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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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The Church and The Culture

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Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
Vassar, Michigan
Most Americans believe that our culture is decaying, and that moral decline presents the greatest danger we face. Writers and speakers from different positions on the philosophical or political spectrum have commented with dismay upon this decadence, and preachers have given many sermons on it. Hardly anything can serve to verify for the public mind the authority of the Bible more than the cultural decline of our country over the past thirty-five years. Actually, the downward slide began much earlier than this, but the rapidity of the descent has greatly increased since the middle sixties. Anyway, Romans 1 has been illustrated before our eyes. Truth without righteousness has led to the darkening of the mind. Darkened minds have perverted truth. Perverted truth has brought moral weakness, which has given way to sexual immorality and perversion. Now we see more and more the fruit of "a reprobate mind" that acknowledges no God or moral law and allows for every kind of cruelty, wickedness, and evil. It's all Romans 1. The Bible calls the moral decay that results from unheeded and then rejected truth "corruption."In the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 31 and 32 the word for "corrupt" in the phases "ye will utterly corrupt yourselves" and "they have corrupted themselves" is a word that has the idea of decay. Moses was given a song to teach the Israelites that would serve as a warning against the cultural and spiritual corruption that comes when God and His Law are neglected. "For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands." (Deuteronomy 31:29) Believers in the true God must always be concerned about cultural corruption because at its root it is rejection of divine authority. But believers are also interested in saving souls, and so many in our times have been willing to forget about the culture in order to bring sinners to the church. This strategy is a great mistake and has denied many a ministry the blessing of God.

The idea is widely accepted among evangelicals that if cultural corruption is resisted by churches, the unsaved we are trying to reach will be "turned off" by our antiquated ways and unwilling to listen to our message. Isn't there a way to preach the Gospel in language and with trappings acceptable to modern man? A Christian youth movement years ago used the slogan "Anchored to the Rock: Geared to the Times." Cannot the church be geared to the times while still anchored to the Rock? Sadly, however, when we gear the Gospel to the times we can end up floating downstream with the flow of cultural decadence, while trying to win as many souls as we can before we all go over the falls of societal collapse. This scenario is acceptable to some Christians, but it does not represent the will of God for His church. We ought to preach the Gospel and uphold all the rest of God's truth at the same time. The churches should seek to preserve people from corruption as well as damnation. But most are doing everything but this.

In no area are evangelical churches going along with cultural decay more than in the field of music. More and more (probably most) supposedly orthodox churches today are inviting people to come and hear their "contemporary" music. Actually the style called "Contemporary Christian Music" can be more accurately defined as rock'n'roll! Some of it is hard rock; some is soft rock; some is "rockabilly"; some is 1950's or 1960's rock; but all so-called C.C.M. is rock music. When pressed about this issue, young church musicians admit that the genre is rock, but they argue that musical style is a neutral medium; that only the words convey a message. Of course no true artist will say that his art conveys no message. Every serious painter or composer believes that some philosophy or statement is being communicated through his art. The creators of the rock'n'roll style of music always claimed that their songs expressed the revolutionary themes of a new generation: rebellion against authority and abandonment of sexual restraints. Not only have the originators of this style defined its message in this way, but also the best analysts of cultural decline have recognized this as the meaning of rock.

In 1987, Professor Allan Bloom at the University of Chicago wrote what the Chicago Tribune said "may be the most important work of its kind by an American since World War II." It is a book with the title, The Closing of the American Mind, and it deals in depth with the role of higher education in the current cultural decline. A whole chapter early in the book is given to "Music." Professor Bloom observes,

"Nothing is more singular about this generation than its addiction to music. . .Today a very large portion of young people between the ages of ten and twenty live for music. It is their passion; nothing else excites them as it does; they cannot take seriously anything alien to music. . .Rock music is as unquestioned and unproblematic as the air the students breathe. . .But rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire. . .Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse. . .The inevitable corollary of such sexual interest is rebellion against the parental authority that represses it. . ."

The professor says much more and convincingly links rock music to the elements of societal upheaval that have nearly destroyed the moral structure of our culture in the past thirty-five years. Any thoughtful observer can see that this is true. Rock music is the anthem of the revolt against God.

Judge Robert Bork was kept from serving on the United States Supreme Court, but he has not been kept from commenting on our cultural and moral decline. His latest book, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, has been widely read and acclaimed, and has brought the former Yale University law professor and U.S. Court of Appeals justice to the forefront of public discussion. In his book, he repeatedly refers to the role of rock music in our society's problems. He says in the Introduction that the rock songs of the sixties were among the "harbingers of a new culture" that overcame the old and took over the country. Later in the book he says that this music joined with other factors that "intensified the rebelliousness of the young."

"Portable radios became widely available so that youths could choose their music without parental supervision. No longer must they sit in the living room with their parents and siblings to listen to the radio together. The music they now listened to was rock and roll, which their parents hated. It would be difficult to overstate the cultural importance of that music. Visiting Yugoslavia in that era, Irving Kristol learned that the regime banned rock because it was subversive of authority. In a personal communication he remarked that rock and roll is subversive of all authority that of Western democracies, bourgeois families, schools, and church as well as communist dictatorships. Those in the rock business understood very well that the music's subversion of authority was a large part of its appeal to the young."

Anyone who has read Bork's book, or Bloom's best-seller (and most evangelical leaders have), understands the corrupting character of rock music. Why then do churches use it?

Another form of capitulation to the cultural decay is the wholesale abandonment of the Bible of our forefathers by the "forward-looking" churchmen of our day. Many have been consumed by a passion to please modern textual scholarship and to make the language of scripture clear and appealing to an educationally-weak public. As a result, they have lost sight of the significance of the King James Bible to American culture. Amazingly accurate in its translation of the traditional Greek and Hebrew text, and profoundly exquisite in its classical English style, the old Bible is one of the marvels of all time. Its phrases and verses have been woven throughout our literature for many years, and its moral precepts have long been the foundation of our society. However, the proliferation of "new versions" of the Bible and the eagerness of clergymen to use them have served to dethrone the monarch of books in America, and have driven its lofty lines from American minds and publications. New translations have not helped our people understand the Bible as much as they have confused them about the Bible. Fewer recognize Bible passages as each year passes, and even fewer try to memorize them. Without a standard English version of the scripture, how can anyone quote the Bible with any accepted consistency? The Bible played a big part in American culture for a long time, but no longer. The fault must largely be placed upon the churches that have run after the latest Bible fad instead of preserving the old Bible at least for its cultural importance. The courts did not remove God's Word from its once prominent place in our public life; the churches did, in their mad dash to keep up with the times.

The changes that have come in society with the changing of the times have to a large degree been simply new stages in our corruption. This is why it is important for the churches to maintain rather than revise their moral and behavioral standards. If the definition of Christian living changes every time society moves its moral boundaries, the so-called Christian of tomorrow will be living the way a so-called sinner lives today! It is capitulation to corruption that has caused churches to back away from Bible-based standards. In order not to appear "negative" or "judgmental," preachers skip over scripture passages and churches neglect Bible teachings. Thus they become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Recently, a very famous evangelist lamented on television the fact that the great successes of his crusades over the years had produced no visible effect on the moral decline of his country. The reason for the sad truthfulness of this observation is the general unwillingness of evangelicals to resist the corruption of our society from an unswervingly Biblical standpoint. Extreme examples of the delay, such as legal abortions and assisted suicide, are protested by some when enough non-Christians share their moral outrage, but these same evangelicals and fundamentalists are often involved in other ways in the very corruption of society that has produced the extremes. Certainly every church ought to stand in every community as an institution that resists cultural decay.

"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."

Monthly Article
Wed, September 1999
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

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