just once, I wish we could see how we bind our children with lies, how we oppress our neighbors, how we pervert the fundamental truths of reality and deny Christ on a daily basis. Just once, I wish that we could see the totality of truth and freedom from lies that Christ offers us.