Are Silent Pastors Contributing to the Decline of Culture?


A new study by the Barna Group is reporting some disturbing results on what pastors believe but are not preaching.

“[I]n his study, Barna’s organization asked pastors across the country about their beliefs regarding the relevancy of Scripture to societal, moral and political issues, and the content of their sermons in light of their beliefs.

“‘What we’re finding is that when we ask them about all the key issues of the day, [90 percent of them are] telling us, ‘Yes, the Bible speaks to every one of these issues,” he explained. “Then we ask them: ‘Well, are you teaching your people what the Bible says about those issues?’ and the numbers drop . . . to less than 10 percent of pastors who say they will speak to it.”

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“What I’m suggesting is [those pastors] won’t probably get involved in politics because it’s very controversial. Controversy keeps people from being in the seats, controversy keeps people from giving money, from attending programs,” Barna said.

 How did we get like this? There are numerous Christians who believe that a personal, private faith is all the gospel requires. Os Guinness described this as “The Private-Zoo Factor,”1 a religion that is caged so that it loses its wildness. When true Christianity is applied to any part of the world, it blossoms far more fully and colorfully than we ever could have imagined. When pagans stopped believing that they lived in “an enchanted forest” and that “glens and groves, rocks and streams are alive with spirits, sprites, demons” and “nature teems with sun gods, river goddesses, [and] astral deities,”2 at that moment the world and everything in it changed. Everything seemed possible within the boundaries of God’s Providence and law. A Christian worldview made science possible and civil government ministerial rather than messianic.

Stanley Jaki, the author of numerous books on the relationship between Christianity and science, comments:

“Nothing irks the secular world so much as a hint, let alone a scholarly demonstration, that supernatural revelation, as registered in the Bible, is germane to science. Yet biblical revelation is not only germane to science—it made the only viable birth of science possible. That birth took place in a once-Christian West.”3

Over time, Christianity ceased to be a comprehensive, world-changing religion. “[W]here religion still survives in the modern world, no matter how passionate or ‘committed’ the individual may be, it amounts to little more than a private preference, a spare-time hobby, a leisure pursuit.”4

Theodore Roszak used an apt phrase to describe much of modern-day Christendom: “Socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.”5 It wasn’t always this way:

“The Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, comes out of the background of a Hebrew mindset. The basic idea behind the Hebrew mindset is that God and accompanying spiritual principles permeate all of life here on earth. . . . I believe one of the causes of [cultural disengagement is a Greek mindset], which tells us Christians should be concerned about saving souls and going to heaven rather than paying much attention to material things like transforming our societies.

“[James Davidson] Hunter, to the contrary says, ‘Most Christians in history have interpreted the creation mandate in Genesis as a mandate to change the world.’”6

As long as Christianity remained nearly exclusively “privately engaging,” the secularists had no interest in disturbing the sleeping giant.

It’s no wonder that a 1.6 percent homosexual population and a few renegade judges have overturned the entire moral structure of marriage.

  1. Os Guinness, The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 79. []
  2. Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 23–24. []
  3. Stanley Jaki, “The Biblical Basis of Western Science,” Crisis 15:9 (October 1997), 17–20. []
  4. Guinness, The Gravedigger File, 72. []
  5. Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 449. []
  6. C. Peter Wagner, Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen, 2008), 40, 41. []
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