The Culture Wars, Round I

Phony Culture Wars

The rubric “culture wars” has entered our lexicon. In vulgar parlance it refers to the clash between the world-view or social vision of the Left versus the Right. Rudely put, the social vision of the Left is for a society organised around and cascading down from the prior rights of the collective, the state, and the community. The Right’s social vision is a society cascading down from the prior rights of a human individual, and, therefore, voluntary groups and free associations.

The conflict is pretty much total in the sense that confrontation between the two views is experienced right along the entire front of human activity. We, however, view this conflict as one between members of the same family. In an estranged family, it is not uncommon for the members to disagree on practically everything—but members of the same family they inescapably remain. In the vulgar use, the term “culture wars” must definitely be written in lower case. In the end, the conflict between Left and Right represents a mere disagreement, and a relatively minor one at that. Describing it as a “war” is certainly colourful, definitely emotive, but nothing more than a hyperbolic figure of speech.

Consider the deeper level of pervasive agreement between these two camps. Both presuppose from the outset that the Living God does not and cannot exist. Both assume the final authority of Man in determining truth, meaning, together with the goals, motives, and standards of existence itself. Both presuppose the ultimacy of chance and that in the final analysis meaningless wins. Any “gods” or “higher powers” there may be have their existence only by warrant of human reason. Both agree the “rational” is the real. Both deny the existence of infinite ethical values. Both camps are therefore moral relativists, with all ethics being nothing more than an expression of mere preference, not in any sense a reflection or application of an absolute, eternal value. Both agree that meaning is what Man says it is.

Therefore, in our view the culture wars are phony. They resemble the stage managed conflicts of the WWF, or Survivor. They provide entertainment value for the credulous. But anyone who seriously believes the disputes, the fights, and the wrangles are genuine is a sucker. As soon as it dawns on the punter that the conflict is stage managed and choreographed, the lustre goes.

But that does not mean that genuine culture wars do not exist. They do. It is just that the front lines and the trenches are in a different place. The real culture war exists between those who believe and know for sure that the Living God is, and those who have presupposed that He cannot be and that Man is the ultimate self-determiner of all things. And what a war it is! It embraces the heights of heaven and the depths of Sheol.

The ascended Lord commands and demands that everything in heaven and upon earth, even every thought and intention and act of every human being, be subject to Him. Unbelieving Man asserts that if any god were to exist, it would only do so if it were subject to the dictats of human reason–which is to insist that Man remains sovereign over all deities and “higher” powers. This is a religion the Devil endorses and encourages with all his might and main. It is the religion he subtly preached to our first parents and to which they became the first converts.

Since culture is nothing other than an outward manifestation of human thoughts, words, and deeds, particular cultures are either predominantly subject to Him or they are not. Those who do not believe in Christ, reject His reign. They are rebels. They resist, resent, and ultimately hate the idea that all that they are and all of their being must be subject to the risen Lord. Everything that they do manifests this committed rebellion.

Although forced by the exigencies of being a feeble and severely limited creature to act in particular ways, they wish it were not so. If God makes them breathe or eat or reproduce or clothe their children they insist that it is not He, but they who are in control. This is the precise point of thermo-nuclear fission in the cosmic culture war. Who is Lord? The Unbeliever insists that Man is the measure of all things, and mastered by none. The Believer insists that the Lord Jesus Christ is the measure of all things and Master of everything.

Because the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of all lords and King of all kings, He has something to say about everything. And what He says is infallibly true and bears totalitarian authority. There can be no neutral ground between the lines. Because literally there is no square inch of creation, no sub-atomic particle of reality, no instant of time, that is not controlled and ordered and commanded by Him there cannot be any “middle ground” between Belief and Unbelief, as if there were some place Christ’s realm was not operative. You are either for Me, or against Me, He said.

The real culture war, then, is between Christ and those whom He has redeemed and called as His people, on the one hand, and those who remain fighting a hopeless, desperate rearguard action against Him, on the other. But in this war, no quarter will be given, nothing will be uncontested, nothing will be left to Unbelief. It is this infallible and relentless certainty that lends urgency and passion to the merciful cry to Unbelief and unbelievers: “turn to Me, turn to Me, for why would ye die, O house of Israel.”

In the series of posts to follow we will endeavour to trace, in general outline, how this great culture war has played out in the West over the past one hundred years. We will do this in an attempt to gain some insight into what contribution we need to make in our generation. Like our fathers of Issachar of old, we seek an understanding of the times so that we might understand better what we ought to do.

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