I’m reading David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church. Murrow writes that while the pastorate is dominated by men, “almost every other area of church life is dominated by women.” ((David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville,: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 4.)) Why is the opposite true for a religion like Islam? The average age of a convert to Christianity is sixteen, while the average age of a convert to Islam is thirty-one! Why the difference? One of the main reasons for the disparity is the application of the two religions to the present circumstances of individual believers. The older a person gets, the more responsibilities he or she has: a marriage relationship, children to care for, jobs that can be affected by a slowdown in the economy, financial affairs that affect present living style and retirement years, political decisions that influence individual decision making, home ownership and all that goes with it (insurance, liability, foreclosure, etc), education, and a lot more that few teenagers rarely think about. For centuries the church addressed each of these areas in great detail. Education was primarily a Christian concern. Nearly every major university in our nation was started by Christians. The founding of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are just three examples. Hospitals were once the domain of the church. Relief and reform efforts were mostly organized by Christians. Charles Finney, best known as a revivalist, considered the church as a reforming institution:
Social involvement was both the child of evangelical religion and the twin sister of evangelism. This is clearly seen in Charles G. Finney, who is best known as the lawyer turned evangelist and author of Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1835). Through his preaching of the gospel large numbers were brought to faith in Christ. What is not so well known is that he was concerned for ‘reforms’ as well as ‘revivals.’ He was convinced . . . both that the gospel ‘releases a mighty impulse toward social reform’ and that the church’s neglect of social reform grieved the Holy Spirit and hindered revival. It is astonishing to read Finney’s statement in his twenty-third lecture on revival that ‘the great business of the church is to reform the world . . . . The Church of Christ was originally organised to be a body of reformers. The very profession of Christianity implies the profession and virtually an oath to do all that can be done for the universal reformation of the world.’ ((John R. Stott, Involvement: Being a Responsible Christian in a Non-Christian Society, 2 vols. (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1984, 1985), 1:23.))
Finney was amazed that the church treated “the different branches of reform either with indifference, or with direct opposition.” He described opposition to reform efforts as “monstrous” and “God-dishonoring.” ((Finney, quoted from “Letters on Revivals—No. 23,” The Oberlin Evangelist (n.d.) in Donald Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, (1976) 1988), 20. Dayton writes that “Letters on Revivals—No. 23” is left out of modern editions of these letters. He calls it an “egregious example of censorship” (19).))
For the most part, these two traditions have forsaken the topic of reform. Islam, as a rival faith, has supplanted Christianity in the vital area of a this-world application of religious belief. Why? Larry Poston offers some answers:
Islam is practical. It is considered a this-worldly religion in contrast to Christianity, which is perceived as abstract in the extreme. Muhammad left his followers a political, social, moral, and economic program founded on religious precepts. Jesus, however, is said to have advocated no such program; it is claimed that the New Testament is so preoccupied with his imminent return that it is impractical for modern life. ((Larry Poston, “The Adult Gospel,” Christianity Today (August 20, 1990), 24.))
For the most part Christians have forsaken the belief that God’s Word is the standard for righteousness in the areas of economics, education, politics, and the judicial system. Instead, much of the church has adopted a form of eschatological escapism (“We’re living in the last days; Jesus’ coming is just around the corner, etc.”) and a form of ethical pluralism (the Bible is only one law among many from which to choose).
Ethical pluralism means that all moral views are valid except any moral view that does not believe that all moral views are valid. This means that Christianity, as the Bible conceives of it, is not an acceptable ethical standard on how the world should work. If, as a Christian, you advocate that the Bible has something very fundamental to say about every area of life, then the world is at war with you.
With pluralism you get an “anything goes” ethic. Since most Americans (and most Christians) believe that ethical pluralism is legitimate, they often remain silent in the midst of the storm of moral anarchy that is battering our nation. They have been propagandized into believing that this is the American way. Pastors reinforce this belief.
The failure is the failure of Christian leaders to preach, teach, and exhort that the public arena is a place of ministry and that God’s law has application there. Christians have failed to be advocates of righteousness in areas beyond personal and familial piety. There has been a steady erosion among evangelicals and fundamentalists over the adoption of a comprehensive biblical worldview. This takes risk-taking, adventurous, and inventive men out of the picture. They would help build the kingdom if they only heard messages that said it was their job to do it. Instead, they build their business and a backyard deck. “Our nation was founded on the belief that religious man undergirds and builds society. In the last resort, our civilization is what we think and believe. The externals matter, but they cannot stand if the inner convictions which originally produced them have vanished.” ((Paul Johnson, The Enemies of Society (New York: Atheneum, 1977), p. 117.))