February 22, 2009 Commentary:
The Case for Civility (Part 2)
There is no commentary this week as Michael Horton continues his discussion with Os Guiness about pursuing civility in a Post-Christian culture.
Click here to see the related information for the February 22 broadcast.
February 15, 2009 Commentary:
The Case for Civility (Part 1)
There is no commentary this week as Michael Horton talks with Os Guiness about pursuing civility in a Post-Christian culture.
Click here to see the related information for the February 15 broadcast.
February 8, 2009 Commentary:
Loosing our Religion
Hello and welcome to another edition of the White Horse Inn. You know as we look at the situation today, a lot of things were taken for granted in the past that weren't always necessarily good. It was easy to take the Gospel for granted, for example, when you lived in a so-called "Christian culture," even if it wasn't particularly Christian in any kind of doctrinal/biblical sense. At the time of the Reformation the whole idea of Christendom was challenged. Now of course the Reformers were not living in an era where the separation of church and state was a serious issue, but they nevertheless did believe that we lived in two kingdoms; that the kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of Word and Sacrament. It's a kingdom of the Spirit, the Spirit using the means of Word and Sacrament to build on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles to build his kingdom that endures from generation to generation. Whereas the kingdoms of this world are not unimportant, but they don't have the same goals, they don't have the same ends, and they don't have the means. They progress through cultural advancement and Christians are members of both cities.
At the time of the Enlightenment, however, the City of Man wanted to smother the City of God, wanted to get rid of any sense of ultimate authority coming to us from the outside. The battle cry of the Enlightenment was "think for yourself." It was all about autonomy, self rule, and not having any authority either the Bible or the Church telling us what truth really consisted of. Immanuel Kant distinguished between pure religion and ecclesiastical faith. Pure religion was all about morality; it was all inside of us. Ecclesiastical faith, however, had to do with creeds, and worship, and sacraments, and all of those external things that are really secondary to the morality that alone is universal.
There were also debates between science and religion, eventually the wars of religion burned out, but it also burned Europeans on the idea that any creed should be able to dominate a particular culture. At the same time people became more attracted to what was known as Romanticism which was identified by emotional inwardness, narcissism, where you get poems like "The Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman. You also have in Americana movement known as transcendentalism which was basically the precursor to what we now call "The New Age Movement." Hymns in our churches in this Romantic era began to move away from the objective, namely who Christ is, what he has come to do, the Triune God and his saving work in history to our inner experience.
Then finally, in the early part of the twentieth century the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy broke out in many ways characterized by the same assumptions of Modernity that both sides sought to overcome. And then in the 1950s a movement arose that sought to take what was best in Fundamentalism, that is the doctrines of Christianity, while nevertheless letting go of the anti-intellectual spirit and legalism of the Fundamentalist movement - that movement became known as the ne0-Evangelicals. Today as we look across the landscape, really the balance of not only orthodoxy, but numbers seems to be shifting from Britain and the United States to the two-thirds world. It is really remarkable that our brothers and sisters in China, Malawi, and Russia seem to often have a clearer idea of what it means to be a Christian that we do here in the West. In this program we are going to take a look at "Losing our Religion," how the Christian West lost its faith and this helps us understand a little better what we mean by a post-Christian culture.
Click here to see the related information for the February 8 broadcast.
February 1, 2009 Commentary:
The Foolishness of God
Hello and welcome to another edition of the White Horse Inn. We are continuing our series this year of "Christ in a Post-Christian Culture" and you know, again and again the impression is given that Christians in America today are more concerned about transforming the culture than they are about their own faith and practice, about what they believe and why they believe it. It seems as if anything is going to be relevant in the church today it's going to be cultural, it's going to be all about how we can have more of an impact (often translated into power) in the culture around us and its not necessarily even bad things, it's just that in the process what actually gets forgotten, or taken for granted, is the gospel. Confessions of faith and doctrinal discussions can't be allowed to take away our energies from transforming the world around us. We need to have these agendas in order to make ourselves feel important, like what we are doing is worthwhile. This is the sort of thing for which we used to criticize the Liberals, labeling it "the Social Gospel," but now it is acceptable because it is the right politics.
Peter Berger, a Boston University Sociologist where he is also the director of the Institute of the Study of Economic Culture, also happens to be a professing Christian and in the 1987 Erasmus Lecture published in This World Berger was daring and bold enough to take on the project of challenging the church to return to the true gospel. "Different Gospels: The Social Sources of Apostasy" was his title. His arguments are to the point in defining the importance of the Gospel and its Babylonian captivity to the modern political culture. He says, "The essence of apostasy is always the same - seeking salvation not in the grace of Christ heard with faith, but rather in what Paul calls the works of the Law. The specific contents of apostasy, the details of whatever works-righteousness is in view might vary from age to age, but that is its essence." Berger says, " this American faith is in jeopardy, so increasingly major religious organizations are serving the function of chaplaincy in these armies, doing what chaplains have always done on battlefields: solemnly blessing the banners on their side and assuring the troops that their cause is God's." Does the church derive its whole identity from the gospel he asks and he provides the following answer, "its seems to me that we face precisely this question in American Christianity today, nothing less and it is an awesome question, compared to this question the different moral and political options available to us pale; not into insignificance because Christians are in the world and responsible in the world, but into what Dietrich Bonheoffer called 'penultimacy'. The ultimate question is the question of salvation. Thus the issue I wanted to address is emphatically not the substitution of one cultural or political agenda for another, rather is it is the issue of placing any such agenda into the place that is reserved to the gospel in the faith and life of the church. Any cultural or political agenda embellished with such authority is a manifestation of works-righteousness and ipso facto an act of apostasy. Peter Berger concludes, "Democracy or capitalism or the particular family arrangement of middle-class culture are not to be identified with the gospel, and neither is any alternative gospel not to defend the American way of life, not to build socialism, not even to build to build a just society because quite apart from the fact that we don't really know what all this is, all our notions of justice are fallible and finally marred by sin. The works-righteousness in all these different gospels lies precisely in the insinuation that if we only do this or refrain from doing that we will be saved, that is justified, but as Paul tells us, 'By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.'" In this program we are going to be discussing the foolishness of God, the way that God, in his deepest foolishness is higher than all the so-called "wisdom" of human learning. The way God's weakness trumps human's strengths and the way God's plan of redemption outstrips all of the purposes, plans and strategies of this present age.
Click here to see the related information for the February 1 broadcast.