We have been discussing the power of culture, its capacity to infiltrate, and the damage it can inflict, especially on the Christian community. A potent example of the destructive capacities of unbiblical culture is found in the devastation materialist culture inflicted on mainline denominations.
By materialism I am not referring to infatuation with things. Rather, I am describing a worldview asserting that only matter and energy exist. That perspective held significant sway over American culture from about the 1860s to the 1960s. It asserted that evolution scientifically explains origins, and therefore spiritual explanations are myths held by the uneducated.
Mainline denominational leaders, wanting to maintain culturally credibility and yet somehow validate Christianity devised various theological approaches that attempted to integrate materialist culture with a Christian perspective. I recall taking a course at New York University that advanced one such theory, asserting that God was not a being but being itself, and that His role was to let be. I was met with a high level of hostility when I pointed out that they had relegated God to a nonexistent category and provided Him with a do-nothing job description.
Needless to say, this approach to Christianity does not possess much to attract people. Though these theologians maintained a modicum of academic credibility, they had nothing to offer the person in the pew who was seeking hope in this life and the next. They became culturally relevant and spiritually irrelevant. As a result, mainline denominations virtually collapsed in size and influence.
What can evangelicals learn from this infiltration of mainline denominations by secular culture and the devastating results? That is tomorrow’s topic.