A church without Christ is a dead church.
And a dead church poisons the society around it.
A church with half a Christ is a church half-dead--if not completely dead already. Such churches teach that man and God cooperate in some aspect of salvation. They teach a baptized humanism masquerading as the Gospel truth. Such teaching temporarily assuages the guilt of the parishioners, usually offering self-help techniques or guiding them toward some social good as an offering to their guilty consciences.
So, the churches and the people become more aware of social, political and economic woes and correspondingly unaware of doctrinal deviations. 'Ministries' multiply focusing on saving America from the next liberal onslaught. "No creed but Christ" becomes their watchword. The culture wars their battleground.
All the while men inside and outside the church are in bondage to sin. The guilt comes back. And men seek out other religious and secular ways to avoid their sin. Christian defection increases. The churches become more irrelevant and society slowly disintegrates.
Every society is based upon a common creed. And every creed is founded upon a common religion. That common religion is manifested in the public institutions of society.
One such powerful public institution used to be the churches in Western Civilization. And that religion used to be Protestantism, especially the Reformed faith. Her creeds were the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Confession of Faith. Various societies were being leavened by such creeds for over two-hundred years. And America was especially the long-awaited fruit of these creedal seeds of truth.
Now, after another two-hundred years the seeds of defection are bearing fruit. Not only in the societies of the West but especially in the churches. This problem did not arise from without the church (although it did tempt her) but from within. It is a dangerous distraction to focus upon the woes of society and the revolution of humanistic culture if these enemies were already in the midst of the church.
And only the classic Protestantism of the old rugged cross can purge her system. Only a clarion call back to the basic proclamation of repentance and faith can save her. Such a call must include an unequivocal proclamation of man's deplorable and depraved nature: that men hate God and His Christ, loving their own bondage to Satan instead. Such a call must include an unequivocal proclamation of God's stupendous and sovereign salvation: that grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone is the only covenantal salvation offered by God's good pleasure alone.
This is Calvinism plain and simple. It is not the closet Calvinism that meekly hides this truth. Nor the cantankerous Calvinism that rips churches asunder. No, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is the old Gospel preached at the Reformation and the First and Second Great Awakenings.
The future of that Gospel may look uncertain. On the one hand, those who believe and practice such a truth are a super-minority in America. And even a smaller minority in Europe. On the other hand, the power of secular humanism is a Goliath waiting to wreak havoc upon the feeble church.
Yet God has always used the foolishness of this world and the weakness of men to strengthen His kingdom. Such an abysmal hour as this should not cast our hearts to the ground. We should not look with fear upon our woeful condition, giving up all hope and compromising our birth-right.
We of all families of the Christian faith should have the most hope! It is God Almighty who is in charge not the impotent American electorate or the feeble conspiracies of men. As Van Til titled one of his letters, "We are not ashamed to be Calvinists!"
The future of Calvinism is one of triumph. God's omnipotent will is already swaying nations and directing peoples toward their final end: the glory of God. He has promised that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Bride.
Yet we must remember that our future is tied with our repentance and faith. Repentance from private and corporate sins and continuing faith in Christ our Righteousness. Christians do not need more culture wars; they need more spiritual armor for spiritual warfare. They need pastors to equip them and churches willing to live up to the Reformed faith.
A church with Christ is a living church.
And a living church purifies the society around it.
(part of the Year of Calvinism series)