This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for March 11 2018.
Christians today are often made to feel as though we are stagnant, culturally regressive and generally behind the times. The reasons for this are not hard to find. Christianity has shaped western culture profoundly for over a thousand years but has also, with notable exceptions, settled down as the comfortable status quo. Meanwhile, other and unsympathetic cultural forces have emerged, striving to complete its own vision for the world. These forces are not new, but make themselves known again with every new achievement.
Much of this vision is commendable. But its success also indicts us. In what ways are we bravely and creatively striving to make the world a better place according to our vision? I feel that we’ve lost our eschatology – that is, our understanding of the purpose and destiny of all things (technically, teleology is the correct term). A seemingly forgotten element of the good news is that at Christ’s resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, a new age began.
These events have set the agenda for the future. Christians are people belonging to that future, still living in the current age but possessing the Spirit of God as a deposit guaranteeing the full experience at the appointed time. The Holy Spirit makes us holy, shifting our behaviour and mindset closer and closer to this new identity, which comes from the new age we belong to.
The current age began with the original human dismissal of the Creator (Gen. 3). The future began two thousand years ago with Christ’s enthronement and the pouring out of the Spirit. The end of the current age and order of the world will come with the return of Christ the King. The progressivism of the gospel is based on this view of history. Sin and its patterns are ‘old-fashioned’ and are destined for obsolescence. Clinging to them is needlessly conservative. These things are a regurgitated regression to old, archaic patterns of human rebellion and self-determination – and have no right to label themselves ‘progressive’.
Are Christians conservative? In some good ways and bad ways, yes. In the way that matters – certainly not!
Are biblically faithful Christians progressive? Certainly – we just have our own vision, that sets our own agenda.