I’m not an expert on the culture and am probably worthless as a social commentator (I’ve long suspected that I’m mentally/emotionally disabled and all my friends and family take care of me, laugh at my jokes, pretend what I’m saying is coherent, etc., out of their loving pity for my condition...of which I’m blissfully unaware!), but let me make a few observations.
I saw the trailer for “Promised Land” (Focus Features, 2012) recently on television. I noticed that it was rated “R” for “Language.” Wow. Given the kind of language that now is not only passable for a “PG” or “PG-13” rating (or for prime-time television), I could only imagine...my point being that there’s little that is taboo in the language of the entertainment offered and consumed from the world’s culture by the Church. Is this adiaphora? Maybe not, since it’s increasingly popular for some of this language to find its way into our pulpits.
Read these two versions of Article VIII of the Baptist Faith & Message (one of two confessions that define the bounds of my personal conviction and Church membership):
- “The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted” (1963).
- “The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ” (2000).
Well, what happened? Did we get deeper in our study of the Scripture and meditation together on the doctrine contained therein? Or did our love for things (and the need to work more to pay for them and the need for more time to shop for them) move us to proclaim a major distinctive attitude of Christianity for centuries suddenly “adiaphora”? Would we have come to this conclusion apart from the influence of the world on the Church? I know that defining the continuity/discontinuity between the Fourth Commandment and new covenant Church practice is not easy, but can we really say what we do on the day dedicated to the Lord in a week is not governed by Scripture at all, but “should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ” (I’ve seen Christians do a lot of very unscriptural things that they claimed were permissible to their “Christian conscience”)? Our theology seems to have been molded to accomodate, not shape as “a city set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14).
I, of course, am just as guilty in all these things, and do not claim a lofty place from which to make these judgments. I will, however, offer this passage for consideration which came to my attention a few days ago: “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy...you are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together”’” (Leviticus 19:1,2,19, NASB). Non-believers and liberal Christians love this verse. When we argue against homosexuality or some other sin clearly defined by the whole of the Bible (though less and less is “clear” to some these days), those who oppose us (contrarians from a culture which doesn’t need their efforts to accomplish its purpose) love to then point out that we’re wearing a cotton-poly blend or some such thing. But is the point of this passage to be found in selective breeding or textile composition? No. The great point of this passage transcends its temporal/cultural context, and is definitely not “adiaphora.” God expects His people to reflect His holiness (separateness, uniqueness unto God) in everything, every aspect of our lives. Nothing, in other words, is “adiaphora” in God's will for His covenant people. Nothing.
Can we really say that Leviticus 19 is invalid for our consideration when its great refrain, “be holy for I am holy,” is quoted and applied to the Church by the Apostle Peter? “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
It is never easy to draw the lines between how we are to live together in Christ and how we are to live in this world. It requires a careful, humble, corporate consideration of the Scriptures. May God give us illumination of how we are to reflect His holiness. May God give us a willingness to die to the things for which we now argue so passionately, and, instead, just let them go, choosing to “err” (if that’s the right word) on the side of holiness rather than conformity.
For His glory, not our entertained assimilation.