The Rotten Culture and the Living Word

Pray that God will turn the hearts of Americans to treasure what is now being trashed and to rescue Christendom from destruction. Pray that the blessing God gave to Abraham would rest on America.

God promised Abram that he would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him. God has blessed America because America has blessed Abraham. America has blessed Abraham by protecting the Church. Our right to preach the gospel purely and to administer the sacraments according to Christ’s institution is protected by the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States. God gave us this right. The first amendment also protects rights that God did not give. God does not give heretics the right to promote their soul-destroying teachings. That America has defended the rights of heretics helps explain why this country has been fertile soil for the growth of sectarianism, heresy, and such looney-tune religions as Christian Science and Mormonism. Still, up until recently, the United States has defended the rights of those who believe, teach, and confess the true Christian religion. America has defended us in the performance of our duty to preach the whole counsel of God and to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Until recently. Things have begun to change. There used to be a general understanding among Americans of a natural law that undergirded the political rights of the people. The natural knowledge of the law entails the natural knowledge of God. The natural knowledge of God and his law are not sufficient for a true knowledge of the true God. Due to the spiritual blindness in which all of us are born, the natural knowledge is twisted into service to idolatry. The natural knowledge of God and the law do, however, provide a foundation for civil law. As long as there remained in America a cultural consensus on the basics of what is morally right and wrong, the government in the United States would continue to protect the rights of Christians to confess their religion. As we have been losing this cultural consensus, we have also been losing our legal right to the free exercise of our religion, despite the guarantee of the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

As American culture has sunk deeper and deeper into the cesspool of pagan vice, the honor that American law once paid to Abraham’s religion has sunk with it. The influence of Christendom on America has been waning for some time. We saw it coming. We experienced it. We saw the wind being sown. We now must face the whirlwind. The Christian doctrine of creation was replaced by the evolutionary myth that human beings are descendants of the animals. This myth became dogma in the academy, the arts, popular culture, public education, the mainline Protestant denominations, and the Roman Catholic Church. The denial of the creation is a denial of the Creator whom we Christians know to be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To call God “Our Father” is no longer a confession of who God is. It is regarded as a human effort to humanize God. “Our Mother” would do just as well. What once was grounded in creation is now the result of evolution. This has caused incalculable harm to the dignity of man. Human life is no longer sacred. Whether in the womb or in old age, we do not derive our value from our Creator but from people who may or may not want us around.

Disciples of the evolutionary dogma deny that the God who has created us in His own image has provided us with any evidence of His work. They can no longer discern what creation teaches us about the Creator or about creation. When divine agency and design are eliminated from consideration, we are left to define ourselves as we see fit. The result is that men do not know what a man is. Women do not know what a woman is. They do not know what marriage is or why chastity is a good thing for men, women, and children. Everything we know from God’s creation about the differences between men and women is up for grabs. Contrary to nature, women become soldiers to fight the nation’s wars. They preach publicly from pulpits all over America. Men and women publicly identify themselves as homosexuals, and the government of our country celebrates such pride in perversion. In 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States usurped the legislative authority of the states, legislating same sex “marriage” in defiance of the institution God established in creation. In March of the following year, President Barack Obama celebrated this defiance by declaring LGBT Pride Month. The new civil religion officially endorses same sex “marriage” while condemning Christians for confessing what natural law and revealed biblical law teach about men, women, and marriage.

The America that blessed Abraham now curses him. Americans who refuse to adopt this new paganism promoted by the government find themselves driven out of business as the right of perverts to celebrate their perversion supersedes the right of Christians to engage in lawful business according to the standards of God’s law.

What do we who speak for the church have to say about this? We love our country. Patriotism is more than sentimental attachment to a particular land and people. It is our duty. God says: “Honor your father and your mother.” We therefore are to honor our fatherland, our motherland. We who confess Abraham’s faith have been blessed by the blessing with which God has blessed America. When we see her descending into anti-Christian paganism, should we not fight for her? Fighting entails alliances with likeminded people. So we join together with our allies in the culture wars.

Here is where it gets a bit dicey. We are called to preach the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Ministers of Christ are ambassadors of reconciliation, not agents of the state or soldiers of the culture wars. The Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother! We have here no continuing city. Our King confessed before Pilate who crucified him: “My kingdom of is not of this world.” We who speak for the Church speak the Word of Christ. We neither seek nor want political power to effect the goals of Christ’s kingdom. We rely solely on the authority and power of God’s Word. Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that does not depend on coercion. The power of the Holy Spirit is the power to make the unwilling willing and to do so by revealing the authority of Jesus to forgive us all our sins. As Jesus was murdered by the civil authorities with the title above his head that Pilate in his cynicism displayed – “Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews” – He gained His eternal kingdom that will endure when all the nations of this world have been destroyed.

This kingdom is Christ’s Church. She lives in this world. God governs the nations of this world by means of civil authority. Civil authority relies on the use of guns, armies, policemen, judges, fines, and prisons. It wields the sword. The civil authority in America is elected by the people. Surely, we Christians may fight within the civil arena to save our country from cultural destruction! If we love our neighbor, do we not want to protect him from the ruin that the new paganism will bring if left unchecked? We pray every Sunday that God will bless the president, governor, and legislative bodies under which we live and that He would give them wisdom. Should not our prayers be accompanied by responsible political activity to support good government? We Lutherans call the spiritual authority of Christ’s kingdom the kingdom of God’s right hand and God’s rule through the civil authority of the state the kingdom of His left hand. We live in both kingdoms at the same time.  

In the kingdom of God’s right hand, we proclaim the truth and rely on the Holy Spirit to gather together Christ’s Church on earth. There is no compromise of this saving truth. The gospel cannot tolerate it. False gospels destroy souls. The kingdom of grace covers all our sin and makes us saints. The righteousness of this kingdom is nothing less than the obedience and suffering of the Lord Jesus. It covers everyone in the kingdom of grace, rendering them righteous before God. God rules in this kingdom by His gospel. God tolerates no false teaching that would rob us of His free forgiveness for Christ’s sake. The pure gospel glorifies Christ and comforts poor and lowly sinners. We may under no circumstances compromise the gospel on which Christ’s kingdom of grace is established!

In the kingdom of God’s left hand, compromise is essential. God’s permanent standards of right and wrong cannot change, but their application in civil law is constantly changing. Politics is the art of compromise. Dogmatism in political matters leads to authoritarianism. Ideologues rely on raw power to impose their will on everyone else. When we Christians engage in the political process to protect life, to uphold marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, to protect the authority of the home from statist usurpations, and to defend our right to practice our religion according to God’s Word, we appeal to that natural law that is knowable by everyone. We do not try to establish the kingdom of God on earth through the political process. We maintain the sharp distinction between the spiritual authority of God’s eternal kingdom and the civil authority through which he governs the nations of this world.

When religiously motivated people representing different religions join together in the civil realm to defend marriage, the family, and the unborn, they often appeal to God. But they are speaking in the public square of the civil arena where compromise is essential. This is the source of much mischief. We Christians who are devoted to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures as faithfully set forth and confessed in the creeds and confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church cannot compromise on our confession of the true God for political purposes. But politics is the art of compromise! This means that when we act politically to defend our nation and culture from the assault from paganism, socialism, feminism, and other destructive -isms, we may not join with purveyors of false doctrines, false gospels, and false gods to speak together about God. We may not talk about what God says or does in union with those whose “gospel” denies the grace of God in Christ. We must stand firm against every form of religious unionism, that is, a false fellowship with false doctrine. To join in speaking about God with people who do not worship the Holy Trinity is to take God’s name in vain.   

We must distinguish between the spiritual kingdom of God’s right hand and the civil kingdom of God’s left hand, but we may not separate them any more than we can separate the law from the gospel. We confess the whole counsel of God. We don’t reduce it to little sound bites about Jesus. Speak out, Christian! Speak out against the dehumanizing dogma of macroevolution. Speak out against the killing of the unborn, the perversion of marriage, the assault on fatherhood, and the claims of the state for devotion that can only be given to God.  Do so as you confess Christ to be the only Savior of sinners, whose righteousness forever covers God’s saints. Jesus reigns!

It is hard to watch the culture decline. It’s like watching slime thrown upon a beautiful painting. We love America and we see her being destroyed. What can we do? Pray for our leaders, that God will direct them in the way of righteousness. Pray that God will turn the hearts of Americans to treasure what is now being trashed and to rescue Christendom from destruction. Pray that the blessing God gave to Abraham would rest on America.

Preach! Preach the pure Word of God that bestows life in the midst of worldly decay. Preachers preach. All Christians “preach” whenever and wherever they confess the gospel that forgives us our sins for the sake of Christ’s holy obedience and vicarious suffering and death. We immerse ourselves in God’s Word, wherein we find the kingdom of grace. From within this kingdom we can view a rotten culture without fear or anxiety. In the living Word we hear the voice of Him who bore our sin and washed it away by His blood. Having been washed in clean water, we walk through the rotten culture smelling roses, confessing the crucified and risen Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, who shall reign forever and ever!

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Rolf Preus

Rev. Rolf Preus is a retired parish Pastor of 41 years.

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Christian Culture is the magazine of Luther Classical College. Visit lutherclassical.org for more information about the college.