Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Gospel and Culture II – Paul on the Offense of the Gospel

We have seen from Acts 17 that St. Paul made a winsome effort to reach the Greek culture of Athens.  At the same time he would not dilute the Gospel even when it cut against the culture to the point that his audience laughed and cut his message short. 
Early in his first epistle to the Corinthians, we see more of his approach to proclaiming the Gospel to a decidedly non-Christian culture. The Greeks valued philosophical wisdom, yet Paul made a point not to go too far in preaching “with words of eloquent wisdom….”  Why?  “…Lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (I Corinth. 1:17)  We should be aware of the audience culture, but we should beware of distorting and diluting the Gospel in order to reach the audience culture.
And we should prepare ourselves for rejection by recognizing that the prevailing culture and most people for that matter do not like the Gospel. Paul is downright blunt in recognizing that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” (1:18)  And he does not let up in asserting that the Gospel transcends human cultures and should not be dragged down by what said cultures consider wisdom:
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1: 20-25)
So Paul was very much aware of prevailing cultures but was all the more determined to preach the pure Gospel, undiluted by hostile cultures, in the midst of them whether they liked it or not.
Now my exegesis is not profound.  But reminders of Paul’s determination are needed today. For The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now is dead set on repeating the mistakes of deadline denominations by catering to “woke” culture.  Never mind that trying to be hip and with it and liberal or whatever you call past versions of “woke” has been a slow motion disaster for The Episcopal Church, the mainline Presbyterian Church and so on.
We are to preach right, worship right, and live right.  And if prevailing cultures don’t like it, then they don’t like it.
But the funny thing is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” has a way of breaking into hostile cultures and saving people in the midst of them anyway.  God does not need us to make Christ and his Gospel woke or American or modern or post-modern or whatever, thank you very much.

Why are American churches such blockheads that this lesson needs to be repeated . . . and repeated the hard way? Why do so many evangelical churches not know better?

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