Crusading Christianity

The recent full-scale offensive by the New Left requires a crusade: You cannot preserve a position without crusading for it. Stand your ground. Don’t move an inch. And push back hard.

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
But such as keep the law contend with them.

Proverbs 28:4


Dear friends and supporters:

In the summer of 2011, the well-known evangelical campus ministry Campus Crusade announced it was planning to change its name to the strange abbreviation “Cru.” The word “crusade” had negative connotations, particularly overseas. It was identified with the medieval Christian crusades against Islam. Apparently the word became a barrier to today’s campus evangelism.

When I attended Christian schools in the 60s and 70s, many of them chose as their team name “the Crusaders.” This in fact was the name of my own Christian high school in northern Ohio.

My, have times changed. Today even many conservative Christians believe that the Crusades were a great blot on Christian history. It’s true that they were far from perfect, and Christians committed atrocities.

On the other hand, the goal of the crusaders was to retake Christian territory that had been forcibly overthrown by Islam. We could certainly make the case that if there’s any room for just war, this would be it. Getting rid of violent, murderous Islam (like ISIS) is a legitimate military aspiration.

Whatever you may think of the Crusades, however, you should know this: Christianity is a crusading Faith. I don’t mean principally physical warfare. I mean as a spiritual and ethical and intellectual force in the world. I’ll go so far as to say that if you want to purge crusading from Christianity, you’ll need to abandon Christianity.

Our times require crusading Christianity now more than ever.

The Supreme Court, originalism, and conservative caving

Earlier this week conservative justices John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch sided with the SCOTUS “progressives” in deciding that sex as mentioned in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and now defined as including sexual self-definition is protected from workplace discrimination.

John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch are both known as conservative “originalists”: interpreting the constitution according to its originally intended meaning. In this case, both justices were doubly inconsistent. Sex determined by an individual rather than by his or her biology was a notion that neither the founders of the U. S. nor the framers of the 1964 civil rights act would ever have considered.

What has changed since 1964 is not the meaning of the law. What has changed is the meaning of “sex.” In this case, law follows culture.

This ruling continues to evidence how the Civil Rights Act, which was well-intentioned in wishing to end unjustified and harmful discrimination, has now opened the way for unjustified and harmful discrimination against business owners who wish to operate a pro-family business environment and who wish not to expose employees and customers (including children) to the evils of “transgenderism.”

The positive impact of this decision on homosexuals and the transgendered will be minimal, while the negative impact on Christian and traditional business owners will be maximal.

Federal prohibition of discriminating on the basis of sex (Title VII) sounds salutary as long as people understood there are two sexes. In an age of “gender fluidity,” it is chaotic. The chief cultural consequence will be to intensify the cultural assault on the family and the traditional (and biblical) definition of sex as biologically determined.

We learn again that although “progressive” judges are reliably Leftist in their decisions, conservative judges are not reliably originalist. Conservatives cave; Leftists do not.

Black Lives Matter at Grove City College

Grove City College is a historically conservative institution (theologically and politically). Recently 197 graduates (and counting) sent a “Letter of Concern” to the president, championing Black Lives Matter (which advocates the erosion of the traditional family as well as the burgeoning of homosexuality and transgenderism) and other recognizable tenets of Cultural Marxism. The horrid killing of George Floyd has emboldened a Leftist crusade, not for ending institutionalized racism (that happened long ago with the federal criminalizing of racial discrimination), but for marginalizing normative biblical faith and practice, as well the family and church.

This at a conservative Christian college, not a Leftist secular college.

These are just two battles in the culture war that over just the last three months has featured blatant statist ideology in the comprehensive COVID-19 lockdowns, the normalization of Cultural Marxism and Critical Race Theory in the race riots, and the craven capitulation of much of the church to both.

This is the bad news. The good news is that crusading Christianity is a big part of the cure.

The call to battle

The Bible expects that Christians will fight the good fight of faith in this sinful world. The Bible bristles with martial terminology applied to the Christian life and the church. As Paul sums up his own Christian life, he writes to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He employs three metaphors to describe this Christian life: a battle, a race, and a stewardship. He has completed the great battle of life. He has run the marathon God laid out for him. And he has protected and preserved the deposit God placed in his care. He first mentions the battle, and there can be no Christian life without it. He’d already written in Ephesians 6 that the Christian life is a battle, and we’re soldiers.

Today’s irony

We live in ironic times. Never before in recent memory has there been as much violence and conflict on TV and the movies and videogames. If you spend time on the Internet, you know of the utterly vicious language often used. More and more kids in public schools are bullying children, and even raping them. People treat one another hatefully.

And yet there’s a pervasive political correctness that shouts down and extinguishes even the mildest objections to, for example, atheism, Cultural Marxism, abortion, and homosexuality. You can be as vicious as you want supporting homosexuality, but if you even raise a voice to oppose it, you’re shouted down as unloving and intolerant.

From this we learn that crusading is an inescapable concept. If we are consistent with our deepest convictions, we will crusade either for righteousness or for unrighteousness, for godliness or for sin, for truth or for error. But we will not do is avoid crusading. We will always crusade for or against something — or someone.

Our charge is to crusade for Jesus Christ and his truth.

Christianity Built on a Crusade

Our Christian Faith is built on a crusade. God created the world and everything in it, including man and woman, “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But following Satan, man and woman sinned. They broke God’s law — and his heart. This sin unleashed God’s righteous judgment. But with that judgment came God’s grace in the form of a promise. The seed of the woman (the Lord Jesus Christ and his followers) would crush the head of the seed of the serpent, (the antilord and all of his followers, Genesis 3:15). This is the work of redemption accomplished in Jesus Christ on the Cross and the resurrection.

Redemption means buying back. In his death and resurrection, Jesus got back what was lost in the Garden of Eden. It’s a splendorous story of God’s love and grace — the sacrifice of God’s own Son to bring sinful man back into fellowship and the family of God. Redemption is, in fact, the central truth of Christianity.

But the let’s never forget that this central truth is built on a crusade. God can’t redeem humanity without defeating Satan and sin. This is why God didn’t use a gentle metaphor or make a mild promise. Jesus Christ must crush the antichrist’s head. This is a mortal wound. The Hebrew word shuwph means to break or crush or cover or overwhelm. It doesn’t mean to gently persuade or woo or convince. Jesus redeems us by crushing Satan and his hosts in battle. Redemption is God’s great crusade.

The battlefield of the crusade

After the fall, history becomes a battlefield of this great cosmic, spiritual conflict. God expels Adam and Eve from Eden and installs a cherubim with a fiery sword to prevent anybody from reentering a eating from the Tree of Life. Sounds like a crusade to me.

Jesus Christ was born into a culture dominated by two evil human powers: (1) the pagan Roman Empire, and (2) the apostate Jewish religion. Both of them colluded to put him on the cross. But in so doing, they fulfilled the redemptive plan of God (Acts 2:22–24), and God crushed Satan and the other evil beings in our Lord’s death and resurrection (Colossians 2:15). That’s where Genesis 3:15 was definitively fulfilled.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promises his disciples that the gates of hell (hades, or death) won’t prevail against his church. Hell, hades, death are metaphors for Satan and his destructive work. Let’s think about that metaphor for a moment. The gates of hell won’t withstand the onslaught of the church, the people of God. But Jesus offers a metaphorical twist. He says that the gates of hell won’t prevail against or overpower the church. But gates are stationary. The role of the gates is to protect. They’re a defensive mechanism, not an offense mechanism. The meaning of the passage isn’t that Satan won’t prevail when he attacks the gates of the church. Rather, it’s that the gates of hell won’t suffice when the church attacks hell. The church is on the offense, and Satan is on the defensive. The church is crusading, and Satan and his hosts will lose.

And then, just before he ascends to his Father and ours, our Lord utters the so-called Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). There’s a crusading manifesto if you ever saw one. The disciples are to preach the gospel and make disciples of all the nations — not just individuals, but nations. We’re to baptize them and teach them all that the Lord has commanded. And that started happening in earnest at the first post-resurrection Pentecost. The apostate Jews took notice and persecuted the early church. Later the Roman Empire was ferocious in its persecution.

In many ways, that’s where the cosmic conflict started in interest. Satan knew that he was destined to lose the war, but he doesn’t go down without a fight (Revelation 12:12). In the pages the New Testament, those two depraved powers continue to combine against the primitive church: (1) the apostate Jews, and (2) the pagan Romans. The very last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes this conflict in the most graphic terms. Today’s heirs of old apostate Judaism are the false teachers in the church. The heirs of pagan Rome are our godless politics and culture.

And this has been the course of the last 2000 years since the close of the history described in the New Testament canon.

The Christian Faith is built on a crusade.

Avoiding Crusades Invites Triumph of Evil

To avoid crusading is to invite the triumph of evil. This point seems simple, but it’s remarkable how many Christians seem not to understand it. Apparently they assume that they can simply avoid sin as much as possible and Satan won’t triumph over them and those closest to them. This is seriously to underestimate the power of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Satan is at war with God and his saints. He’s attempting to destroy your life and mine. He’s battling to destroy your church and mine. He is waging warfare against your family and mine. And he’s assaulting our common culture. The fact that we might not be interested in crusading doesn’t mean that Satan is not interested in crusading. The fact that we refuse to battle him doesn’t mean that he will refuse to battle us. The goal of the cross and the resurrection is to eventually subordinate and eviscerate the forces of evil. Satan’s goal is to subordinate and eviscerate the forces of righteousness. There can be no détente between these two world-conquering objectives.

It’s for this reason that to seek peace with the sinful world is to betray God. If we refuse to crusade, we can’t live as obedient Christians in this world.

No détente with evil

It’s tragic how many Christians find a peaceful coexistence with evil acceptable. Unrepentant evil surrounds their family and church and culture, and they’re diffident about it. It seems not to vex them at all. They go along to get along. There’s nothing Christian about this attitude. It’s a concession to modern relativism and multiculturalism: “Yes, I have my own religious views, but who am I to impose my views on somebody else? They have a right to live as they want to live, and I have a right to live how I want to live. I shouldn’t try to force my values on others.”

The fact that this view sounds the least bit reasonable to some Christians shows how far we have traveled from biblical Christianity.

I know of Christian wives whose husbands live in serial, unrepentant adultery, but who continue on with them in marriage, while their children observe and learn the lesson that adultery is basically just fine.

I know parents who allow their children to run riot in all sorts of rebellion against authority and sexual promiscuity and filthy language, and never say a word of reprimand.

There are churches where young, sexually promiscuous women plan abortions, and the church leadership stands meekly in the background. Or where young single men bed young women every weekend, and the attitude of the churches is, “Well, you know, boys will be boys.”

I know of Christians whose friends drift from the Faith and make utter shipwreck of their lives, and never say a word to them for fear that they will lose the friendship. They’re fearful that they’ll be considered troublemakers.

Godly troublemakers

I’m reminded of 1 Kings 18:17–18, when the apostate Jewish King Ahab met the godly prophet Elijah:

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”

And he [Elijah] answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.

Elijah was God’s righteous crusader. To work for righteousness in a family and church and culture and nation is to work for godly peace. To work for unrighteousness is to work for an ungodly peace.

Where there is ungodly peace, we are called to be troublemakers. Where there is great peaceful evil, we’re not called to be peacemakers; we’re called to be peace-breakers. Where there are families filled with peaceful pornography and abortion and homosexuality, we are called to disrupt the peace. Where husbands abuse wives and children, we are called to step in and cause trouble.

This is a holy crusade, and God will bless it. Where wives are into today’s feminism and wish to act independently, the godly should confront them. Where Cultural Marxism and the Antiracist religion bully traditional society and Christian culture, our job is to resist and overcome them.

Our goal isn’t first to be tolerant; it’s to be biblical.

Exposing evil, not just avoiding it

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:11, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” We don’t have the luxury of obeying only the first half of that verse. The second half of that verse puts pressure on today’s anti-crusading Christianity.

Anti-crusading Christianity says, “I know that I must avoid sin, and I’ll  act righteously to please God. But other people have to make up their own mind. They’re responsible for their own actions. That’s their business, not mine. I’ll just go about my own life.”

But that is precisely what Paul does not say. He commands first, that we separate ourselves entirely from the works of darkness. He then commands that we expose those works.

In other words, it’s not sufficient to quietly and covertly avoid evil. We must loudly and overtly expose it.

Crusaders Can Expect Opposition

Crusaders can expect opposition. Our goal is nothing short of the decimation of Satan’s kingdom. More importantly, that is Jesus Christ’s goal. Satan won’t take that goal sitting down. He’s infuriated when we destabilize his status quo. Jesus Christ came to earth to manifest the kingdom of God in a very intense, concentrated way. You remember how some of the demons responded to him? “Leave us alone. Why are you troubling us so early?” (Matthew 8:28–34).

Satan wants free reign, and when Jesus and we Christians contest his temporary earthly reign, he gets angry. And when he gets angry, he fights back.

One chief diabolical tactic in the church is to persuade its leaders that crusading for the Faith in culture is at best a secondary concern and at worst a diversion from their genuine calling. Churches that try to avoid the great cultural conflicts of our time by operating on the pious principle, “We’re going to keep our head down and just preach the gospel” don’t understand the corner into which they’re painting themselves.

Even the gospel when reduced to its summary of 1 Corinthian’s 15 — the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ according to the Scriptures — is increasingly offensive to a radically secular and culturally Marxist society for whom the exclusivity of Jesus Christ is an execrable scandal.

In the end, our churches won’t be spared conflict by reducing their message to the redemptive events of Jesus Christ.

We might as well go out and defend and fight for the full-fledged, comprehensive Christian worldview. One way or the other, we won’t be able to avoid the cultural conflict.

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Conclusion

The pastor of the Christian school I attended in the mid-70 was a well-known champion of the Faith. I’ll never forget one of his aphorisms: “You cannot preserve a position without crusading for it.” If we hold a Christian conviction very deeply, and all Christian conviction should be held deeply, we’ll crusade for those convictions, and we can expect that Satan will crusade against those very convictions. If we don’t crusade for them, they’re not really convictions and we’ll lose these beliefs in time. If we don’t fight for Christian truth, and Satan does fight against Christian truth, we can’t preserve it. “You cannot preserve a position without crusading for it.”

This loss often happens generationally. Think back to the book of Judges. This generation of the Jews saw God’s great work and the Exodus, and in the early years of Canaan their children basically stayed faithful. The elders during Joshua’s generation that outlived him remain faithful. But their children did not. Those Jews who knew nothing first-hand about the great, miraculous works of God had not seen him work. He was not real to them. Perhaps their parents didn’t talk to them as carefully as they should have about the greatness of the Lord. For whatever reason, they turned their back on the Lord, and God leveled his judgment  (Judges 2:6–10).

The first couple of Jewish generations were crusaders. The first generation left Egypt, following the mighty war-angel. The second generation crusaded (albeit inconsistently) against the pagans in Canaan. But the third generation was more accustomed to a soft and easy life. And they gradually turned their back on the Lord.

Don’t let that happen to us.

How to Crusade

First, be vocal for the faith. Speak the truth boldly. Many, many people of conviction are timid and just waiting for a friend or acquaintance’s bold declaration of the truth to give them the courage to crusade.

Second, align with and support churches, ministries, and causes that crusade for the truth. Do not stay within an accommodationist church, and do not support any Christian ministry sitting out the battle. Devote your hard-earned support and money to ministries that crusade for Jesus Christ and the truth.

Finally, pray for and expect victory. Pray for God’s enemies to be vanquished. Pray for truth to prevail. Pray for godly reformation and revival, not just in church, but also in culture. And cling tenaciously to God’s promises of victory.

Stand your ground. Don’t move an inch. And push back hard.

You cannot preserve a position without crusading for it.

Personal

Friday night I will be delivering the graduation address at Christ Dominion Academy and on Sunday preaching the Father’s Day sermon at Living Church International in northwestern Pennsylvania led by my dear friend and God’s man, David Shay. I am eager to see many of my friends from northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Here he is with his precious wife Emily and their children while I was with them four years ago.

If you know of anybody who might enjoy this newsletter and subsequent ones, I’d be grateful if you asked them to sign up here.

I am grateful for your friendship and support.

Yours for crusading Christianity,

Founder & President

Center for Cultural Leadership


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You can get the book here.