Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Abraham's Legacy

The life changing influence of faith in God has a compounding effect. The longer one lives in God’s presence, the more confidence one has that the moral and spiritual precepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition are true. Sometimes this is evident to other people. Dramatic conversion stories are always interesting. Unfortunately they can only be verified by people who have seen, first hand, a transformation in a family member or friend. What might be the equivalent of the regenerated life that is verifiable by anybody who wants to know what God is doing in the world? God’s continuing activity in history becomes evident, even for non-historians, by a little reflection on the the story of Abraham.

God’s promise is that through Abraham all nations of the earth will be blessed. Whether this promise has been fulfilled is open to verification by anyone. The Mosaic Law has been at the core of Western Civilization for centuries. The creation epic of Genesis and stories of the patriarchs are pervasive in art and literature, as are the Gospel narratives. Human rights as we know them were established in culture thousands of years ago by the Hebrew prophets. On both sides of the currently raging culture war, numerous advocates recognize that the battle is about Biblical cosmology and the moral core of Western culture.

Courses in the history of Western Civilization used to begin with the Bible because the dominant civilizations of human history are culturally descended from Abraham. Other ideas found their way to European civilization, but everything was evaluated under the auspices of the Christian Church in its several permutations. The early American settlers were religious pilgrims who believed in Covenant Theology. They strove to create a society that would be a city on a hill, and they succeeded beyond their most extravagant imaginings. Everything that remains of their enterprise is what postmodern critics are trying to deconstruct.

Clearly God is interested in human history on a larger scale than personal morality and religious experience. Jesus preached to the powerless and infirm, but his Kingdom sayings, especially the parable of the mustard seed, could not have been more prescient as to how the Kingdom would develop. We’ve only seen the beginning.

The current epic in Christian Civilization involves a crisis of faith in everything noble and beautiful in our heritage. Churches of every denomination are in uproar about the formal order God has revealed. The more radical departures from traditional norms stretch credulity by the ideas being propounded. Old line Protestants adopt the values of the intelligentsia and Evangelicals pander to every permutation of popular culture, while the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church astonishes the world with faith that assists the demolition of Communism.

In the current upheaval, the church only needs to continue to speak the truth in love, upholding the culture of life against moral anarchy. Many compromises have been made, many of them destructive, but none are irrevocable or unredeemable. God’s ancient promises have been fulfilled despite atrocities against the church and even those perpetrated by the church. Christian theology will survive. It survived Egyptian Gnosticism, Greek Platonism, and persecution by the Roman Empire. The nihilism of the current academic mafia will not prevail against a church that continues sifting and salvaging the virtues and artifacts of its long militancy in the world. The Kingdom comes.

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