Al Mohler, the Boy Scouts, and the Great Unraveling (by Alan Cross)

Alan blogs at Downshore Drift, where this article was originally published.

We are witnesses to history. Before our eyes, the Civil Religion of America that consisted of “God and Country” is being dismantled piece by piece. One might blame liberal activists as they go after cultural institutions that Christians have depended upon to bolster morality and the idea that America is a Christian nation. But, is that the right place to look?  Al Mohler thinks so.  Yesterday, he addressed the Boy Scouts for changing their policy of forbidding Gay Scouts and Scoutmasters to participate in their organization.  Mohler says that the Boy Scouts of America call for Scouts to be “morally straight” is undergoing a transformation under mounting pressure from the homosexual lobby.

The Scout Oath reads: “On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” As recently as 2004 the Boy Scouts of America declared homosexual conduct to be “inconsistent” with that oath. Just six months later, all that is to be swept away.

Faithful Christians are left in the excruciatingly difficult position of maintaining fidelity to moral judgments revealed in the Bible while the culture around us races in the opposite direction. While the Boy Scouts use language like “morally straight,” the church uses its own language of sin, grace, and obedience.

I write as a former Boy Scout, who retains great love and admiration for Scouting and all that it has meant to generations of boys. This new policy will transform the culture of the Boy Scouts. This is exactly what those who demand the policy change are expecting. As the announcement made clear, this is no small alteration or adjustment.

The new policy to be adopted by the Boy Scouts of America represents a revolution in what that esteemed organization understands “morally straight” to mean. We should not let that pass without taking notice of what that revolution will eventually bring about — nothing less than a reversal of what morality is understood to demand.

Mohler is right. We are seeing a revolution. But, of what kind?

My friend, Marty Duren asks some pointed questions along these lines today over at his blog.  After questioning why there is an outcry from Evangelical leaders now regarding the Scouts allowing homosexuals and there was no outcry when it was recently revealed that the Scouts had been covering up for child sex abusers for decades, Marty goes on to hit the crux of the issue:

  • Are we seeing the reaction of people for whom gay-rights is the last domino standing, after which there are no more culture wars to fight?
  • Why do we not emphasize that the Boy Scouts are now–and always have been–a moral organization focused on good citizenship not agospel organization focused on discipleship?
  • Do we even recognize the two are not the same?
  • Why do evangelical leaders not acknowledge the words “morally straight” are ambiguous, open to interpretation, malleable, and not scripturally moored?
  • Are some evangelical leaders not blurring the truth when they gloss over this reality: the Scouts’ generic “God” is not necessarily the God of the Bible?
  • Which God is it that both evangelicals and Mormons can affirm without qualification?
  • Are we more concerned about the loss of Americanism than finding an authentic expression of a Christ-bought church?
  • Have we misinterpreted the fall of Christendom as the work of Satan, rather than considering it could be God destroying our most grand, safe, and preferred idol?

I did a little research into the BSA’s stance on Racial Segregation up until the 1960’s and it was as I expected. Boy Scout Troops in the South were racially segregated just like every other institution.  We would consider that practice evil today but back then, it was considered “morally straight.”  Read the whole sordid history here.

In the South, with the “separate but equal” mindset of the times, black troops were not treated equally. They were often not allowed to wear scout uniforms, and had far smaller budgets and insufficient facilities to work with. The BSA on a national level was often defensive about its stance on segregation. “The Boy Scouts of America] never drew the color line, but the movement stayed in step with the prevailing mores.” Even so, there was only one integrated troop before 1954 in the Deep South compared to the frequent occurrence of integration in the North. Also, the Scouts in the South did not support social agencies that were allies of the BSA. The YMCA was historically one of the BSA’s strongest supporters, but in Richmond, Virginia, blacks were not allowed to use the Y’s facilities to earn merit badges, specifically for swimming.

So, the Boy Scouts have ALWAYS reflected the “prevailing mores” of the larger culture. They are not a Gospel organization. Their god is the god of American Civil Religion which is not the God of the Bible. Their definitions of “morally straight” will change with the times and with what America ascribes to. Their ethos involves “God and Country” and a merging of the two.  I was a Boy Scout and don’t see anything wrong with being one, but it was not an exclusively Christian organization in any way that I could tell. We talked about God and morality and we had ecumenical religious services on our campouts, but there was nothing inherently Christian about our times of devotion.  As Marty says, this is why Mormons have embraced the Boy Scouts so clearly.

I understand what Dr. Mohler is bemoaning. The loss of the Boy Scouts in the Culture Wars is another sign of the Great Unraveling of Christendom (the idea of a culture-supported and culture-friendly Christianity). I am all for institutions that support Christian values and wish that every organization did. I agree that Homosexuality is immoral and ungodly and is condemned in Scripture as are all other sexual sins and all sin, for that matter. But, I also recognize that we should not be surprised when an organization that has ALWAYS reflected and promoted the general moral consensus of America continues to do what it was created to do when the moral consensus changes.  Churches in the South had no qualm with the Boy Scouts when they supported segregation for 60 years because we were doing the same thing, even though we would all see it as wrong, unbiblical, and immoral now. Why are we then so surprised at today’s shift?  When did the BSA ever repent of tying its moral stance to the larger cultural consensus instead of Scripture?

Prediction: Every single institution in America that was morally and ethically rooted in a cultural Christianity/Civil Religion is going to shift on the issue of homosexuality in the next 5-7 years.

As Christians, we have a chance for the Church to be the Church. We will be persecuted as the Culture leaves us behind and now turns on us as Jesus prophesied. Let’s make sure that we hold to our convictions that are rooted in Scripture and the God of the Bible and not be surprised when those institutions that we thought were “with us” go the way that they were always designed to go. If we do not draw the distinction between their god of Civil Religion and the true God of the Bible, we will go with them and think that we are doing the right thing. Jesus came to save us from our sin, not to affirm it. Our task is to hold out the word of life found in the gospel which includes speaking to our sin as well as our only salvation found in Christ.

For a Biblical approach to how Christians should navigate the changing and increasingly hostile culture in regard to this issue, check out how Dan Cathey of Chick-Fil-A has sought to stick with his Biblical convictions on homosexuality while simultaneously seeking to love and pray for those who would be considered “enemies” in all this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-l-windmeyer/dan-cathy-chick-fil-a_b_2564379.html

Comments

  1. Dave Miller says

    Their god is the god of American Civil Religion which is not the God of the Bible. Their definitions of “morally straight” will change with the times and with what America ascribes to. Their ethos involves “God and Country” and a merging of the two.

    Yep, that is the issue. That which public opinion deems is moral is the standard. We cannot fall prey to that.

  2. Jon says

    The Boy Scout’s stance demonstrates that civic Christianity is on the wane, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Civic institutions are not the church and cannot be expected to accurately reflect the church’s beliefs at any time.

  3. Jon says

    The Boy Scout’s stance demonstrates that civic Christianity is on the wane, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Civic institutions are not the church and cannot be expected to accurately reflect the church’s beliefs at any time.

    • Frank L. says

      Jon,

      I think I get what you are saying but I think there is another angle that can be missed.

      It is not Civic Christianity that is on the wane, but the influence of Christianity on civics. That is a subtle difference I understand but critical I think.

      It is not the demise of a “civic organization” like Boy Scouts that is alarming to me. It is the infiltration and influence of an anti-Christian bias. Homosexuality has crowded out Christianity in a civic organization.

      I cannot see how that is in any way, “a good thing.”

      I don’t equate Christian influence and foundations of our nation and institutions as the equivalence of a “civic religion,” say like Lutheranism in Hitler’s Germany or the State Church in Calvin’s Geneva.

      The connection between Christianity and institutions in America were different in the eyes of our Founders.

      • says

        Frank L.,

        You make a great point and one that bears consideration. We should hope and pray and work toward having Christian influence upon our institutions. This is a good thing and surely what it means to be salt and light. We should continue to work towards that.

        It becomes a “Civil Religion” when we are depending upon those institutions to prop up or defend our faith. I think that Mohler was bemoaning what you are talking about – Christian influence. We are all wise to be aware of Civil Religion. The religion of the Boy Scouts was not Christianity – it was more of a Civil Religion. That is now giving way to an affrimation of homosexuality. We should desire to see “Christian” influence on any organization, but that involves more than just morality. It involves the gospel and grace and law and redemption through Jesus Christ. I don’t know if the Boy Scouts ever had that, although they have been a “good” organization in a virtuous sense. They will continue to be that according to the new morality, I suppose.

        • Frank L. says

          Alan,

          Good points. I agree. This would be a good time for “Royal Ambassadors” to meet Easter — as in resurrection.

          I think at their founding Boy Scouts was much like the Sunday School movement. It drifted into “civil religion” as most movements do. It is definitely (should the decision stand) not something that we would want “propping up Christianity.”

          Again, good analysis and very helpful.

      • Jon says

        Frank, I see the distinction you make. Without an established church, the various denominations had a uniquely beneficial influence on our society. Toqueville remarked extravagantly on that. However, one can argue that a civic religion arose after the Second War, which was counterproductive to the Christian cause.

      • Max says

        “It is not Civic Christianity that is on the wane, but the influence of Christianity on civics.”

        Amen Frank! I once was young and now am old … if you had told me as a child that I would live to see a day when evil was called good (and supported by the government!), I would have responded “Never!”. The reason this issue is even on the table is that the church has lost its influence in the public arena and national law. Voices will rise to what I just said and declare separation of church and state … but the bottom-line is that the church, which once was counter-culture in areas such as this, has become sub-culture and stretched tolerance to unbiblical proportion. Evil in our society was once restrained by a holy influence of the church. A prayerless, unrepentant church in the midst of moral chaos, we don’t scare the devil much these days.

        “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

        • says

          I think the church has lost its influence in the public arena and national law precisely because it got sucked into depending on being the predominant “civil religion” and too many of its leaders enjoyed the political power and influence they had. They were tempted by the immediate impact of worldly power. It was only a matter of time before there was a shift, and the decline of the political right is going to take the church down with it, or at least, that part of it that was so closely aligned with it that it was hard to separate the two.

          Most of Christianity around the world throughout its history has lived in a culture that was antithetical to its beliefs, morals and values, both Paul and Peter did an excellent job of writing to Christians and both telling and showing them how to live in the world but not be of it. In fact, Christianity has thrived in the face of its most severe persecution. I don’t think we’re going to face severe persecution, I think what we’re going to face is absolute indifference.

  4. David Rogers says

    Even though a lot of people like to decry the “evils” of socialist Europe, I think as Evangelicals we could probably learn a thing or two from the churches and believers of the Evangelical minority of Europe that are already a few miles further down the road than us when it comes to learning what it means to be faithful to the Lord and the Great Commission in the midst of a post-Christendom society.

    • Blake says

      For any interested, Paternoster Press had been publishing a series on this very topic. It was their After Christendom Series. Then at some point Herald Press informally picked up some books slated to be on the series but weren’t, due to business happenings across the pond. Many other publishers are releasing books on post-Christendom. It’s a very interesting topic and one that’s more relevant to present day America than most pastors are willing to admit, I think.

  5. Christiane says

    There is a case for a religious community preserving non-discrimination toward a minority party and still being able to refuse to support any leader in the midst of their community who would violate their moral teachings as a faith community.

    • Christiane says

      Hi C.B.
      Actually, there really IS a case, this:

      “Boy Scouts of America and Monmouth Council, Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale

      IN THE
      SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
      October Term, 1999

      Boy Scouts of America and Monmouth Council,
      Boy Scouts of America,
      Petitioners,

      v.

      James Dale,
      Respondent.”

      C.B., here’s the case brief and it’s good reading, I think for this topic, if anyone cares to look at it:
      http://old.usccb.org/ogc/amicuscuriae.shtml

    • Greg Harvey says

      I’m sorry. Minority party? Are you speaking about the (Catholic) priests who are hidden homosexuals who consider themselves celibate because they don’t have relations with women while in many cases still having them with men? Or the (Catholic) priests who are child molesters that the Vatican basically shifted between parishes and dioceses in an effort to not have a mass outing and expose themselves to huge liability? Which minority party are we protecting exactly:

      a. The priests
      b. The Catholic “Church” (aka “denomination) itself
      c. Young, innocent Boy Scouts

      Which, by the way, isn’t to say that Baptist churches don’t suffer from similar problems though we may not have metastasized the specific problem quite as effectively (yet). As I’ve noted before, Great Hills Austin–kind of one of the flagships of the SBT–had not one but two staff members arested convicted of (or confessed/pled to) sexually-related crimes with minors within a decade and one was with a teenager who was a participant in the church. The other was multiple older teens that the minister of education would pick up outside of the church. And–yes–both were homosexual encounters.

      Because in all of this the central reason for the Boy Scout policy makes perfect sense from both a protection standpoint and from a liability-avoidance standpoint. Giving into society and letting homosexuals into Boy Scout troops as either Scoutmasters or Scouts is the opposite of protecting a minority: our children and teens.

  6. says

    “…questioning why there is an outcry from Evangelical leaders now regarding the Scouts allowing homosexuals and there was no outcry when it was recently revealed that the Scouts had been covering up for child sex abusers for decades…”

    This isn’t all that hard to identify: we all recognize the wrong in the actions of sex abusers, but now the organization is opening the door to calling right another practice that is also wrong.

    Put another way, no one doubts that sex abuse is an abomination. The cause for concern now is that many doubt whether homosexuality is also an abomination.

    • cb scott says

      “The cause for concern now is that many doubt whether homosexuality is also an abomination.”

      Yes . . . . and sexual abuse, both physical and emotional.

    • says

      How is it that this goes on for decades, sexual abuse, now revealed and we decline outrage because “we all know it is an abomination?” Surely, that was just an oversight in the comment.

      • says

        Todd,

        Surely you recognize the difference in a society that knows certain things are sin and a society that tries to turn sin into righteousness? We should speak out against sexual abuse whenever and wherever it happens – but we are able to do so because we know sexual abuse is wrong. What makes the new issue particularly heinous is not only are people refusing to call homosexuality wrong, they are insisting that we call it right.

        As an aside, what is this massive sexual abuse scandal in the Boy Scouts? One reason I don’t say anything about it is I know nothing about it. Despite having been a cub scout and a boy scout and knowing many who have been and are active in scouts and being a fairly informed fellow, this is something I’m just not familiar with. I don’t doubt abuse has happened, but I do doubt very seriously that it’s on any wide scale. Isolated instances of individual sin must be denounced, but do not compare with institutional acceptance of other sin.

  7. Greg Harvey says

    Patiently preach Scripture in its fullest from the pulpit. Stand courageous but be motivated by THIS Scripture in our pronouncements against sinners:

    Romans 2:1-11 (HCSB, emphasis mine):

    “Therefore, any one of you[a] who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2 We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing[b] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. 6 He will repay each one according to his works:[c] 7 eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth but are obeying unrighteousness; 9 affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 11 There is no favoritism with God.”

    • Jess Alford says

      Greg Harvey,

      What you quoted above leaves me a little confused as to the point
      you are trying to make. Are you saying we are not to judge? If so
      that is incorrect. If so, then by what means do we recognize evil
      and good?

      In 1Cor. chapter 6, Paul tells us he has juged already.

      • Greg Harvey says

        Well: I hate taking verses out of context, but the bolded one was my main point.

        This passage doesn’t say “don’t judge” and isn’t in conflict with what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 6. It instead points out that we’ll be judged according to our judgments. Inconsistency in judging ourselves v. judging others–broad picture, by the way, not specific issue–is favoritism for ourselves and Paul addresses that by saying God doesn’t play favorites.

        Now even the context has context: verse 7 “eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality” is, according to Scripture and specifically to Paul himself, unaccomplishable except through faith in Christ Jesus. We are justified–set straight to THE plumb line (again Jesus)–through our faith in him. But the wall must be torn down and rebuilt to be set straight.

  8. Robert I Masters says

    The reason that we continue to fight the culture war is because the Bible commands us to in Gen 1:28.

    You do not obey the Lords commands then you are a disobedient Christian:
    assuming you name the name of Christ.

    Like Kirk Cameron said after the last election we have to just redouble our efforts. We have not even begun the fight yet.

    • says

      It’s not our fight, it is the Lord’s fight.

      You would do well to get out of His way and just pray and preach the Gospel and let Him change the world. If you try to change the world, you’ll probably mess up what He is trying to do to save it.

      • Frank L. says

        Greg,

        Personally, I find the “just pray and preach the Gospel” as a cop-out to cover personal failures and failures of the Church to engage.

        Jesus certainly prayed. He also preached. He also formed a whip and toppled over tables in righteous indignation.

        I’m not suggesting you mean the statement as a cop-out. I’m just speaking in general.

        • Truth unites... And divides says

          “Personally, I find the “just pray and preach the Gospel” as a cop-out to cover personal failures and failures of the Church to engage.”

          Have you heard this sentiment more than ten times in your life?

          • Greg Harvey says

            I’m sorry. Could anyone point me to the section of the Great Commission that explicitly outlines a culture war we’re supposed to fight and win? Oh WAIT: the Great Commission IS the strategy for establishing the Kingdom and it looks to me that it is designed very specifically to reach out to those who will hear.

            Perhaps this is how we fight the culture war: “Let those who have ears, hear”. And then let God sort the wheat and the weeds in his own good time.

          • Truth Unites... and Divides says

            Greg Buchanan: “You would do well to get out of His way and just pray and preach the Gospel and let Him change the world.”

            Frank L.: “Greg, Personally, I find the “just pray and preach the Gospel” as a cop-out to cover personal failures and failures of the Church to engage.”

            Greg Harvey: “I’m sorry. Could anyone point me to the section of the Great Commission that explicitly outlines a culture war we’re supposed to fight and win? Oh WAIT: the Great Commission IS the strategy for establishing the Kingdom and it looks to me that it is designed very specifically to reach out to those who will hear.”

            I understand what the two Gregs are saying and also what Frank L. is saying. Question: What do you do (“You” = faithful Christians and the Invisible/Visible Church) when the larger, general culture is staunchly opposed to “just pray and preach the Gospel” (and all that the Gospel entails) because of the Gospel’s influence on the behavior of faithful Christians in the Public Square, Christians who refuse to acquiesce to Satan and put a lid on the Light that’s been given to them?

          • says

            Christians are to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel, even if persecuted. We are actually blessed if we are persecuted. We are to stand for truth and justice wherever we are and in every situation, even if people will not listen. Pastoral ministry becomes prophetic in the face of such a society. But, we are not to expect the Boy Scouts of America to do the job of the church. The BSA has always reflected the societal consensus. They did it on race and they are now shifting again to reflect it here. My point is simply that we cannot expect the pillars of the world to promote the truth of the Bible. When the world goes the way of the world, we should not be surprised or try to coerce it back. We must witness to the person and work of Christ, even if we are rejected. I am not hand-wringing over the BSA. But, I am a bit concerned that some Christians are seemingly putting their hope in organizations like the BSA continuing to prop up our moral stance. It is great when it happens and we should try to influence EVERY institution toward godly ways, but when it doesn’t happen should we really be surprised?

          • Greg Harvey says

            TUAD:
            Be faithful to the faith even unto death. Or said just a little differently:

            “Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

            Note the emphatic nature of “must” and the fact that the cross didn’t lead to pain and persecution but to death. In order for a seed to grow it must fall to the earth and die. Are we saying we cannot endure these temporary trials?

          • Truth Unites... and Divides says

            Alan Cross: “But, we are not to expect the Boy Scouts of America to do the job of the church.”

            I do not know of any Christians who had this expectation of the Boy Scouts of America to do the job of the church.

            Do you?

          • Truth Unites... and Divides says

            Frank L: “Personally, I find the “just pray and preach the Gospel” as a cop-out to cover personal failures and failures of the Church to engage.”

            Frank, have you also found this slight variation true in your life:

            “Personally, I find the “just pray and preach the Gospel” as a cop-out to cover the moral cowardice of some Christians and worse yet, some pastors to engage the culture.”

        • Jess Alford says

          Frank L.

          If I may put it another way, every prayer should have a pair of feet under them. Why pray if we are not willing to do our part.

          • Frank L. says

            “”Frank, have you also found this slight variation true in your life:

            “Personally, I find the “just pray and preach the Gospel” as a cop-out to cover the moral cowardice of some Christians and worse yet, some pastors to engage the culture.”””

            The last I checked, pastors are part of the Church so I don’t understand the import of your variation.

  9. says

    That would be a unique and I think horribly misguided view of what it means to subdue the earth. Clearly, the context speaks of fish and birds and living creatures, not governments or societies.

    • GP says

      Dave, Dave, you missed his point. He wasn’t trying to accurately exposit (or even apply) scripture. He just needed a proof-text that would allow him to say that any Christian who isn’t “fighting” the “culture war” is “disobedient.”

      Declaring that God has not only definitively affirmed your side on this issue, but in fact affirmatively commanded it, may not be sound theology, but it’s a swell way to shut down any reasonable discussion. :)

    • cb scott says

      Robert I Masters,

      You have used that same argument before and it was revealed to be without contextual foundation before as has it been here by Dave Miller with very little effort. The argument is easily refuted as not hermeneutically sound. Why do you continue to use it?

  10. Robert I Masters says

    CB Scott

    I do not believe I have ever engaged anyone here in a hermeneutical exposition of the Cultural Mandate.

    No Truly Reformed Scholar that I know disagrees with my understanding of the Cultural Mandate.

    I admit that people like Douglas Wilson,Tim Keller,John Frame, RCSproul,Gary DeMar,George Grant do a much better job than myself.

    • cb scott says

      Robert I Masters,

      Only recently, in another comment thread, of another post you used Genesis 1:28 as a supporting text regarding the Cultural Mandate, did you not?

  11. says

    Perhaps it is, in these (hopefully end) times, it’s God Who is forcing the church to BE the church. To focus on making disciples, which, as I’ve said before, doesn’t seem to have been our main focus. At least not in my experience.

    Jesus said He would build the church. I have to think He is.

      • Robert I Masters says

        CB Scott,
        Are you familar with the teachings of the the Southern Baptist Pastor Adrian Rogers on the Cultural Mandate?

      • Robert I Masters says

        CB Scott,
        The context of my question is a sermon that Adrian Rogers preached at Bellevue Baptist in which encouraged the congregation and all Southern Baptist to boycott Disney. This was context where the Cultural Mandate came up in his sermon.

        So my question to you is why do you consider my advocation of the Cultural Mandate unBiblical but not Adrian Rogers?

        • says

          Adrian Rogers:

          “Now, I have to be careful, and you have to be careful, that we don’t fail to understand—we don’t fail to remember—that our mandate is the gospel. It is primarily doctrinal, primarily spiritual—not political. The mandate of this church is still the Great Commission, preaching the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, to do anything else that runs around the gospel would be like trying to mop up a floor with water on it while the faucet is still running and the sink is still overflowing. We have to preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, we have to begin with the house of God and the people of God. We’re concerned about putting prayer back in the schools. I think we need to get a little more concerned about putting prayer back in the church and back in our homes. Our mandate is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

          • Jon says

            Yes, David, you explained that very well. The Boy Scouts never was a Christian organization. We cannot expect it to reflect Christian beliefs. The church in the world is always a paradox and we always live in that tension despite how much influence Christianity may have on culture at any given time.

          • Frank L. says

            But, why is it so bifurcated: either/or?

            I think as dearly beloved as he was, Dr. Rogers was not completely correct.

            The gospel is not a “mandate,” but a means to fulfill a mandate. The only imperative in the Great Commission–that is, mandate–is that we “make disciples.” Preaching the gospel, teaching others to live the gospel, embracing fellowship within the gospel context are all means to the end.

            Notice the target of the mandate in Mark: “all the world, creation.” We cannot fulfill the Biblical mandate without interacting with the culture. The same Book that talks about prayer (which is not mentioned in the Great Commission) also talks about “acting justly” (Mic. 6:8).

            I believe in prayer. My commitment is to give ten percent of my day to prayer. I believe in preaching. I spent hours each week studying for my sermon. But, I also believe that the gospel is a “gospel that works,” a “gospel of good works.”

            I get what both sides are saying, I think. I just think we are talking about the two sides of the same coin.

          • says

            Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” I think it is important to keep clear that Jesus commissioned us (I believe the disciples, in this occasion, are representative of all disciples through church history) to carry on the ministry he began in his first advent, summed up in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” However, I do not believe we are commissioned to carry out Jesus’ second-advent ministry: judging the nations and setting up the eternal kingdom. The first-advent ministry implies cultural involvement, but a different type of cultural involvement than the second-advent ministry. It is more a ministry of faithful, suffering service than one of cultural transformation (see here for further thoughts: http://sbcimpact.org/2010/03/15/christ-the-faithful-suffering-servant-in-the-midst-of-culture/)

            I believe much of the lack of balance in the church’s cultural engagement has to do with taking second-advent types of ministry and introducing them ahead of time into the first-advent ministry period in which we presently live: the Church Age.

  12. Jess Alford says

    The major problem that the Church is facing is sin. The reason sin is such a problem many Christians are soaking it up like a sponge. No longer is sin looked upon as sin in many peoples eyes.

    One of the main problems in the Church, (I know you have heard the term, user friendly,) the Church is becoming sin friendly, and more so every day.

    I think the second biggest problem in the Church is the increasing number of feminine pastors that are spreading the posin of feminism
    in the congragations. Pastors that will not call sin what it really is, sin.

    Two of the sermons I have heard in the past three weeks, the Pastor’s said “I will not judge the gay community, that is between them and God.”
    I could not believe my ears. That is trying to make a bunch sissy’s out of what suppose to be believers.

    We need men that are called of God behind the pulpits. We don’t need boys or girls preaching, we need Godly men. We need backbone, guts,
    a loud voice, and be called by the awsome God. A sermonett is for the
    Christianett. We need a burning fire in our hearts if we are going to heat up the world with the word of God.

    homosexuality is sin.

    • Jon says

      A very thought-provoking analysis. What is the relationship between Christ, Christianity or the church on the one hand, and culture on the other? Years back I read Christ and Culture by one of the Niebhurs, and it presented a typology. I never reached a conclusion as to which one made sense, but it’s arguably one of the greatest questions the church can wrestle with. The kingdom has arrived. I think it expands until an act of God from outside history brings it to fulfillment upon Christ’s return. I am confused as to the church’s general mission of engagement and transformation, though. Is there one? If so, what exactly does that entail? I only know how I am called to speak and act.

      • Jess Alford says

        Jon,

        No one can have a saving relationship with Christ and remain the same. If we did not change after meeting Christ, we didn’t have a saving relationship with him. It is this change that is going to change this country, one person at a time until it effects, and changes culture.

        If this nation is truly won for Christ, culture will follow. This is what we hope and pray will happen, and maybe God will grant our prayers.

        We know there are already many anti-christ’s in the world but the ministry of the Holy Spirit is holding him back. So we should do our part while we still have time.

        • Jon says

          Thank you, Jess, for this very heartfelt response. Perhaps the answer to this question is like the answer to many questions we pose: We must live out our lives in accordance with what we know and feel called to do.

  13. says

    I’ll drive-by with this:

    1. This was inevitable with the shift in official US Military policy on homosexuality: one of the retention efforts to keep older teens involved in Scouting (at least all the days I was involved) was that Scout experience translated into a higher standing post-AIT if you enlisted in the Army or the Air Force (something like coming out E-3 instead of E-2, which meant more money and responsibility). That was always what we were told, at least. Add in the number of Scout units connect to military bases and the pressure from that support and this was coming.

    2. This was also inevitable with the cultural shift. It costs money to run a non-profit organization and if conservative Christian groups who want the absolute ban on homosexuals in Scouts cannot provide the funding, guess what? The BSA will do what is necessary to keep corporate/United Way sponsorship money.

    3. This also is in line with where many of the individual chartering organizations of Scout units are: the Scout units I was in were sponsored either by Methodist churches or Veteran’s Groups. Guess what? The UMC is fine, in general, with homosexual leadership–so if the BSA does not shift with them, they will take those resources elsewhere and cut those units out.

    4. Scouting lives and dies on access to young people. Most of that access comes from getting to announce in schools when it’s sign-up time. When this is cutoff since the homosexual ban violated many school’s “anti-bullying” policies (this is what a local school district threatened local Scout groups over), then that goes away and the organization dies.

    So, this was coming. The individual convictions of the leadership of Scouting came into conflict with the ability of the organization to survive, so the organization changed. Why should they worry about it? The Girl Scouts years ago openly braced this agenda, and still the group grows. Still churches sponsor Girl Scouts. Still church people buy the cookies.

    There remains this positive: for the time being, if the proposed change is enacted (which it will be, it’s like a “Task Force Recommendation” in Southern Baptist life: sure, there’s a vote but this is happening) local organizations may still set the rules for their own leaders. So if you have doubts about what the Scout troops in your area will do and want to continue to provide the Scouting opportunity while keeping “morally straight” in a place based on Scripture, then call your local Council and start a Cub Pack or Scout Troop. You might have some space that goes unused during the week that could be helpful.

  14. volfan007 says

    The Gospel is the main thing the Church should be about. We’ve been called to fish, not clean up the fish tank.

    That being said, it’s a real shame that the influence of the Church on the nation is gone. We’re seeing it leave more and more as the years go by. There was a day in the South when nothing even opened up on Sunday… a day of worship and rest. There was a day when someone wouldnt dare cut thier grass, or wash their car, during Church time; because they didnt want anyone to know that they didnt go to Church.

    That day is gone. We’re living in a different world, today.

    Also, I wonder how many more boys will be molested by thier homosexual leaders in the Boy Scouts?

    David

  15. Jess Alford says

    volfan007,

    Just the other day I was watching Dave Miller’s favorite show. The Andy Griffith show. One Sunday a business man came through Mayberry, He had car problems and was trying to get it fixed. Wally the mechanic at the filling station told the fellow that he would fix it the first thing in the morning. Wally didn’t work on Sundays.

    I still remember those days back in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
    It’s certainly not that way now.

  16. Nate says

    It seems to me, after reading through the comments, that those who are younger, and never really saw the effect of “disciple’d believers” on the culture are of the opinion that we (believers) are never going to affect culture nor should we try. And, while I agree with the principle of that and believe that we are to make disciples, the effect of making many disciples is that they will then affect their churches, communities, states, and country.

    I think it is unwise to abandon hopes and prayers that this country, which in times past (though imperfect) was seen as a “christian” nation, will not again be seen as such (however imperfect that might be). And while we are called to suffer as believers, there is plenty of Scripture to support the notion of transformation, not simply of our own lives, but of our communities as well.

    History is clear… If Christians give up on the culture, the culture will destroy the Christians, and it will rise in another culture whose believers turn their culture upside down.

    • says

      Not sure that I’m one of the younger ones (I’m 52).

      In any case, I’m not saying there are no passages of Scripture that say what you say they do, but I am interested to know what are a few of main passages you would point me to in order to support the notion of community transformation (especially in the New Testament, if possible).

      I say this not to argue, but because I am continually thinking on these matters, and would like to have some more information on the table as I continue to think it all through.

      • Nate says

        David, sorry just got back on,

        I think the book of Acts would be a primary source of transformation of communities and empires where believers are saved and discipled, which has a profound effect on the community. Some of that is for the bad, Acts 17, for example, but also Acts 19 where those who had been transformed abolished their former practices, which certainly would have changed the landscape of that community. Moreover, history is the great example, as the people of the Roman Empire were transformed by the power of the gospel, as was Europe, England, America, Asia, and Africa, depending on the century you want to speak about. Obviously some of these are still in progress.

        At the same time, those communities and countries, for reasons, both known and unknown (perhaps apathy) have seen Christianity leave their communities and slide back into the paganism they were transformed out of. America is at that point right now. Will we abandon all efforts to stay in the public forum or will we draw back (under seemingly reasonable strategies) and disappear, just as Europe has. And while the Muslims took much of the first 4 century’s Christian lands by force, Europe was lost by the Enlightenment and Darwinism. America is following the same path.

        A revival is needed in the church, first and foremost, but unless we turn America upside down, through many coming to know the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord, we will go the way of Europe. My point and my personal opinion is, that if we say that believers shouldn’t look to impact society and that the Boy Scouts really didn’t have in mind the Christian God in their pledge, we are being naive. (not that you are saying that David).

        • says

          The gospel certainly transforms the lives of those who are saved and incorporated into the church, but I don’t see how the early church really transformed the surrounding culture except to provoke opposition and persecution. The faithful church has generally, throughout history, been a counter-cultural minority. I don’t see how Constantinianism was a good thing, either for the spiritual vitality of the Christian community, or for society in general. As I read history, in many contexts down through the centuries, State-sponsored Christendom has been one of the most potent vaccines against pure biblical Christianity. What America needs, in my opinion, is for the Evangelical community to clearly learn the difference between the biblical gospel and American civil religion, and to cling to the biblical gospel as their only hope. In the end, though, there is no lasting hope for America, or any of the kingdoms of this earth. The only lasting kingdom is the Kingdom of God, made up of the redeemed from all nations, and which will only have a visible governmental structure extending beyond the boundaries of the church when Jesus himself comes to judge the kings of the earth and establish his earthly throne.

          • volfan007 says

            David,

            I agree with what you’re saying to a point….I agree that our main concern should be preaching the Gospel and the Kingdom of God…and, I’m not so much talking about changing laws and lobbying congress, etc. ….but, there are times when there are so many Christians that the Church has influence over a society. And, there was a time in this nation…especially in the South…. where the Church had such influence.

            So, I’m not saying that Christians should overcome the govt…. although that wouldnt be a bad thing…it’d be a good thing….but, I do wish that so many people would be saved, and the Church going so strong, that our influence would be seen in our laws, and in the way society does things.

            The Great Awakening that swept thru Wales closed down bars, and the jails were empty….not by passing laws, but because people got saved and quit drinking liquor, and stopped committing crimes. That’s what I’m talking about.

            David

          • Nate says

            David,

            I don’t think we are really in disagreement. I agree with what you are saying, but as Volfan said, and the book of Acts implies, when the gospel transforms a majority of the populace, the community is transformed. There is no perfect formula of course, and the Kingdom of God is the only true kingdom, but believers are to take the gospel to their community and pray that the community will be overcome by the gospel.

  17. says

    Thanks Dave! you are always spot on. As an Eagle Scout, I am deeply grieved and very saddened by the direction of the BSA. It is a very depressing day for me.

Trackbacks

  1. […] So, the Boy Scouts have ALWAYS reflected the “prevailing mores” of the larger culture. They are not a Gospel organization. Their god is the god of American Civil Religion which is not the God of the Bible. Their definitions of “morally straight” will change with the times and with what America ascribes to. Their ethos involves “God and Country” and a merging of the two.  I was a Boy Scout and don’t see anything wrong with being one, but it was not an exclusively Christian organization in any way that I could tell. We talked about God and morality and we had ecumenical religious services on our campouts, but there was nothing inherently Christian about our times of devotion.  As Marty says, this is why Mormons have embraced the Boy Scouts so clearly.” (“Al Mohler, the Boy Scouts, and the Great Unraveling”) […]