“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Prevention is a hard sell. People would rather pay for a crisis than take the necessary steps to avoid one. That’s why some health insurance companies are (or at least should be) delighted to pay for preventative examinations — they detect problems early. Why pay for the expensive heart surgery when you can pay a small examination fee? The lesson is simple: the longer you wait the greater the cost.
This rings true for us who make our homes in the beautiful yet precarious regions of northern California. I live in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where in early spring the rains stop until mid-to-late fall, and the threat of fire is constant. Having spent twenty years as a local volunteer firefighter, I am ever mindful of fire hazards. One of my incessant chores at Chalcedon is to maintain good fire clearances around our buildings. This is dirty, time consuming work. Each year I spend many hours cutting weeds in a cloud of dust and foxtails. The alternative is to wait until a fire starts and hope it can be put out without much damage. That’s a gamble I’m not willing to take — especially since one of the buildings contains my father’s library.
It’s easy to do this when I think of the potential damage caused by wildfire. Taking this to the level of metaphor, the church needs to embrace the arduous task of prevention.
Christian Reaction to Cultural Crisis
A cultural brushfire is ablaze in Christian civilization. The encroaching flames of secular culture threaten our godly heritage. Most people rush to the aid of a burning community, but many judges and civic leaders are only too happy to watch the city of God burn to the ground.
Our mistake was failing to clear the dry brush. As in other areas of life, we neglected to take preventative measures. Much of the problem is our understanding of the Christian Faith and its obligations.
Recent church history reveals some telling errors in the forsaking of Christian responsibility. In the 20th century, the Western church focused on personal evangelism. Huge outdoor meetings, protracted revivals and door-to-door witnessing dominated the evangelical landscape. Yet for all of the international outreach, we still witnessed a steep decline in Christian civilization. While the church was witnessing, the secularists were capturing the culture.
But the 20th century church was not alone in its error. We find a similar error of emphasis in the pews of 19th century Christendom. During this period the church stressed the personal aspects of the Faith over her responsibilities for social influence. This resulted in rising immorality and brought in the weakest period of the Western church since before the Reformation. The flammable debris of Christian civilization accumulated when early American Puritanism faded from the scene. Soon after, the sparks of humanism ignited the dried brush of Christian culture.
What Are We to Do?
Christianity involves a comprehensive worldview. So long as we isolate our Faith to issues of the heart, we will spend our time dousing cultural brushfires rather than preventing them. Christians must abandon the theology of irrelevance and rethink their view of Christianity as it applies to their world.
Scripture provides us with the Christian view of reality. It contains the history of Creation, the Fall, and the repeated failures of man without God. It also reveals the glorious victories of those who work for Christ.
The philosophy of Scripture presents God as the center of the universe and man as the dependent creature. Man sinned against his Creator and only God’s unmerited grace can restore man to his created purpose. This purpose is to perform God’s work in terms of His revealed Word. Our salvation begins with regeneration in this life, not the next. This means we are restored to work, here and now, in light of God’s law. We do this by exposing the folly of man’s autonomy and by adhering to Biblical thought and action.
To resist the rising tide of humanism we must return to Biblical law. The only way to fight sin is with the righteous standard of God’s law. Christians must reject the lie that God’s grace is antithetical to His law. Law is inescapable. If we deny God’s law we only adopt another law — one of man’s creation. God’s law represents the perfect justice that demanded Christ’s atonement because He was the perfect law-keeper. The law represents our standard of obedience and is the primary social restraint upon evil.
Christ did not simply rescue us; He also restored us to our calling. In a sinful world, this means we preach the gospel whereby men are justified by God’s grace and regenerated to serve in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). That newness must not be limited to our personal life or to eternity. Our lives must display the work of God in the present.
In a sinful world Christian work begins with reconstructing the eroded foundations of human civilization. We are to combat anti-Christian thought and action with distinctly Biblical solutions in every area of life. As opposed to living in the secular world and merely avoiding moral contamination, Christians must think and act as citizens of the Kingdom. Our Lord compared His Kingdom to that of a master who left his servants for a time and entrusted them to work on his behalf (Mt. 21:33ff). As God’s servants today we must examine ourselves to see if we are still faithful to His holy calling.
In the Great Commission, Christ declared that all power in heaven and earth was His. In this authority He commissioned us to preach the gospel and to teach obedience to His commandments. Because we believe all power and authority belongs to Christ, all other power is derivative and must be limited. No man or group of men — not even a democratic majority — has the power or authority to redefine morals.
This was made clear in the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), which declared Christ to be both fully God and fully man. This is also why my father, R.J. Rushdoony, used this creed as the name of this ministry. Chalcedon is committed to proclaiming the supremacy of Christ’s authority over all institutions.
The Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is not a utopian idea. Neither is it an attempt to usher in the millennium by human effort. It is about obedience to God’s will and an understanding of one’s duty to serve God as Creator and Redeemer. It is about living in the reality that Jesus Christ eternally reigns over heaven and earth. Living in terms of our Kingdom citizenship means we work for the certain victory that is Christ’s.
As citizens of God’s Kingdom we take dominion in His name and occupy until He comes again. This dominion is not political or legislative. It is a dominion furthered by the redeemed working in faithfulness to God’s Word in all areas of life. The Kingdom is His, not ours. We are the servants, not the Master. Because we believe all power and authority is Christ’s, we seek freedom from the tyranny of men, whether wicked or righteous. We seek God’s dominion over our own lives, our families, our churches, our vocations, and our communities and beyond.
Christians must stop limiting the Faith to its personal aspect. They must see the “spiritual” as a reference to the Holy Spirit of power that transforms sinners into servants and rebels into faithful warriors. By so doing we take effective preventative measures and stifle the blaze of advancing humanism.