It’s rare that I discover two really great books back to back (or cover to cover). However, that’s been the case with my last two reads. Tim Challies’ The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment“>The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment was a powerful challenge to the 21st century Christian. My review of that book is here.
I regretfully put down Michael Craven’s Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity last night. While I urged Christian leaders and church members to snatch a copy of Challies’ book ASAP, I have to trumpet the urgency of reading Craven’s book for the same group.
This book is incredibly timely, as well as well-researched and powerful. Simply put, if you are living in 21st century Western culture and want to know what and how to speak and relate intelligently during these new rounds of culture wars, read this book.
It is not for the faint of heart. In fact, I am 100% positive it will make most Christians mad. It will disturb you. It will appall you. It will convict you. The Christian church in Western society has capitulated to the philosophies and attacks of godless worldviews. More than likely, your position on many current cultural issues is more informed by junk science and false research propogated by the main stream media, politicians and Hollywood than it is by the clear teaching of God’s Word.
In hard-hitting chapter after chapter, Craven unpacks such crucial cultural issues such as sexuality, homosexuality, the definition of marriage, consumerism, feminism and new age spirituality. Pulling from research, journals and the scientific community, he cites source after source documenting not only a steady but an intentioned undermining of the ethics and teaching of Jesus Christ. That so many Christians hold opinions contrary to the clearly revealed will of the Creator in these areas is not just alarming. It reveals a church in a crisis of righteousness.
The voice and influence of the church in our culture is negligible because we stand for nothing. And when we do, the angry froth coming off the lips of self-righteous and self-appointed leaders of the Right blinds the eyes and closes the ears of a public more concerned about sound bytes than truth. Craven compares the reactive response of religious leaders today to throwing “Christian hand grenades.”
…occasionally entering culture to present our one-sided arguments for the truth of Christianity and then retreating to our churches as soon as we’re done. Being missional means we act more like a rescue force that is determined to stay until are rescued than like a commando unit that occasionally enters hostile territory to harass the enemy.
Craven provides considerate, loving and wise counsel for churches and Christians who would seek to be a city on a hill once again. Our light must shine. Our works must glorify the Father. We must think again.
His chapter on postmodernism is particularly good. In the past 10 years, Christian leaders have obsessed over how to do ministry in a postmodern age. Many have made money off of books, speaking engagements and the like, claiming to offer and help churches and ministries understand postmodernism. It has almost developed into hysteria. Craven offers instructive counsel, “But upon closer examination, postmodernism is overstated concerning its impact on the culture: Modernity remains in my mind a much more influential impulse.”
He quotes Dick Keyes of the L’Abri Fellowship in Massachusetts in which postmodernism is compared to a flood whose waters have receded: “While the water may be gone, the damage nonetheless remains.”
His assertions on how to dialogue and respond to those who hold a postmodern world view (and a modernistic worldview) are a much-needed corrective to the postmodern hype and hysteria currently being digested in Christianity.
Another excellent chapter was the one on sexuality. Craven makes some bold, and I believe, dead-on claims in this chapter about the pervasive and insidious effect that redefining sexual ethics and morality have had on our culture. Looking back to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, he says
It was, for all intents and purposes, a declaration of war against God’s revealed moral standards. The sexual revolution was the beachhead from which the final assault of God’s absolute moral truth was launched. The battle to redefine sexual ethics has become the ground out of which springs the cultural rejection of moral absolutes and ultimately, I believe, Christianity in America.
If nothing else, find a chair in Barnes & Noble, and read this chapter. It’s a revealing and startling look at how the agenda to redefine what is right and wrong with sexual behavior affects almost every significant cultural issue in Western society: abortion, the definition of marriage, love, the definition of family, trust, selflessness, homosexuality, and life itself.
It’s not just about prudish Christianity saying sex outside marriage is sinful. It is by its very nature a brutal rape of truth itself. Is there a revealed truth outside of our own preferences? Is there a standard for morality? Or can our behavior be individually determined by what leads to our “happiness?” We are not looking at the slippery slope. We are on it, and we may even be looking back up at it – flat on our backs.
The church has capitulated in its embrace and defense of truth and God’s revealed will. In the name of love and tolerance, we have allowed overtly sinful and offensive behavior in our churches and even in our private lives. A compromised church offers nothing to the world worthy of emulating.
Craven is not afraid to take on Hugh Hefner’s legacy in the book, nor is he hesitant to deal with the societal taboo of homosexuality and its causes. Craven offers scientific studies and other proofs that dispute the pseudo-science offered up by agenda-ized media and political sources that would try to persuade people that homosexuality is genetic. In short, people aren’t born gay, he points out.
Even if homosexuality was inborn (and it’s not), Craven urges readers to consider the logic of claiming the morality of something that is inborn. “Everything from alcoholism, obesity, violence and adultery, according to Time magazine, may be in our genes. If that were the case, would we then say that these tendencies are morally acceptable because they may have their roots in biology?”
He quotes Joe Dallas, a former gay-rights activist who pointed out that also said even if homosexuality was inborn:
…that does not necessarily mean normal. There are a number of defects or handicaps resulting from disruptions in the genetic development, which are inborn, but we would not call them normal for that reason alone. So why should we be compelled to call homosexuality normal, even if it were inborn? Inborn tendencies towards certain behaviors do not make those behaviors normal.
In a contemporary climate where in the past 12 months five states have legalized homosexual marriage, it becomes apparent just how intent a small minority of vocal influencers are in crucifying the claims of God over man are again. Craven’s chapter on the definition of marriage is another vocalization of the fact that as goes the attitude of society towards marriage, so goes society.
For churches and Christian influencers seeking to understand how to respond to the all-out attack on the revealed will and desires of a holy God, Craven offers surprisingly gracious and loving counsel as he deals with such topics of polarizing viewpoints.
Please, go buy 5 copies of this book now for your Christian friends and leaders. Start a reading group and give yourself two months to be done. You’ll be glad you did. And the church in the West may begin to take some steps toward a godly and redemptive response to our culture once again as Christ’s followers stop blending with society and start transforming it once again.