There is no doubt, as I outlined in the previous piece, Christians need convictional strength in our day. Unfortunately, in the place of this type of strength, many have embraced stubbornness governed more by partisanship than principles.
Instead of holding fast to biblical positions regardless of their cultural popularity, many advocates of stubbornness have committed themselves to clinging tightly to positions that mimic their ideological neighbors but potentially run contrary to Scripture.
Instead of making a biblical argument, some simple point to the position’s unpopularity with their opposition as evidence of their truthfulness. This must be true because *they* disagree with it. But you can’t make something true or even add to its truthfulness by noting its popularity or unpopularity with certain groups. Neither of those matter in terms of something being true. Truth is truth regardless of popularity.You can't make something true or even add to its truthfulness by noting its popularity or unpopularity with certain groups. Truth is truth regardless of popularity. Click To Tweet
Some may object that Christians must be even more stubborn than ever before. They may say this is a new and different period when our strength must should not be restrained. Convictional strength guided by humility may be right in other times, but today we need something more. We don’t have the privilege of holding back right now.
To respond in that objection, I first want to agree with it.
Look around. As a whole, our culture is no true friend to Christianity. Whether we turn on the TV and scroll through social media, we see numerous instances where the prevailing culture runs contrary to biblical principles. There are challenges for Christians trying to navigate this world while maintaining their beliefs.
However, this has been true since the founding of the church in every corner of the world and will continue to be so until Christ returns and sets all things as they should be. In this moment, we need strength of conviction, as Christians have needed in every moment they’ve found themselves.
Yes, there may be seasons of history when certain aspects of biblical truth were more generally accepted. It is also undeniable that there are places in our modern world today that are more hospitable to Christian faith and places where that is less so. And it can assuredly be the case that some places change in how accommodating it is toward Christians.
None of this means, however, that there has been a time or place when Christians did not need strength to challenge their culture. No Christian has ever found themselves in a culture that always and only affirmed biblical truth, and no Christian ever will—until Christ returns and His Kingdom is fully realized. But as God’s truth challenges and corrects every culture in every time, we have and will always need strength in our convictions.
Look back through history. There are no “good ol’ days” when all people lived their lives according to Scripture. Yet some may wrongly long for an imaginary golden days apart from Christ’s return due to two misconceptions: only looking at part of Scripture or only looking at part of culture.
Part of Scripture
There may be days when people lived their lives according to the parts of Scripture that come more easily to you or I, but this does not mean the culture was entirely Christian. It only means there were times when culture was closer to the aspect of Christianity that better match our personalities and preconceptions.
Yes, American culture in the early 21st century celebrates sin and condemns biblical truth. But American culture in the early 20th century did as well. The issues may have changed but the rebellion has been consistent.Yes, American culture in the early 21st century celebrates sin and condemns biblical truth. But American culture in the early 20th century did as well. The issues may have changed but the rebellion has been consistent. Click To Tweet
The dominant culture in previous generations may have recognized a biblical definition of marriage, but they refused to honor the biblical definition of humanity in their treatment of ethnic minorities. The culture may have rightly understood God created two genders, but many wrongly devalued one of those genders and elevated stereotypes over Scripture.
Part of culture
We can also misunderstand the need for strength in previous generations by only paying attention to those Christians who stood for God’s truth while ignoring those who were carried along by culture. This particularly becomes challenging when we recognize the faithful remnant often changes groups in different time periods. For the evangelical holding to God’s Word against headwinds that demand we deny God’s truth on sexual morality, we must look back at our forefathers who fought against God’s truth on racial equality.
Many conservative Christians will rightly criticize Christians who attempt to soften or avoid God’s teaching on gender, sexuality or abortion. Part of their argument is often that these Christians are driven more by culture than Christ. Yet, many of these same Christians will dismiss criticisms of theologians who owned slaves by asserting they were just “men of their times.” Yes, they were and that’s the problem.
It is always wrong to allow the prevailing culture to guide our interpretation of Scripture instead of calling the prevailing culture to follow the truth of Scripture. We can do that humbly and joyfully, but we must do it. And we must recognize that we are all tempted in some way in this area.
Every group will have times in their history when they were more consistently faithful to God’s Word and periods when they stray. This is understandable, even if it is not excusable, because, as we already discussed, culture changes. As society shifts Christians can find themselves in differing circumstances on various issues.
Ironically, one of the most difficult moments for a Christian seeking to live with convictional strength is when culture agrees with you, but only in your worst tendencies or false ideologies. As an example, those who are inclined toward a prosperity gospel perspective probably aren’t going to speak prophetically to a culture consumed with wealth. A celebrity-driven Christianity will find it hard to confront a culture obsessed with the same. When self fulfillment and personal happiness becomes the cultural goal, Christians who are tempted in the same direction must fight even harder against the tide. The same is true if political power is the aim.We must constantly evaluate our own preferences and positions to see how they line up with Scripture, not how they line up with (or against) popular culture. Click To Tweet
This is why every Christian in every age will need convictional strength guided by humility. Due to our fallen nature, we will always be tempted to hold tightly to biblical principles which suit us and ignore those that most challenge us. We must constantly evaluate our own preferences and positions to see how they line up with Scripture, not how they line up with (or against) popular culture.
Yes, the faithful Christian will need strength to stand for Christ in modern Western society, but the faithful Christian has needed the same convictional strength throughout history. Our need has not changed and mere stubbornness will not be enough.
Additionally, as we will discuss in the next article, our convictional strength can never be divorced from kindness.
First post in the series: The Type of Strength We Need—and the Type We Don’t
Third post in the series: Convictional Strength Requires Kindness