A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rethinking Christ and Culture: Excerpt #2

From Craig Carter, Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post Christendom Perspective (Brazos Press, 2006).

Too many Christians regret the demise of Christendom; they need not. We need to face reality; Christendom did not work. There is no way it ever could have worked. No one can coerce another person into believing the gospel and experience the life-giving power of salvation. The church cannot evangelize the world when the world is already officially Christian. The killing, the struggle for power, the greedy fight over wealth that goes on all the time within and between nation-states should not have had to reflect poorly upon the Christian church because the church should never have accepted the job of helping to rule the world. When the Roman emperors offered the church the job of being the religion of the empire, the bishops of the church should have done what Jesus did in the wilderness when the devil made him the same offer. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the judicial murder of heretics, the blessing of wars of conquest in the Americas, the justification of slavery, anti-Semitism, and finally, as the climax of all the evils of Western civilization, World War II with the Holocaust and the use of atomic weapons as a tool of terror against civilians-- all this history should never have been part of church history. But it is part of our history because it is Christendom....

But as a way of relating Christ and culture, Christendom was not biblically justified, it was not theologically sound, it was not pastorally responsible, and it was not evangelistically effective. It was not a series of excusable mistakes made by people who could not have been expected to know better because they were children of the times. It was a reversion to the worst excesses of the kingdom of David and Solomon, excesses that had been expressly condemned by the eight century prophets, decisively judged by God in the exile, and consciously rejected by Jesus, who chose the way of the cross over the way of the zealot's sword. David and Solomon at least had the excuse of living in an age prior to the climactic self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ; but the founders and developers of Christendom did not. In other words, the worst thing about the whole sorry Christendom episode was that its founders and apologists were people who knew about Jesus, who had the Gospels to read, and who had been part of the early church. They had no excuse; they should have known better. Although this may seem like a harsh judgment, consider the alternative. If Christendom was not a perversion of the gospel, then the gospel, the Bible, Christianity as a whole, and Jesus himself are all called into question by the evils of Christendom. Since I believe the gospel, I find it necessary to believe that Christendom was a perversion of the gospel, a parody of the church, and a betrayal of the teachings of Jesus (pp. 21-22).

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Cross-posted at RedBlueChristian.


Anonymous said...

"... the church should never have accepted the job of helping to rule the world."

The church - as the church - no. That's not the church's vocation. (Attention GBCS and General Conference.)

Christians, who live within the world, yes. Christians who say "no thanks" to responsibility for this world's affairs are nonetheless responsible. Failure to act is also an action with consequences.

Something like Luther's "two realms" seems to me to be the best way to approach this.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting concept. I'd like to hear more...

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your comments.

I think the problem with Luther's two kingdoms is that it implicitly acknowledges that Jesus is not Lord of one of the Kingdoms. I know that is not what Luther argued, but that is how it works out practically.