A Message for Collegiate Reformed Fellowship
Introduction: The Reformation
What does God do with messes? What does God do with failures in marriage, families, cities, and nations? What does God do with slavery, corruption, centuries of violence and bloodshed and lies?
The gospel that hit Luther in the gut is the good news that when it pleases God to do it, He is free to raise the dead, set captives free, and change entire civilizations. This is because the gift that God gives is His righteousness, and His righteousness is not a vague, impersonal quality. His righteousness is the obedience, wisdom, power, and blessings of Jesus reckoned to sinners by faith alone and actually imparted to us by the presence of His Spirit living inside us.
That righteousness is revealed and accomplished through the preaching of Christ crucified. When Christ crucified for sin is preached, the nations of men are drawn to Him. This is what Jesus said would happen: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (Jn. 12:32-33). When Paul wrote the Galatians, he said that Christ has been crucified before their very eyes – how? By preaching the cross.
This is the power of grace. When Jesus ascended into heaven, this is the power He had been given in fullness and poured out on the Church. All authority in heaven and earth – is the power of grace – the power of God’s favor, the power of God’s blessing. Received by faith alone.
Our Postmodern Moment
But instead of planting seeds of faith, we have been planting postmodern seeds of doubt and cynicism for the last number decades, and lo, we are reaping a harvest of postmodern hijinks.
We are in the midst of a massive cultural crisis that in many ways centers on the subject of power. Modernism and the Enlightenment announced the power of humanistic reason and logic and science, but that culminated in two World Wars leaving many disillusioned with the promises of modernity. Postmodernism is the drunk little brother of modernism, and it claims that modernism didn’t go far enough in rejecting Christendom and God’s authority and says that all power is evil and dangerous, including the power of language, stories, culture, morals, even truth. So postmodernism is broadly a project aimed at deconstructing all power structures or at least power inequities. This is where the verb “to empower” comes from. But postmodernism backs itself into an impossible corner since it uses language, stories, and power and makes its own claims about truth and morality even while swearing them off.
All truth is culturally relative, they claim. And so we should ask: Is that statement true or culturally relative? All language is a power-grab, they claim. So we should ask: Are those words in that sentence a power-grab? Morality is culturally constructed and it’s wrong to oppress the powerless. To which some enterprising freshman should ask, but if morality is culturally constructed why not leave the white, heteronormative patriarchal culture alone? Who are you to try to impose your culture norms on our indigenous ways? Talk about colonizing hegemony.
But postmodernism does have a point. Human power, language, morality disconnected from Christ is a terrible thing. But the answer is not trying to pretend that truth and morality and power do not exist or that they are entirely relative. Gravity can be a very dangerous thing. But you cannot deconstruct gravity. And since they are right that sinful people misuse language and morality and cultures to harm other people, we should not let any sinners near the control room. Why should we let the postmodernists near the steering wheel? What makes them think they are safe? But the current social justice movement is demanding the steering wheel.
It turns out that marinating in postmodernism is a great way for a culture to be primed for panic and chaos. Everything from the sham impeachment, to media bias, to censorship, to cancel culture, to a sham pandemic, to the BLM/Antifa riots and looting and violence — all of it is particularly flammable in a culture that has rejected Christ. The Bible teaches that everything – absolutely everything – coheres (holds together) in Christ. And that means that it really is Christ or nothing, Christ or everything comes apart. So everything is coming apart right on schedule.
We don’t know what men or women are, what sexuality is, what marriage is, what families are, or even what people are, but we are also in the process of trying to throw away all meaning, all language, all nouns. This not only destroys our ability to communicate, but it reduces everything to coercion. Words, numbers, graphs, charts, facts are not about how they correspond to reality (or not) to be carefully considered and debated. They are all more or less ripe fruit to be flung in the great cafeteria food fight. If a man feels that he is a woman, you cannot reason with him, and if a law or court requires that kind irrationality be accepted or honored, it has de facto caved to the mob. Thus, a panic was unleashed on the world by folks who don’t believe in arguments only tactics.
Jesus is Lord
The Christian creed is Jesus is Lord. But it must be more than a mantra. It is the basis for any sort of Christian reckoning with power. And it begins with the realization that Jesus is the Lord of every individual’s salvation. He commandeers men and women, and He gives them completely new hearts. They do not help God in this process. They are passive; God is active. Those new creatures are not sinless, but they do love God, love to obey Him, and have ever increasing hatred of sin and evil. As in the last Reformation, we have many Christians in name who have not met the living Jesus, and we know this because Jesus does a better job than that. But when Jesus saves, true Christians live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and they recognize that everything is held together and exists by the Word of His power (Col. 1, Heb. 1). He is Lord of all. And this is the only protection against the misuse of power by anyone. Christians don’t believe they are always right. We believe that Jesus is the only one who is always right.
What do you do in a world that you can’t reason with? What do you do when any words, facts, and figures you raise to present another point of view are immediately sacked as evidence of your bigotry? Recognize that it is a world ripe for Reformation, and then: Confess your sins. Worship God. Go to work. Get married. Have kids. Laugh. Sing Psalms. Repeat. Why? Because Jesus is still Lord, because all authority and power has been given to Him, and because we know what God does with messes. God is free to save. God is free to speak the word and make our culture-storm become peace and calm. He rules the wind and the waves and every human heart. And Jesus died and rose again for the salvation of this God-forsaken world.