He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010 

Ready or Not

Suppose that an American daisy-cutter bomb had been dropped on Mecca, and blew up their sacred rock. Suppose further that through a series of circumstances, a Southern Baptist gentleman proposed building a Christian chapel on the lip of that crater. We would be justified in suppposing this man to be any number of things, but one of the things he emphatically would not be is a moderate.

The fact that he would not be a moderate would not make him a terrorist, of course. It would just make him not a moderate. He would be doing something provocative, and he would be doing it on purpose. If he denied being provocative, this would simply make him a dishonest non-moderate. A real moderate would have stayed home.

Our secularists tend not to see this because they have made the fatal mistake of believing their own propaganda. All religious differences, they think, are mere denominational differences, and they are prepared to unbend liberally when it comes to such denominational distinctives, considered as such. They say, for example, that a free country should allow their Christians to debate whether to baptize with heads upstream or downstream. And then, with a patronizing pat on the head, we are sent on our way in order to debate how many angels our faith community thinks could fit on the head of a pin.

Religion, to them, is false, irrelevant, and pie-in-the-skyish. That being the case, they will treat forays by believers as believers into the political realm as blasphemous outrage, or as impossible contradiction. As a general rule of thumb, it is an outrage when Christians do it, and impossible when Muslims do it.

But on the eve of the Spanish Armada, a Roman Catholic Englishman could not be simply treated as one who believed in Purgatory, for example. Being a Catholic in that setting was a political act. When John of Leiden ascended to the throne of David in the Munster rebellion, to be an anabaptist within a fifty mile radius was a political act. We think that different churches are all listed in the yellow pages, so that we can know what time their services are, and that's it. But it is anachronistic to impose that mentality on those periods of (most of) history when politics and religion mingled in public together. The two cannot really be separated.

The rise of the secularist heresy, and the voluntary quiesence of Christians in the West, created an optical illusion. It looked like politics and religion were separated, when what had actually happened is that secularism established her religion, but with a stripped down liturgy and creed so that people would believe that it was somehow a-religious. "Perhaps if we call it secular, then people won't notice how pervasively religious it is."

This technique was brazen, and it is the kind of thing that can sometimes work . . . for a time. It is like Christians calling their churches "non-denominational." But Grace Chapel, a designated non-denominational place of worship, is also, as it turns out, denominated (named) as Grace Chapel. Abraham Lincoln once asked how many legs a sheep would have if we call the tail a leg. Five, the answer came back. No, he replied, calling the tail a leg doesn't make it a leg. Calling it secular doesn't make it secular.

Secularism pretended for a time to be neutral about the basic religious concerns, and it was actually anything but neutral. Creating a religion of man is not the same thing as abandoning religion. And so after a time, the pretension wears thin, the contradictions start working their way to the surface, the old alliances and treaties are violated, and the old immanent gods no longer answer when we cry out in their temples.

This is why it is a political act to be a Muslim in America today. To be a Christian in America today is also a political act. It cannot be depoliticized by any ecclesiastical wish or theological whim. Meredith Kline has no wand to wave that will make any faithful Christians fit into this collapsing secular order. This is because our secularist overlords have lost their faith in the ghosts of Jefferson and Voltaire, and have also lost the doctrinal rigor of their convictions, and are wobbling along as best they can. In this crisis of secularist confidence, to be a Christian at all is a political act of defiance. The same goes for the Muslims -- because secularist idols can be challenged by other idols, as well as by the true God. The Muslims, however, have been quicker to see the situation, and quicker to exploit it than have Christians.

If the secularist state could somehow continue on, unruffled, for the next three centuries, a lot of Christians could continue on with their compromises with it. Sure. And if the sky fell, we would all catch larks.

But that is not our situation. Bricks are already falling out of their wall. Their towers are already swaying back and forth. The corrosive acids of their relativism have eaten away all the strength of their three-hundred-year-old mortar. Many of us do not yet see this. So? When the walls of Jericho fell down, I dare say that there were more than few Israelites who were caught flat-footed. But ready or not, here we come.

- Douglas Wilson

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