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Volume 8, Issue 1: Presbyterion

The Trampled Church

Douglas Wilson

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men" (Matt. 5:13).

No thoughtful Christian can consider the state of our nation today without considerable grief. The lawless are in power, the innocent suffer, the gullible believe, the taxable pay, the sages are befuddled, and everything gets progressively worse. One political party wants to drive us toward the cliff at seventy miles per hour, and the loyal opposition wants to go fifty. In such a situation, it is perilously easy for Christians (always in the back seat) to begin to think that we have an obligation to "get involved," change our country, and turn this thing around, and so on.
And so we do -- but not in the way most frequently suggested. The humanists who currently run the show believe that politics is our savior. It would be unthinkable for a major political figure to state publicly that some widespread cultural problem (drugs, say) had "no political solution," and that he, Sen. Snoutworst, was therefore going to "do nothing" about it. The ensuing commotion would be a sight to behold, the good senator having blasphemed against the reigning god. For unbelievers, politics provide the only possible answer. The problem is that many of the Christians who have "gotten involved" have assumed that the difference between the believers and unbelievers concerns simply the agenda for action -- "what should our leaders do?" But they agree on the fact that there is a political solution. But for Christians who seek to think biblically, the problem is far more fundamental than this.
Any serious attempts at cultural reform, based upon "traditional values," which precede a reformation and revival in the church, should be considered by Christians as worthless reforms. As a pretty woman without discretion is like a gold ring in a pig's snout, so is a reformation of law without a reformation of the people. Our nation has progressed as far as she has in her moral corruptions because the church has diluted her message . She was appointed as the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and she has found the task wearisome. Contending for the faith delivered to the saints has become too much of a nuisance, and too likely to bring on controversy. We can't have that .
Our civic leaders who have not believed God, and who have plunged our nation into this flood of dissipation, were simply acting according to their unregenerate natures. They are without God and without hope in the world. The only way the unbelieving world can be constrained in its external actions, in a way contrary to that unregenerate nature, is when the church is salty . Christ taught that His followers were the salt of the earth -- applied to an ungodly society in the same way salt was applied to perishable meat as a preservative. When salt loses its savor, it does no good for the salt to start blaming the meat . Jesus taught that when salt had come to this point, then the salt was due for trampling. It was good for nothing else.
The central problem in America today is the refusal of the church to act as salt. Salt is controversial. Salt is troublesome. Salt is a nuisance. Salt is divisive. Salt is theological. Salt is a pain in the neck. Salt is too doctrinal. Salt is . . . well, salty. Why can't we all just love Jesus, whoever He is, and try to provide a seeker-friendly atmosphere? In the first place, this is pragmatism and not Christianity. In the second place, pragmatism can be readily condemned out of its own mouth. Pragmatism doesn't work. This means that unless God is merciful to us, we will be trampled.
If given, His mercy will be shown through a great reformation in the church -- a theological reformation. Many Christians are praying for revival, but we need to be careful how we pray. The church today is a lightweight operation, like a stack of balsa wood. The consuming fire of the Holy Spirit would not burn for long and would not leave much. We must pray for a doctrinal reformation that will cut and split a lot of hard wood -- wood that will burn for a long time.
The Puritans are remembered (rightly) for the political impact they had. Hundreds of years after their time, we still owe many of our civil liberties to their teaching and to the sacrifices they made for the sake of their Lord and ours. But the Puritans got their name, not because their first goal was to "purify" the politics of the day, but because they wanted to purify the church . Their church needed it, and so does ours. But there should be no confusion on this point; the churches that need to be reformed are not the liberal and apostate churches. The greatest need for reformation is with the evangelical church . "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -- I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see" (Rev. 3:17-18). The modern evangelical church in our culture has gotten money, power, and influence, and it is like giving whiskey to a two-year-old.
The need of the hour is theological, not political. The arena is the pulpit, not the legislative chamber. The message is Christ crucified and risen for His chosen sinners and now acknowledged Lord of all . This risen and conquering Christ is the Head of the church. Before we are equipped to proclaim His lordship to the inhabitants of all the earth, we must live as though we believed it in the church.

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