Word from the Center: Friday, March 8, 2019

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s topic/issue….

No Higher Authority? The Epicentral Question of the Culture War.

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary for President Bill Clinton, said,  

The true battle (of the 21st Century) will be between the modern society and the anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is a mere preparation for existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma; Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But, it is not the greatest danger that we face.”[1]

From where I stand, those appear quite clearly to be fighting words, right? It would seem that Mr. Reich has drawn a line in the sand, defining an “us versus them” reality. He even maligns those who disagree with him, calling them “anti-modernists,” whatever that means. By the way, I realize that he believes wholeheartedly in what he is saying.  But any time you label your ideological components as “anti” your view, that’s not a debate or a dialogue; “them’s fighting words!”

So, as Christians, why fight? Or should I ask, “Why fight back?” Why battle? Isn’t this a “turn the other cheek moment” which may be necessary for sharing the Gospel? Isn’t our humility our greatest asset in these debates? Yes, and no. It is true that our proclamation of the truth is from the position of humility, not arrogance. It is true that our sharing of the faith is willing to endure all kinds of false caricatures and abuse. But, when it comes to the moral and ethical fundamentals of the society in which one lives, one should never abandon the battle for what that actually truth is. When Reich speaks of those who owe their identity and allegiance to some higher authority, he is not just demeaning Christianity, but all who see the very moral structure of the world as a gift of God. While Christians proclaim a unique message of salvation compared to other religious traditions, we share a common moral view of the universe, a common view of the dignity and brokenness of humanity rooted in an authority greater than ourselves. One could argue that such a view of humanity helped birth some of the greatest documents of freedom ever produced, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

There is a “battle” going on in our culture. We may not have started it, but it is clearly directed at us. It is being waged against the biblical proclamation of the truth. I believe that Mr. Reich stated it plainly. The battle is being brought to anyone who does not adhere to secular, naturalistic, mechanistic, non-theistic values. He calls all that “modern,” even progressive, no matter how regressive and destructive it is in reality. In stark contrast to that, there are those of us who see the authority of the God of creation, and the awe and wonder of His ordering of the world as a blessing for humanity; we also see the proper use of reason, science, and logic within a moral framework as God-given blessings to be used wisely. But we also see Reich’s view as anything but progressive. It is rather regressive, sectarian, and destructive to those things that hold us together as human beings who have been “created in the image of God”[2] for a purposeful life here and now, as well as an eternal life, forever.


[1] Ramesh Ponnuru, “Robert Reich’s Religion Problem,”  National Review Online, July 6, 2004

[2] Those of us who are Christian would add that God’s love even compelled Him to redeem us as well. But, for our temporal, common dignity, freedom, and civility, it is sufficient to acknowledge our allegiance to the higher authority who created us as His own.

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