America has long been known as a country that represents freedom, liberty, and the common good. However, with each passing moment, our society seems to be taking one step further away from what it was founded on. Seemingly gone are the days of common decency and faith-based values, replaced by divisive social issues that have no clear answers.
How should people of faith address these issues? How should the evangelical Church respond?
In his latest book, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding to Our Culture’s Assault on Christianity, Moody Church Pastor Emeritus Dr. Erwin Lutzer equips readers with ways to respond to the hurts and concerns of people swept up in these social issues where there appears to be no common ground. He does so in a compassionate manner while pointing people back to the timeless truths of the Bible.
I recently spoke with Dr. Lutzer about what the Church needs to do to stand up for its culture, how Christians can shine a light in this ever darkening world, and a key Scripture verse that could change everything.
What was the inspiration or the catalyst for writing We Will Not Be Silenced?
When I began to realize that the secular left does not believe that America can be fixed. It has to be destroyed and rebuilt on a purely humanistic Marxist foundation. It was as if I began to open up in my own mind, the whole issue of culture and what is happening in our society. The idea is that if we can destroy America in terms of its institutions, by vilifying its history, we can rebuild it and we’ll be free of white supremacy, income inequality, and all of the other things such as racism. We’ll build a new America on this humanistic foundation. This began to become very clear in my mind. And so, what I decided to do is to write a book, showing how cultural Marxism informs a lot of things that are happening. Here is the thing that’s very important to me. Every one of these chapters ends with the response of the Church, because at the end of the day, what I want the Church to do is to be strong. I didn’t write this book necessarily to reclaim the culture. I don’t think that’s possible anymore. I wrote it to reclaim the Church and to ask the Church to not be silent and intimidated by a culture that is filled oftentimes with hatred and misunderstanding.
What does the Church need to do to stand up for its culture within a nation that obviously seems to have differing opinions?
Let’s talk about racial issues for a moment. Critical race theory is based on Marxism. It emphasizes that everybody is in a category, and it depends upon the color of their skin. It’s Marxist because it says, if you’re white, you’re an oppressor. If you’re a person of color, you are oppressed. Having put those roles up there, people oftentimes think to themselves, what is the answer? Well, the answer from a Marxist point of view is that the oppressed would be able to overcome their oppressors. That’s why you have continual racial conflict. You asked the question, what about the role of the Church? The Church is the only institution that has the answer for this because it says at the end, there isn’t much difference between us. We all come as sinners to the foot of the Cross to receive forgiveness. Jesus Christ makes us into one body, one temple, and whether we are black, white or any other color, now we ask the question, how can we work together to better our communities? We don’t have to shout at each other across racial fences. We don’t have to enter into a blame game, blaming one group for the weaknesses and the failures of the other. We actually have a resolution on these issues. The Church must see itself as speaking to this. Social justice as often defined is thoroughly and totally racist. It’s opposed to what Martin Luther King said. He said that we should judge one another, not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character. And to put it simply, the Church says we really don’t have a skin problem. We have a sin problem. And that lies at the basis of our conflict.
You have been quoted as saying that as Christians we are called for such a time as this and we must make our light shine more brightly in this darkening world. Specifically, what does that look like?
The Bible tells us that indeed we are to be light. We want to make sure that there are no stumbling blocks for the Gospel. And so, we’ve retreated into silence, but we need to be able to speak to these issues. We lead of course, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ being absolutely paramount and essential, but at the same time, we should not be intimidated. I have a chapter in my book on free speech, how it is being limited today. I also have a chapter on how propaganda works and how people are being seduced by platitudes and lies.
The Church must actually step to the plate and say, like Martin Luther, ‘Here we stand, we cannot do otherwise.’ I didn’t write this book to reclaim the Church and to say, we cannot be so influenced by the culture that we have nothing to say to it. The Church has submitted oftentimes to same-sex marriage, other worldly views regarding race, and they’ve done it under the banner of love, not understanding that it is totally unbiblical. What we must do is be willing to stand up, speak the truth and take the heat.
Many of the topics you write about in your book are rather sensitive in our nation right now … gender, racial, and political issues. Why should Christians not turn their back on these issues as not to offend or make waves?
We need to talk with love. It’s so important for us to realize that it is much better to tell the truth and be thought hateful than to speak lies with compassionate tones. Let’s talk about how love is being misused in the Church. You have people saying, ‘Well, what’s wrong with two men who want to love each other?’ They approve of same-sex relationships. I’ve heard it said, shouldn’t, we have more love? Isn’t more love better than less? What we must do is to realize that as a Church, love is something that is not always good. It oftentimes is very evil. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they didn’t stop loving. They just began to love the wrong things. The Bible talks about being lovers of yourself, lovers of pleasure, and lovers of money. It is not true that we need more love than less, unless it’s a love that is really Biblical. And Jesus said, ‘Here in His love that you keep my commandments.’
Are there any particular scriptures you can point to that can equip believers to use when standing in the gap on these issues?
I would point to Acts 4. Peter and some of the other apostles are dragged before the official Sanhedrin and told you can no longer preach and teach in the name of Jesus. And what did they famously say? ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to obey you or to obey God, you have to decide, but we cannot help but speak what we have seen and heard.’ (Acts 4:19) The Church needs to be able to do that compassionately. Speak, we must. There are martyrs throughout the centuries who were willing to give their lives for the truth. Here in America, because we’ve usually had governments that have been not only tolerant of Christianity, but oftentimes supportive, we have gotten used to the idea that somehow we should not be spoken against. That obviously is changing for many different reasons. And so, we have to look at things differently now. We have to put ourselves in a minority position and say, we might be vilified, but speak we must.
Simple question: Where do we go from here?
What we have to do is to realize that we have a responsibility, especially pastors, of teaching families how to stand against the culture, the sexualization of children in our schools, we need to recognize that these things are happening. We need to stand unitedly against what is happening in the culture. I spoke to a man whose ministry was always evangelism. He belongs to a very famous ministry. Its hallmark is really evangelism. He said that at the last annual meeting, you would think that it was a conference on social justice. So, where do we go from here? We begin to clean up our theology, but we also begin to understand why we need to stand against the culture.
So, we begin with the families. We begin with ourselves. For each one, their response will be different. We recognize the role of the Church and then remember that we are not called to win. We are called to be faithful. And we ask ourselves, what does faithfulness look like in a culture that has lost its way? What does faithfulness look like in a culture where the person who shouts the loudest gets their way?
After people have read We Will Not Be Silenced, as an author what would you like your readers to take away with them? What is your greatest hope for the book?
My greatest hope for the book is that it will awaken the Church so people will see the issues more clearly and that they will be inspired to take a stand. I quote Huldrich Zwingli, the great reformer who said, ‘For God’s sake, do something courageous.’ What I want to do is to inspire the Church to become more like the Church that it should be and to realize that God is with us. But also, to realize that throughout history, the Church has always had to stand against its culture. I also hope that this book will inspire others to bring about discussion. There are some things in it that are controversial. And so, my desire is that it will be inspired to take a stand and above all things, to be willing to take criticism for the cause of Christ.