The Sleeping Church
America is facing the greatest crisis of her life, but you would hardly know it by listening to our Christian leaders. The church of Jesus Christ slumbers on, though occasionally it talks in its sleep. Although a divine institution, the church – or at least a large segment of it – has been corrupted by the society in which it exists.
One particular manifestation of this drowsiness – and one I have a deep and growing concern about – is the blind fealty many evangelical Christians give to their nation. This fusion of love of nation with love of God may rightly be called Christian nationalism – an “ism” that is just as hard to reconcile with the teaching of the Gospel as any other “ism” (e.g., legalism, Pelagianism, etc.). True believers give their supreme loyalty solely to Jesus Christ (solus Christus), not to the nation. If anyone claims that these two loyalties are identical, then they must close their minds to any theological argument.
Today this great struggle in American evangelicalism continues unabated. It is what we may call (not altogether inaccurately, I hope) a struggle between the compromising church and the confessing church. Truth claims and moral judgments have been replaced by seminars and satellite dishes. This loss of discrimination is all the more tragic in light of the fact that the information age has made biblical truth more accessible than ever. Sadly, the truth is ignored. Today, being “born again” is little more than an illusion. To the early church, uncompromising allegiance to the One True God was a badge of honor and a point of justifiable pride. As the author of the Epistle to Diognetus said of believers:
Having recently visited the churches throughout Ethiopia, I can say that true discipleship is not confined to American Christianity. In fact, the church in the United States has a great deal to learn about discipleship from our African brethren. Ask any Ethiopian believer who passed through the fire of the Dirge (the Marxist rule from 1974-1991) and he will tell you that God’s truth draws lines and demands choices. The Ethiopian church is a standing challenge to every status quo. The church in the “over-developed” world could well learn a lesson from our “less-fortunate” brothers and sisters in the Third World. And that lesson is this: Jesus Christ stands as Lord over all who believe in Him; but He also stands as Lord over against all who disobey Him.
(By the way, if you haven’t traveled abroad recently, you might consider doing so. By standing outside our own culture, God’s people have a distance and detachment to aid discernment.)
Our slumber will soon catch up with us. I am pledged to try to re-awaken this sleeping giant. My first book dealing with this crisis, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush, is an attempt to answer the question of what we mean when we say that Jesus Christ is Lord. The focus is to set forth sound arguments that are being used to arouse a church that is doggedly committed to irrelevance and indebted to modernity. I invite you, dear reader, to join me in this gigantic task, for the season for slumber is long past, and the time for action has come. Are you willing to confess one God and to criticize everything else – party, power, wealth, prestige, ideology, government, church – whenever it threatens to usurp the place of God?
November 26, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.