Faithfully fighting the culture war
Abigail Dodds | The battle is spiritual—of words, logos, and truth
In a recent Christianity Today article, Russell Moore contends that “the cross contradicts our culture wars.” He argues that evangelicals engaging in what some call a culture war are akin to the builders of the tower of Babel, seeking self-glorification and self-protectionism through online platform-building and tribalism. According to Moore, these cultural warriors are fueled by a form of humiliated resentment born of anger, envy, hate, rage, and revenge. “Culture wars and outrage cycles might fuel ratings and clicks and fundraising appeals, but they cannot reconcile sinners to a holy God,” he says.
Well, in the culture wars you can see evidence of everything he sees, but that is far from the whole story. This kind of argument creates a false dichotomy, in which cultural engagement happens away from the life of the Spirit and the power of the gospel. Such an un-Christian “culture war” is an unholy, ungodly means to unholy, ungodly ends.
Yet, it’s hard to reconcile such a description of culture-warring evangelicals with the actual Spirit-filled believers who have surrounded me my entire life. These believers wage a spiritual war in light of 2 Corinthians 10:3–5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. …”
Surely women at pregnancy care centers providing free ultrasounds and discouraging abortion (while also sharing the gospel to clients) are on the front lines of the culture war. Surely when they post on Facebook about pro-life legislation, they ought not be accused of platform-building or revenge-seeking. Surely the man who refuses an employer’s request to put his pronouns in his work bio because he believes God created male and female in his image is doing what is right. He is following the Apostle Paul’s example to “destroy … every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” Surely when he retweets a video about the insidiousness of gender ideology being forced upon young children, he ought not be accused of fueling the outrage cycle. Does the cross contradict these culture wars? No. The cross is what makes them possible.
If one’s concept of culture war means leaving the gospel behind while we muck around in worldly political outrage, then all Christians should reject it, but that idea is based on a false separation of political from spiritual. At heart, the culture war is spiritual—a war of words, logos, truth.
Christians sometimes have to fight. Some folks hate the idea of warfare, even spiritual warfare. The only fight they want is an internal war for personal piety, which indeed matters (we do and must fight our own sin). But we also battle against worldly strongholds with words, logic, arguments, and love.
We do this in every sphere of our lives—in our homes, at work, as the church gathers, on social media, at the doctor’s office, in the courtroom, everywhere. Reclaiming a New Testament idea of the Christian’s warfare is merely reclaiming a Christian life that refuses to be compartmentalized.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to be anti-Christ in how you battle in the culture wars. Russell Moore outlines those dangers in his article, but he paints with too broad a brush. Just because the culture wars have the taint of glory-seekers and fear-peddlers is no reason to withdraw. Rather, it is evidence that Spirit-filled Christians must put on the whole armor of God. We must not faint on the day of battle—not when so much is at stake.
It is surely true that the kingdom of God advances not through resentment but rather by those who bear witness to Jesus in sincerity and truth. Yet, I wonder where and to whom some think we are to bear witness? What is all this Good News for anyway? Our personal self-actualization? Do we not believe that we are against the world for the world? Do we deny that God’s ways are truly good for all? Do we believe that a Christianity that spreads, grows, and influences culture and politics must be counterfeit because we have a false conception of Christ as only Sufferer and not also King? Have we become so sickly pious that we believe Christianity is only good for Christians?
Christians are called to bear witness to Christ’s supremacy in this culture, to this people, at this God-ordained time. Every square inch is His.
As Christians, we don’t fight for our lives. Our lives are safely hidden in Christ. Rather we are free to fight with our lives, with our praise, speech, deeds, and service, which is to say, with the life given to us by the Son of God through His Spirit for the eternal (and earthly) good of all.
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