[Note: These are notes for a talk I gave for the Logos School teacher training last week.]
A culture is the matrix of belief and practice, faith and works. It includes everything from technology to entertainment to sports to holidays to marriage and family, worship and community life. Culture includes shared language, art, music, morals, habits, customs, loves, and loyalties.
So when we talk about a Christian Worldview, we are talking about seeing the world through the lens of Scripture, believing in Christ and His Word, and then ordering our lives to the best of our ability in gratitude and obedience. Since we are finite human beings, we cannot pretend to be able to address every detail. We confess that Christ lays claim to every detail, we submit in principle, and then we seek to order our priorities scripturally.
The Greatest Commands & the Ten Words
What is most important? The Bible tells us that loving God with all that we are and loving our neighbor as ourself summarizes the whole Bible, and they are summaries of the Ten Commandments in particular. Never forget that the foundation of God’s law has always been His grace. The introduction to the Ten Commandments is: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the House of Bondage. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn. 5:3). We love God because He loved us first. Our obedience must be a response of gratitude and thanksgiving, otherwise our obedience will not be blessing. The law of God is the law of liberty. The center of Christian culture is this grace: we get to obey God, not you better or else, joy not drudgery.
The Ten Words can be broadly categorized under the two greatest commands: love God and love neighbor. The first four commands teach us how to love God, and the last 5-6 teach us to love our neighbors. The fifth command straddles both commands. Honoring father and mother is where love and fear of God are first learned, and a culture that despises parents will not long fear or love God. Broadly, we can say then that a Christian worldview and culture is concerned with the right love and worship of God and the right love and honor of those who bear His image, beginning with those closest to us. We might summarize these priorities as worship and family. A Christian worldview values those things that God says are most valuable, and acts accordingly, building habits, using technology, developing arts that honor God and those who bear His image.
If I were called to plant a new church somewhere where there was not already a well-established Christian community, right after the church was launched, I would start a classical Christian school. And that’s because a well-ordered school, under God’s blessing, is where both worship and family can be strategically reinforced.
The Failure of Modern Worship
When I say worship, you might be tempted to only think of only the music, but I’m talking about the entire worship service: prayers, songs, scripture readings, sermon, communion, etc. God put the tabernacle literally at the center of Israel in the wilderness, and this is because communion with God in worship is the center of Christian culture. The first sanctuary was in the Garden of Eden where God met with Adam and Eve at the Tree of Life. A river flowed out of the Garden and divided into four heads, and God directed Adam down the river as part of his mission to take dominion and make the world fruitful. From one angle: the Garden-sanctuary was a picture of what the world could become: a cultivated garden, mature trees with fruit, etc. From another angle, God clearly implied that there was more glory to be found out in the world down the rivers to be discovered, refined, glorified, and used in the world and back in the garden. While sin disrupted this communion and dominion mandate, God renewed covenant with Noah after the flood and again with Abraham and Israel. When God put a golden box with His Words in the heart of the tabernacle at the center of Israel, He was once again calling Israel to go into all the world, to make it fruitful by taking His ways out into the world and to find the glory there and bring it back into the sanctuary.
Modern Christian worship has been largely reduced to an emotional experience instead of a fully human covenant renewal. The biblical and historical pattern of worship included a Call to Worship, a Confession of Sin, Consecration through Scripture readings and message from Scripture, Communion with God in the Lord’s Supper, and a Commissioning/Blessing. We don’t have the time to explore this in detail, but suffice it to say that discipleship is a wholistic process aimed at applying all of Scripture to all of life. Christian worship focused on fearing the Lord, hearing His Word, confessing sin and repenting of it, and applying God’s word to every area of life is a very different kind of worship than getting an emotional pep talk and having a good experience. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Related, is the opposite extreme where some famished evangelicals desperate for something historic and reverent, have lurched into Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. While I do have some sympathy with the mistake, since you are often likely to get more Scripture in one of those churches than a modern evangelical comedy hour, the fact of the matter is that you are actually only substituting one form of man-centered worship for another. Protestant worship is unique for its insistence on worship being according to God’s Word. Worship that is regulated by God’s Word built the modern West. The Protestant work ethic flows from protestant worship.
Family & Culture
If Christian Worship is the engine that drives Christian culture, the Christian family is the basic building block of culture. Family is the first place where Christian discipleship is inculcated and practiced. I want to begin in perhaps a surprising place and that is the death penalties found in the Old Testament for adultery and rebellious sons. Frequently these are raised as examples of what a theocracy would mean (“horrors!”). Unbelievers will say something like, “I could never believe in a God who would command that.” We should have a couple of responses ready. First, we should note that since we rejected God’s law in this land, we’ve executed over 60 million babies. As we have rejected God’s Word specifically with regard to honoring parents, honoring the marriage bed, and honoring life, we have seen an epidemic of fatherlessness, addiction, crime, suicide, school shootings, and incarceration. How’s that working out?
But our other response should simply be to trust God’s Word without apology. When you see flashing lights and orange cones and yellow tape, you probably don’t immediately think that someone has drastically over-reacted. You generally assume that something bad has happened, and you hope everyone is OK and you’re thankful for first responders.
We should think of the death penalties in Scripture as God’s flashing lights and orange cones and barbed wire fences. God is saying that something potent and powerful is going on here. Mess with marriage, mess with the marriage bed, mess with family, and you are playing with fire. The family really is nuclear. We are living in the nuclear fallout of decades of playing with the nuclear family. The radiation is everywhere.
Everyone in this room has been touched by the radiation. From pornography to divorce to abortion to estrangement, all of our families have been touched by it. But the Old Testament ends with God’s solemn promise to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest He strike the earth with a curse, and the gospels tell us that Jesus came to do that. He came to take the curse, the radiation of our family failures and sins, and make all things new.
This renewal begins with faith in Christ and conversion, but it grows and flourishes in families that confess sins and forgive one another quickly. This is the oil of gladness in all Christian community. The joy of the Lord is fundamentally the joy of forgiven sin. You cannot have the joy of the Lord, if you have accumulated sins in your heart or home. The difference between two homes on the same street with the same number of kids, where one is a messy dump and one that is tidy and smells like bread is baking in the over – the difference is that in one house they pick up. Confession of sin is picking up. All sin must either be covered in love or confronted in love. Christians may not sweep sin under the carpet.
And so the same principles apply to a biblical Christian school. Sin must be covered in love or confronted in love, otherwise that Christian community can quickly turn toxic. As an extension of the family, a faithful classical Christian school should practice biblical peacemaking, confession, forgiveness, and restitution. Dealing with sin biblically is a potent cultural force.
A successful classical Christian school should aim to graduate men and women who are committed to classical Protestant worship, getting married, and having big families. They will only be loyal and committed to these culture building powerhouses if they have received the blessings of them as they have grown up. One of the great dangers of a Christian community, churches, and families is the potential for inoculation, giving kids just enough of a taste of it to turn them off and make them immune to the offer. And the only way to avoid that is by keeping Christ and His grace central.