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Friday, February 10, 2017

Are We Christians Trying Too Hard To Fit A Stereotype? Part IV

For the near future, some of the articles posted on Fridays will consist of reviews of Christian writings from 2 perspectives. The first perspective will be that of the view of the role of the Church in America as described by the report, The Crisis Of Democracy. This report is a view of the role of the Church from a liberal viewpoint. This perspective is an observation of the past which was interrupted during the protest years of the 1960s. That time was described by the report as having an 'excess of democracy.' And that view says the following (click here for the source):
In the past, those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army. The effectiveness of all these institutions as a means of socialization has declined severely. The stress has been increasingly on individuals and their rights, interests, and needs, and not on the community and its rights, interests, and needs.

 The second perspective is an observation, not an ideological declaration, about the Church made from the Left in Russia prior to its October, 1917 Revolution--we should note that Russia also underwent a February, 1917 Revolution. This perspective was written by Vlad (a.k.a., Vladimir Lenin) and it went like this (click here for the source):

Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze,   in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

The reason for reviewing Christian writings from these two perspectives is to determine whether today's writings show that the Church has changed since the times in which those observations were made. And for the record, I just want to say that I am not a fan of Lenin regardless of how I refer to him.

Today's review will consist of applying the above quotes to the end of a sermon preached by B.B. Warfield (click here for bio) and quoted in a blogpost by Justin Taylor on the Gospel Coalition website (click here for the blogpost). Note that what is being evaluated is what is being quoted from Warfield, not Warfield himself and what he said at other times.

In the part of the sermon being quoted, Warfield is describing the kind of self-sacrificial attitude Christians must have when they serve those in need and involve themselves in the world. Please click the above link to the blogpost to read how Warfield describes a very laudible kind of humble and sacrificial attitude that serves as an imitation of Christ in how He came into the world to serve. What is ironic here is that regardless of how worthy the kind of attitude Warfield describes is to have, by itself that attitude is a siren song that ends on the rocks of social injustice and thus the possible dishonoring of the Gospel. In other words, unless what Warfield describes lies in conjunction with other concerns, it will only compound the problems people face rather than help them.

First, we should look at least part of what Warfield said--that is for those who did not click the link. What Warfield said includes the following:


Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort.

Wherever men strive, there will we be to help.

Wherever men fail, there will be we to uplift.

Wherever men succeed, there will we be to rejoice.

Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them.

It means forgetfulness of self in others.

Certainly the above describes the ideal Christian on his/her best days of imitating Christ. But the question becomes how does what Warfield said address Vlad's concerns? In other words, though the Christian, in imitating Christ, might be an ideal example of life to those around him/her, in the end, if all we do is to both encourage those who succeed and help and comfort those who are victims of the system employed by the status quo, will we not merely resemble the street sweepers who clean up after a parade? And yes, we will be helping those who are suffering, but we will not be working for the prevention of future pain and abuse. This is the value of Vlad's statement as well as the statement from The Crisis Of Democracy. For it challenges us Christians  in being willing to sacrifice ourselves to prevent others from suffering the same problems we are cleaning up after today.

In fact, unless we challenge those who oppress others to repent, not only might we be securing praise from others for our noble efforts, we are costing those who oppress others opportunities to change.

With that being said, if we do not challenge an abusive system and those who maintain it to repent without having the same self-sacrificial attitude that Warfield describes above, then we risk sabotaging our efforts at affecting change. For challenging those with wealth and power to repent with anger and self-righteousness not only further hardens the hearts of those who are well rewarded in this life for their shrewdness, it does the same to those who ride in on their coattails. Thus, just as the self-sacrificial attitude that Warfield implores us Christians to have is insufficient by itself for us to live out our faith, it is essential to the living out our of faith.

But if how Warfield calls us to be is imitating Christ, then aren't we saying that imitating Christ is insufficient to follow Him if we so criticize Warfield's quote above ? Not at all. Why? Because we don't imitate Christ in everything He did. Though we are called to sacrifice ourselves for others as Christ came to sacrifice Himself for others, we can never make the sacrifice He made. Our sacrifice is not to atone for sins, but it is to reflect Christ's love for us to others. For while Christ knew that the end of His ministry culminated in His sacrifice on the cross, we do not know when the end of our ministry will come regardless of any sacrifice we are making at the time. In addition, our job is to make disciples of others and those others include those with wealth and power whose position in life is the result of exploiting others. Just as we are called to help the oppressed, we are also called to preach repentance to the oppressor. And here we might want to consider how it dishonors the Gospel when only nonChristians are calling on those who oppress and exploit others to repent.







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