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One of the overlooked consequences of turning from God is fear. In the book of Leviticus, a long list of consequences for disobedience is sealed in the fear that will overtake the hearts of God’s people:

And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. (Leviticus 26:36-37)

In her oft-quoted essay on fear, essayist Marilynne Robinson comments on this passage,

Those who forget God, the single assurance of our safety however that word may be defined, can be recognized in the fact that they make irrational responses to irrational fears…There are always real dangers in the world, sufficient in their day. Fearfulness obscures the distinction between real threat on the one hand, and on the other the terrors that beset those who see threat everywhere.[1]

When fear consumes the hearts of an individual or a group, they will be inclined to see threats and enemies everywhere, and they will no longer be able to discern what is true from what is false.

Any honest evaluation would recognize that this kind of fear is running amok in American Evangelicalism. Indeed, some historians would argue that it would be impossible to give an account of Evangelicalism in the United States without describing the role fear has played in shaping our collective conscience.[2] Fear has become such a powerful force in American Evangelicalism today that we have become what pastor and author Skye Jethani has dubbed the “Fearvangelicals”. Continue Reading

Another reason why Christians approach cultural engagement so differently is because of their varying views on common grace and the level of cultural influence, if any, that Christians ought to have. In this third part of the series, I will try to explain how and why Christians can have such different postures toward engaging the world around them. This post is a part of a series that is meant to be read in order. For part 1, start here. For part 2, click here.

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One of the reasons why Christians differ in their views and approaches to cultural engagement is because they not only view their own history differently, but also because they view our present responses to that history very differently. Do we have an accurate picture of Church history? What responsibility, if any, do we have for the sins committed by Christians in the past (or present)? What are the challenges present in coming to a consensus on these issues? These are some of the questions I will tackle in this second part of the series. This post is a part of a series that is meant to be read in order. For part 1, start here.

The first grid we need for understanding what it means to be Christians in culture is that of historical humility. Continue Reading

In his high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for his Church in this way:

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:14-18)

These words have commonly led to the sentiment that Christians are called to be “in, but not of” the world we live in. To many, this idea might seem simple enough on paper. But as most of us know, the lived reality of this expression is far more complicated.

Every Christian is a product not only of her theological beliefs, but also of her surrounding culture and personal experiences. As a result, Christians often relate to their surrounding culture in very different ways. While one person might be inclined to have a positive outlook both on the culture and the Church itself, others might be far more critical on the culture and the work of the Church in the world. These differences are no small matter. A quick glance on Twitter and the major Christian websites reveals that we are quite divided with one another over how to faithfully live and witness in the world. Continue Reading