The Gospel and Culture

With all of the controversy about trends and changes in our culture, one well-known pastor recently said he could be a Christian in a Muslim, Communist, or Socialist America. I don’t disagree with him – I would hope the same for myself; but I do wonder if he understands how the gospel works culturally?

Too many Christians have been cheated out of seeing the value of the gospel for more than just their own emotions, families, and churches. With the right kind of lenses, one can look at history – and see how the gospel works from the roots up, to change cultures, so that those once under the influence of lies about reality, eventually, through sound discipleship, reshape the morality and the legality of their culture. To use George Washington’s words: “Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.”

Instead of pillars, I’d prefer to use a tree to drive home Washington’s idea: The fruit is political (and economic) prosperity, the trunk is morality, and the root is religion. Thus, the religion determines the morality, and the morality the politics. By religion, do not think of what people do on Sunday morning – instead, think of it as a set of beliefs that define what is real and true; these beliefs determine what is right and wrong (Morality), and then what is permitted legally. At the root is the ultimate authority to which we answer, and so we limit our behavioral fruit by law to conform to the ideas at the root. This is true of any culture – look at all the religions of the world – which one produced a Constitutional Republic – only Christianity, and the predominantly Protestant version in Europe, transferred to the USA after 1600 ad. Historically, Christianity alone is responsible for giving people the liberty of conscience and the permission to pursue one’s calling in life – so that a people may enjoy the greatest possible prosperity. Sadly, most Christians never study history through this type of lens.

By the way – atheism is a religion – because it claims to know ultimate truths as much as a Christian does. The 20th century was a time when men intentionally built cultures on atheism – and it was the bloodiest in human history. That is why many mid-20th century Christians opposed Communism – because they knew religion determines politics – and Communists persecuted Christians for the same reason – to eliminate the beliefs that produce liberty and prosperity, in order to create a moral and political utopia fully under the control of the government. 

And so, while I admire the dedication of the pastor mentioned above, I am disappointed in the lack of Biblical, historical, and logical understanding of how the gospel saves more than one’s soul; it saves one’s culture too – if one can apply it TREEmendously, as Washington stated. That would reverse the current trend, and give the world another look at the power of God’s truth.

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