“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’“ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you . . . When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “Which is to be master—that’s all.” ((Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 247. Quoted in Pat Means, The Mystical Maze: A Guidebook through the Mindfields of Eastern Mysticism (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1974), 17.))
The Invisible Man (Claude Rains): “We’ll start with a few murders. Big men, little men—just to show we make no distinction.” ((Dialogue from H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and the film of the same title. Quoted in Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Film and Video Guide, 6th ed. (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1987), 521.))
Christians are to have a prophetic voice in society. As Christians we are not to be “conformed to this world.” Rather, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). Non-conformity does not mean non-involvement, however. In order for our image—which should reflect more of the image of Christ as we grow in grace—to rub off on the world we must be intimately involved in the world.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. and the Vietnam memorial where every person who died in the Vietnam War is listed. Visitors come from around the country to get close to that wall. But others wanted a piece of the wall. Relatives and friends of the dead came to take a rubbing from the wall. They would put a piece of paper over a name and lightly rub a pencil across the paper and the name’s outline. The outline of the name would then appear on the paper. In a similar way, the world should be taking rubbings from us. The only way this can happen is to be in the world.
The world is to take on our image as we take on the image of Christ. It’s disconcerting, therefore, when we read of evangelicals who are trying to accommodate the gospel to the spirit of the age in hopes of gaining a better hearing among non-Christians. But the Christian faith is designed to tear down strongholds that set themselves up to destroy the Christian message (2 Cor. 10:2–5). If the Christian message cuts cross grain to the prevailing systems of modern thought, then so be it.
This melding or synthesis with modern ideologies can best be illustrated by observing how numerous evangelical leaders are calling on Christians to adopt an undefined political theory called “democracy.” Before you stop reading in disgust at the effrontery of this author to have anything bad to say about democracy, keep in mind that everyone talks about democracy but few people actually define it. Even among Christians democracy and its ideological cousin pluralism are being used as substitutes for a biblically defined social theory. Some assert the impossibility of ever formulating “an entirely distinct ‘biblical option,’” except maybe for “academic purposes.” ((Ken Myers, “Biblical Obedience and Political Thought: Some Reflections on Theological Method,” The Bible, Politics, and Democracy, gen. ed. Richard John Neuhaus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 40.))
In most segments of our society, to speak ill of democracy is to call down God’s wrath, especially when we see first-hand how “democratic” uprisings in Eastern Europe shaped the future of the region. Since, as one author writes, democracy “in practice has truly become a synonym for any kind of government,” ((Ferdinand Lundberg, The Myth of Democracy (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1989), 7.)) what kind of government will eventually emerge? If democracy is simply “the will of the people,” then democracy has come to Eastern Europe. But democracy has many faces, and some of them are downright frightening. Compare the this 1989 evaluation of what was going on in Europe with what is happening today:
The Wall Street Journal . . . ran a pair of stories on the editorial page on the West German government and the Japanese economy. If you read these two with a critical eye, you conclude: “Fascism is still alive and flourishing.” The West German political scene is becoming increasingly socialistic, according to Amity Shales. The “greens”—politicians pushing ecology as the justification for state control over the economy—and the traditional Social Democrats have formed a successful political alliance. The more conservative Christian Democratic Party is facing a tough fight, despite the euphoria regarding the holes in the Berlin Wall. Vocal elements of the democratic forces in East Germany (there are yet no identifiable leaders), like the leaders of Solidarity, are socialists. The difference is they are not international socialists (Communists). They are national socialists. Fifty years ago, they would have been regarded as fascists. What they want is government controls. ((Gary North, Remnant Review (November 17, 1989), 1.))
Creation abhors a vacuum. Political movements are no less antagonistic toward ideological vacuums. “Political philosophies are not created in a vacuum, but are in turn the product of systems of thought which find their inspiration and nurture in theology.” ((C. Gregg Singer, A Theological Interpretation of American History (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964), 284.)) It remains to be seen what theology will fill the increasing ideological vacuum of Eastern Europe’s move toward “democracy.” Socialism, masquerading as Western-style democracy (or at least presented that way by the Western press) is still alive in Europe. “An East Berlin man had scarcely passed the crossover checkpoint when he began telling television cameras what was wrong with the West German system. . . . One New Forum leader even went on West German television, to say, without irony, ‘I am a socialist.’” ((Amity Shales, “Socialist Meets Socialist at the Wall,” Wall Street Journal (November 13, 1989).))
Peoples’ revolts in the past have given us the French and Bolshevik Revolutions. These “peoples’ revolts” were far from democratic in their results. France got Robespierre, a “national razor” (the guillotine), and Napoleon, and Russia got Lenin, Stalin, and the Gulag. “Democracy has evolved through intensive social struggles and is frequently sacrificed in such struggles.” ((David Held, Models of Democracy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987), 1.)) It remains to be seen what democracy will bring to Europe and its eastern allies. Enough of the people in Greece spoke loudly enough—setting three bank employees on fire—to scare the European Union into coughing up $1 trillion for a debt bailout. What politician wants to be dragged out of bed at night by an angry mob? The people have spoken!