By Nancy Thorner -
"The Role of the Church in Today's Culture" was the topic of a free event held at Moody Church, on Sunday, March 9th. As David Smith of the Illinois Family Institute wrote:
You know it, and I know it. Far too many Christians are content to ignore the moral decay in our state and nation. Instead of boldly exposing evil, we tolerate it, and, in some instances, even affirm it. Should the Church confront cultural decay?" What does it mean to be "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world?" (Matthew 5:12:16)
Participating in the event were Dr. Erwin Lutzer and Eric Metaxas. Their dialogue was moderated by radio personality Wayne Shepherd, who for nearly 33 years has served Moody Broadcasting in Chicago.
Dr. Erwin Lutzer is an evangelical Christian pastor, teacher and author who since 1980, as its longest serving pastor, has been the senior pastor of Moody Church now celebrating its 150th anniversary. Lutzer has authored more than 30 books, including "Hitler's Cross." More recently Lutzer's book entitled, "The Da Vinci Deception," critiqued Dan Brown's best-selling novel, "The Da Vinci Code."
Eric Metaxas is an American author, best known for two biographies, "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery" and "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, and Spy." Metaxas is founder and host of a New York City lecture series on topics related to religion and culture called "Socrates in the City: "Conversations on the Examined Life."
In the beginning ten-minute statements (clarified by moderator Wayne Shepherd as a dialogue, not a debate) were made by Dr. Lutzer and Eric Metaxas centering around the narratives of their most popular books: Dr. Lutzer's "Hitler's Cross" (the story of a nation whose church forgot its primary call and discovered its failure too late), and Eric Metaxas' "Bonhoeffer" (a biography that presents Bonhoeffer as a clear-headed, deeply convicted Christian who submitted to no one and nothing except God and his Word).
Dominating the conversational dialogue throughout the evening: What happened to the Church in Germany during the reign of Hitler, and how these tragic happenings should be a warning and a wake-up call to the church?
Dr. Lutzer described how Hitler raised the broken cross of the swastika and released a terrible monstrosity upon the world in which six million Jews died. There was much pressure on the German people to believe that Hitler was doing the right thing. The same suspension of judgment existed then as exists in America today. After WWI Germany was saddled with debt. Much desperation and hardship resulted. The German people and the church, caught up in the glories of Hitler, were ripe for a takeover. As the Weimar Government had failed, the German people were looking for a new and strong leader and were willing to give up their freedom for bread. And Hitler did improve the lives of the German people early on, even putting people back to work. It was during this time that the German people experienced euphoria being caught up in Hitler's electrifying personality and grandiose promises.
Because of a suspension of judgment, Hitler was able to hypnotize an entire nation. Church leaders throughout Germany were also seduced by the Satanic power of the Fuhrer and allowed the Swastika a prominent place alongside the Christian cross in their sanctuaries, having decided that what was good for the government was also good for the church. Most German churches even looked away when Hitler implemented a Solution to his Jewish problem.
Eric Metaxas expounded upon the role of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) who made a heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler's Germany as a dissident attempting to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. Bonhoeffer knew that twisting Truth to sell it more effectively was inexcusable. He understood that the church was called to speak for them who could not speak. As a theologian and anti-Nazi activist Bonhoeffer thought it the duty of the Christian, even a privilege and honor, to suffer with those who suffered. Because of his Christian faith, Bonhoeffer stood up to the Nazis and ultimately gave his life.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that religion shouldn't be exiled to a few hours on a Sunday morning, but we must exercise our faith in every way when we leave the building in our secular lives. Bonhoeffer stood up and preached what he believed, as reflected in this Bonhoeffer quote:
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
There was much to reflect upon during the course of the evening. Dialogues back and forth between Dr. Lutzer and Eric Metaxas opened up lines of thoughts which should be quite troubling to all Christians who find themselves dissatisfied with the direction of the church in what has become a post-Christian era. Not to be denied were the similarities presented between what happened to the church in Nazi Germany and the present direction of the church in America.
Expressions of Concern, Caution and Merit:
The church in Germany lost its Biblical image. We are now in danger of losing the gospel. Liberal churches have already abandoned teaching according to the Gospel. Evangelical churches are now in the process of losing gospel teaching. A sickness exists when the church does not speak out.
It is frowned upon to be judgmental, such as speaking out against gay marriage over fear of being condemned. To say nothing represents a great misunderstanding of the Scriptures. It is possible to be judgmental if done out of love on behalf of an individual. Let the Bible define what love is, not popular culture.
The spiral of silence must be broken. Churches get sucked into the spiral of silence. The less people speak out, the more difficult it becomes to do so as the days pass by. We must speak out in opposition or we will regret the day.
A herd mentality exists in this culture. We are told to get with it because this is the direction society is taking. Churches are not immune from society sanctions, examples being same-sex marriage, climate change, and the legalization of marijuana. Even corporations employ herd mentality if doing so will increase their bottom line, such as in embracing the green issue.
We are blind in this nation as to what is coming down the path. Islamic radicals are infiltrating all levels of government. We are subservient to Muslims, submitting to the demands of Islam. Dark days are ahead. The Left and Islam are in cahoots to destroy the Church and to destroy this nation.
Sharia law is contrary to our Constitution as it controls rights. Sharia law would end freedom of religion for every person not believing in Sharia law.
Rights aren't taken away all at once. It’s a slow process as the noose begins to tighten more and more until it becomes too late. The loss of the Gospel in Germany resulted in its decline.
Authority must be respected, but there are limits. Gridlock isn't bad in Congress. Doing nothing is often better than doing something. The finest hour for legislators is when they debate and argue.
What the Average Christian Must Do:
- Pray for our leadership as the Bible commands.
- Become actively engaged politically. It is shocking how may Evangelicals don't vote.
- Encourage others to become politically involved.
- Encourage pastors to push up to the edge in the spoken Word. The IRS couldn't possibly deal with 30,000 pastors if every pastor pushed the envelope as far as possible. Our Founding Fathers wanted a discussion of the church to take place in the public square.
Dr. Lutzer believes God is giving the American church another chance. Christians cannot remain hidden from the world. They do so by exiling religion to within the walls of a church. Instead, Christians must wake up and stop playing church, even as many Americans are sleepwalking toward a terrible outcome with no understanding of what lies ahead.
The Cross of Jesus Christ is the keeper of our nation. What direction the church takes will depend on the church itself, but if the church goes down many things will suffer along with it.
Dr. Lutzer, in closing, recommended that a statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892 - 1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power be emblazoned on every pastor's door:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
Dr. Ben Carson also sees the writing on the wall with remarks made after an address to a standing-room-only crowd on Monday, March 10, when he compared our government and institutions as "very much to Nazi Germany."