Turning the other cheek to cultural evil is selling Christians into slavery
Dear friends and supporters:
It’s profoundly unsettling for devout Christians to contemplate the possibility that the faith they practice might be defective in any major particular. I’m not referring to orthodox belief, which is a criterion of being Christian in the first place, but to a specific Christian outlook that leads to an entire way of life, or as Martin Heidegger would say, a way of “being in the world.”
Since about the 1870s, conservative Protestants in the West have adopted a passive, pacifist, obsequious, and even, at times, masochistic approach toward their contra-Christian cultural opposition. Occasionally this attitude has verged on a lust for persecution, which they have identified as a nearly infallible mark of their Christian devotion.
This persecution-lust is not unprecedented in church history. Many patristic Christians reveled in and sought martyrdom. This attitude was understandable. For the first centuries of its existence, the church was under severe attack by both apostate Judaism and the pagan Roman empire. Thousands of devout Christians were martyred. Jesus Christ’s death was not martyrdom, but rather an atoning sacrifice; yet it was easy for patristic believers to see his death as at least a partial paradigm for a theology of martyrdom.
After the Constantinian legalization of Christianity (Edict of Milan, A.D. 313), the orthodox themselves sometimes did the persecuting, notably of the heretics. During the Middle ages, many of these heretics were dualists, heavily influenced by ancient Gnosticism. The Paulicians, Bogomils, Cathars, Albigenses, and other dualist sects often courted persecution — and considered it a badge of Christian fidelity. (See Steven Runciman’s The Medieval Manichee.)
Reformers, Magisterial versus Radical
In sharp contrast, the Protestant Reformers, sometimes called the Magisterial Reformers, were convinced the church should be a strong cultural force, advancing the faith and the kingdom of God by every legitimate means necessary.
The Radical Reformers, sometimes known as the Anabaptists (not Baptists), identified today most closely with the Mennonites, the Amish, and the Quakers, could not disagree more. According to the radicals, the church must always be countercultural. It’s a sin for a Christian to serve as a civil magistrate or soldier. Christendom, which they abhorred, imposes devotion, and devotion can never be imposed. It is voluntary. The pure church is the small, embattled, persecuted minority waiting for the return of the Lord, who will set this evil age right — including those proud, pompous Protestants and Roman Catholics, both of whom actually constitute a unified overbearing, imperialistic Christendom. The Radical Reformers, in the language of F. H. Littell, embraced a “theology of persecution.”
Contemporary Western Christianity in almost every expression stands much closer to the Radical Reformers than the Magisterial Reformers. This is no less true of Roman Catholicism, which has a long history of culturally establishment Christianity that it has now affectively abandoned.
Over the last 150 years Christianity has retreated successively before higher biblical criticism, Darwinism, secularism, Marxism, existentialism, modernism, progressivism, statism, and postmodernism. Despite their obvious differences, these philosophies and ideologies have created a united front, a new religion, actually, replacing orthodox Christian culture. This coterie of contra-Christian religion has actively worked to supplant the Christian culture that marked the West for 1500 years.
Rather than refute, oppose, and vanquish these enemies, Christianity has almost everywhere retreated back into the family and church, and, in recent days, has even abandoned the church.
Both the nearly unexamined collapse before the COVID-19 political edict effectively banning public worship, as well as the knee bending (metaphorical or physical) before Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, and Cultural Marxism, have exhibited the embarrassing masochism of today’s Christianity.
The church judges fidelity to Christianity by the degree of its capitulation to evil and adoption of worldliness. It doesn’t punch back. It falls to mat and stays down for the count.
Counterpunching Is a Divine Calling
This is not a biblical way of “being in the world.” At creation, godly man and woman were deputized to exercise dominion in the earth (Gen. 1:28–30). This is called the cultural mandate, and it’s man’s primal horizontal responsibility before God. Adam and Eve immersed the human race in sin, and God pronounced his curse on it. But his curse was accompanied by a promise. God’s purposes in the world would not be frustrated by Satan. The rest of the Bible is a description and fulfillment of this promise:
“ ... I will put enmity [hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise [crush] your head, and you shall bruise [crush] his heel.”
God focused his blessing and judgment not chiefly on Eve and the serpent, who was possessed by Satan, but on each of their respective offspring. Early in its history, the church understood the (single) offspring of the woman to be none other than the Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This verse is called the protevangelium: the first gospel promise, and God the Father was the world’s first gospel preacher.
The (plural) offspring of the serpent is humans enslaved in his diabolical kingdom. “Offspring” is both individual and collective. The offspring of the woman is Jesus Christ, and that includes all united him by faith (Gal. 3:26–29). The offspring of the serpent is perhaps an idealized antilord, and that includes all united to him in unbelief (Jn. 8:44–45).
Shifting the metaphor, but not shifting the meaning, Jesus Christ and his people are called to counterpunch Satan and his co-belligerents — to knock them to the mat.
The great cultural commission
The cultural mandate was not rescinded by the Fall, but was repeated to Noah after the world’s reboot (Gen. 9:1f.). The great commission (Mt. 28:18–20) — declaring the gospel, and baptizing an discipling the nations — is actually the cultural mandate adjusted to the post-fall condition. Christ came and died for sinful man to restore him to his Edenic calling of righteous obedience before the triune God.
In a fallen world, the cultural mandate demands aggressive opposition to evil. When evil punches, righteousness punches back. But neither evil nor righteousness exists in abstraction. Evil beings punch, and righteous beings punch back. This is Christian counterpunching, and there can be no authentic Christianity without it. Gary DeMar was correct, therefore, and beat me to the punch [!] recently in highlighting the Christian responsibility to push back against evil.
Further biblical evidence
We read this in Proverbs:
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, [b]ut such as keep the law contend with them (28:4).
Paul demands, in the face of God’s wrath on the children of disobedience:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph. 5:11)
I draw your attention to the fact that it’s insufficient merely to avoid evil; to be faithful to God, we must also expose it, push back, counterpunch. Evil is so entrenched in our fallen world Christians must aggressively combat it. This combat is especially necessary in our morally lackluster times. Werner J. Dannhauser observed:
Moral neutrality refuses to decide in favor of either good or evil, but that refusal inevitably favors evil. To ensure the triumph of evil over good, one need not prohibit the good; one need only remove the stigma from evil. A world in which the good can do good and the evil can do evil is not a good but an evil world. Good requires encouragement while evil only requires permissiveness.
Then note Proverbs 25:26 —
A righteous man who falters before the wicked
Is like a murky spring and a polluted well.
Bruce K. Waltke observes of this verse: “Proverbs represents the righteous as triumphing over the wicked, never as the wicked forcing or compelling the righteous to yield (11:8; 12:21; 14:19; 16:7; 21:12; 24:15-16).”
The Christian approach to wickedness, both personal and cultural, is a hearty resistance and opposition.
Ephesians 6 makes clear that our greatest enemies aren’t flesh and blood. In other words, the monumental battle is the one surrounding and standing within and above the physical world: spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.
Nonetheless, this spiritual wickedness commandeers physical beings, and the spearpoint of the battle is always within the physical dimension of history, even if the source of the battle is God and his unseen beings versus Satan and his unseen beings.
Christian counterpunching today
Just as the coronavirus is the work of Satanic principalities and powers, so politicians committed to the statist ideology intentionally align themselves with these powers by keeping citizens under virtual house arrest and consequently unable to fulfill the cultural mandate, and by padlocking the church doors, in effect. Christian leaders who called for holy resistance to the unholy lockdown and pastors who refused to bow to edicts forbidding sustained public worship counterpunched for the King.
Cultural Marxists and those influenced by the Black Lives Matter and other secular revolutionaries firebomb churches, topple monuments, loot stores, and assault business owners. It’s the responsibility of law-enforcement to suppress this evil. If they will not or cannot, it’s the obligation of all individuals, and certainly Christians, to protect life and property. The legally armed citizens who encircled monuments protecting them from vandalism and defacement championed God’s moral law. They were righteous counterpunchers.
Immediate, tactile, visible evils must be opposed by immediate, tactile, visible righteousness. In the case of criminal acts, this evil must be suppressed by law-enforcement. In the case of non-criminal but equally unrighteous acts, it must be a opposed by vigorous, virtue-loving citizens, and particularly by Christians.
It’s not God’s desire that evil grow unmolested in his earth. God calls righteous people to oppose and combat cultural unrighteousness. Counterpunching cultural evil is fidelity to the King.
Luther and many teachers today have been wrong to pit Law against Gospel. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone, but God's law is gracious and his Gospel is obligatory.
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Contra-counterpunching pacifists point to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount command for his disciples to turn the other cheek to persecutors (Mt. 5:39). Our Lord is laying out the kingdom message during the Roman empire’s occupation of Israel.
The Jews at the time were roiled by revolutionaries like the Zealots, who fomented unrest in the hopes of forcibly and violently expelling Rome from their homeland. Far from supporting this violence, Jesus Christ urged his followers to carry a Roman soldier’s burden if they were compelled (5:41). “The Jews fiercely resented such impositions,” comments R. T. France, “and Jesus’ choice of this example deliberately dissociates him from militant nationalists.”
Jesus was not laying out a case for capitulation to cultural evil. He was arguing against armed insurrection.
The Christian faith advances not by the sword, but by the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). Christianity eventually vanquished the Roman Empire, not by violent revolution, but by gospel preaching. The Bible’s imperial gospel defeated Rome’s imperial politics.
Similarly in 1 Pet. 2:13f., the apostle councils submission to ordered authority, both citizens to civil government, and slaves to masters. The Bible doesn’t champion slavery as an institution, but nor does it permit social revolution to overturn it.
The Bible supports neither armed revolution nor obsequious passivity in the face of cultural evil. Christians are to oppose cultural evil always and everywhere, though in a responsible, measured, biblical way.
Tragically, contemporary Christians don’t grasp the truth of “Resistance Theology Versus Resignation Theology.” They resign themselves to the triumph of evil, particularly when the evil is perpetrated by an imposing atheistic politics, even suggesting that statist prohibitions of public Christian worship, and in particular of a congregation’s singing or reciting the Scriptures, equals faithfulness to Romans 13. Rarely have they considered that the evil and the good in terms of which the civil magistrate is required to execute vengeance are determined by God’s law.
Our forefathers knew that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God. Moderns seem to believe that submission to tyranny is obedience to God.
The Bible doesn’t merely prohibit capitulation to evil: it demands opposition to evil. The Christian attitude may never be, “Abortion and statism and homosexuality and human trafficking and pornography and socialism and Black Lives Matter and Cultural Marxism and secular libertarianism are evil, and I won’t participate in them, but I can’t or won’t do anything to stop them.”
No. We’re called not just to avoid evil, but to expose it and oppose it. Evil packs a punch. We counterpunch.
One reason Christians are reluctant to expose evil is that they don’t take seriously the holiness of God as it pertains to culture. Even if they recognize God’s holy requirements of individuals, they tend to recoil at the notion that God demands holiness in a society.
But God’s law cannot be interiorized. The Holy Spirit was planted in our heart so that we can obey God’s law all areas of life (Heb. 10:16–20), and he judges all individuals and all cultures and nations by that law (Rom. 3:19).
Detente with cultural evil is the surrender of the holiness of God and, more broadly, Christ’s Lordship in all things.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, arguably the greatest Russian novelist of the 20th century, wrote the massive, 3-volume The Gulag Archipelago, a detailed account of the Soviet security apparatus and its injustice, deception, cruelty, arbitrariness, dehumanization, torture, and murder. In chapter one he included this heartbreaking, chilling footnote:
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs [Soviet secret police] would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.
We didn’t love freedom enough. Contemporary Christians have been enslaved by a tyrannical culture even more than by a tyrannical politics. In their pious cowardice, they are mute and obsequious in the face of ubiquitous homosexualization, gubernatorial public worship “guidelines,” and denominational “wokeness.” They think that surrendering to cultural and political tyranny is doing God a service. They don’t love freedom enough. And they don’t love God’s truth enough to fight for it.
I urge you to stand for biblical truth not just in your family, but in the church and culture. Don’t merely stand: punch back at evil and evildoers.
Christian counterpunching is a God-sanctioned strategy for rolling back cultural evil.
Sharon and I spent two days last week in Modoc County, the only California county with zero COVID cases. We reentered a pre-COVID world: we didn’t encounter a single mask. People back-slapped and hugged and shook each other’s hands. We’d almost forgotten what pre-COVID social liberty looked like.
Sheriff “Tex” Dowdy, not to be confused with a cosmopolitan metrosexual, declared to the LA Times:
It’s very frustrating to me to think that the government believes that we’re so ignorant that they have to tell us what to do.
He’s refused Gavin Newsom’s lockdown, masking, and antisocial distancing orders, despite the governor’s as-yet idle threats to withhold state funds.
Thank God for politicians who punch back.
Next week’s tentative title is “Reductionist Christianity Gets Its Comeuppance: Our complex of crises has exposed the emaciation of anorexic Christianity.”
Substack is alerting me that I’m approaching my word limit, so I must stop.
Thank so much for reading.
Yours for Christian counterpunching,
Founder & President
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