Compassion For the Lost Part I

April 19, 2006 — 12 Comments


If you want to talk about a struggle with issues thrown at you, just look at the last few days of my life. It’s a struggle in understanding some views thrown at me out of nowhere, as if God has suddenly said, “Well, you’ve been preaching and teaching about examining differing worldviews. Are you ready to walk the walk?”

Then suddenly, it hit.

One of the issues that was brought up by Kristin Braun, in her post critiquing well-known writer Nancy Pearcey for some statements made in her book, Total Truth:

Artists are often the barometers of society, and by analyzing the world-views embedded in their works we can learn a great deal about how to address the modern mind more effectively. Yet many Christians critique culture one-dimensionally, from a moral perspective alone, and as a result they come across as negative and condemning. At a Christian college, I once took an English course from a professor whose idea of critiquing classic works of literature was to tabulate how many times the characters used bad language or engaged in illicit sexual relations. He seemed blind to the books’ literary quality – whether or not they were good as literature. Nor did he teach us how to detect the worldviews expressed there. Similarly, a Christian radio personality recently wagged a stern finger at Elvis Presley for the immoral content of his songs, without ever asking whether his songs were good as music (which they certainly were), or raising other worldview questions, such as why popular culture has a powerful impact. When the only form of cultural commentary Christians offer is moral condemnation, no wonder we come across to non-believers as angry and scolding.
Our first response to the great works of human culture-whether in art or technology or economic productivity—should be to celebrate them as reflections of God’s own creativity.

Now, I understand where Kristin is coming from, and, in fact, do agree with her. But if we only read that statement, we don’t fully understand the context of what Pearcey is working to say. The context is speaking of Francis Schaeffer, who was a huge influence in Pearcey’s life.

“Even when raising serious criticisms,” says Nancy Pearcey, “He expressed a deep compassion for people caught in the trap of false and harmful worldviews.”

Previously, she stated that “even when we analyze where they [human culture] go wrong, it should be in a spirit of love.”

When I, as a Christian, confront non-believers, especially those involved in the arts, I must realize two things. First, I must understand that the talents they have are given to them by God, but they are using those gifts incorrectly. Secondly, these men and women are the same as I am–the worst sinner there ever was. They’re just as deep into sin as I am, or, I should say, was. And that is a huge reason we must confront them in love. Not a love that says “God will fill that hole in your heart” but rather a love that says “I care for you. You’re sinning and you’re going to hell. I don’t want you there!” And, as I said, we must realize that the gifts given to these men and women are given to them from God. But, unfortunately, they are using them for the world.

“How many [Christians] reach out to the artists with compassion?” asks Nancy Pearcey, “How many do the hard work of crafting real answers to the questions they are raising? How many cry out to God on behalf of people struggling in the coils of false world-views?”

I think the statement made by Pearcey following this is profound:

“The best way to drive out a bad world-view is by offering a good one, and Christians need to move beyond criticizing the culture to creating culture.”

This is something we are called to do, and all of us have fallen short. Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in speaking out against things, but never take action against that which we criticize. We talk, but we never walk. Laziness reigns as we criticize, but never take action. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for critics of the culture–I am one! But this criticism must be done in the right manner, and must offer answers with compassion for the lost and a desire to see them in heaven, not dying in their sins any longer. We don’t want them wrapped up in a false world-view, slowly being choked and pulled down into eternal damnation.

“Love your fellowman, and cry about them if you cannot bring them to Christ,” says Spurgeon. “If you cannot save them, you can weep over them. If you cannot give them a drop of water in Hell, you can give them your heart’s tears while they are still in this body.”

Another great quote from Spurgeon:

As the fisherman longs to take fish in his net, as the hunter pants to bear home his spoil, as the mother pines to clasp her lost child to her bosom, so do we faint for the salvation of souls.

We must feel such a compassion for the lost that we do not despise them, but rather long for their day of the salvation. How can we sleep at night knowing that thousands are dying without Christ? What are we doing now to save them? Are we offering more than criticism?

Continue To Part II

Tim Sweetman

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Tim Sweetman is a young writer, blogger, and student who lives near our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. He has been much more widely known by his “code-name,” Agent Tim. This name also served as the name of his popular blog, which received over 750,000 visits between 2005 to 2007. In 2005, he quickly rose to become a leading teenage spokesperson and cultural critic within the booming blogosphere, taking on issues such as MySpace, alcohol, homeschooling, pride, racism, tolerance, and other topics relating to our culture today. His blog has come to the attention of people such as Albert Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Alex and Brett Harris, and La Shawn Barber. Tim’s written work has appeared in Lifeway’s Living With Teenagers (February 2012), Lookout Magazine, FUSION Magazine, The Brink Online, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Virtue Magazine, Regenerate Our Culture Online Magazine, and on many other blogs and websites across the internet like Marry Well and the Lies Young Women Believe Blog. He has also been featured in WORLD Magazine, The Towers Magazine, and Maryland Newsline. He is scheduled to have an article appear in Veritas Magazine this December. Most recently, his work can be found on Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine. His personal interests include writing (surprise!) and sports, both watching and playing. He is a die-hard Washington Redskins fan.

12 responses to Compassion For the Lost Part I

  1. “The best way to drive out a bad world-view is by offering a good one, and Christians need to move beyond criticizing the culture to creating culture.”

    I’m not sure I understand this. What does it mean to create a culture? We aren’t called to create anything. We are called to walk in truth. “I have no greater joy than my children walk in truth.” To me this isn’t the same as creating a counter-culture to the counter culture. They are counter to God’s culture of truth. It is already created, we must walk in it.

    Analyzing where the culture goes wrong is not that hard. They have a heart turned against God and his truth. They have a heart toward self. So engaging a non-believer in where he is wrong is difficult and most often a case in futulity. Just the same as an atheist engaging me in where I am wrong in my belief in God.

    You also said,

    “many of us get caught up in speaking out against things, but never take action against that which we criticize.”

    Speaking out is taking action. We are called to protect the sheep from wolves in sheeps clothing. Certainly that is a noble action. The church is wallowing in the world’s culture. We have adopted their methods, music, and mindset. Critically anayzing whether something is from God and scriptural is the first step in walking in truth. One must know what is true before one can walk in it.

    Further, I do see many who are walking the walk. Homeschooling is just one example of believers not just criticizing but taking action too. Teaching our young children modesty dress is another. Are we called to celebrate the great works of our modern fashion industry as being from the hand of God? But by training our son’s and daughters to walk in the truth that their bodies are a temple of God they will properly clothe themselves. A culture is then created because we are walking in the truth.

  2. I have to say I think this is the most important issue for Christians to discuss today. Period.

    This quote: “The best way to drive out a bad world-view is by offering a good one, and Christians need to move beyond criticizing the culture to creating culture,” is amazing. The more Christians do that, the more successful they will be.

    Nature abhors a vacuum, so it’s not enough to say what’s wrong in the world. It’s vitally important to do so, absolutely indispensable to point out the errors of modern culture, but that by itself won’t cause the change. Once we know the problems, we have to act. We have to develop a counter culture that will offer a godly alternative. Only when we can offer that alternative can we successfully evangelize. Christians can’t ask unbelievers to step into a cultural void; there must be something on the other side, so to speak.

    “We aren’t called to create anything. We are called to walk in truth. “I have no greater joy than my children walk in truth.” To me this isn’t the same as creating a counter-culture to the counter culture. They are counter to God’s culture of truth. It is already created, we must walk in it.”

    We can’t confuse culture and worldview here. A Christian culture can take many forms, and it can be created. Ancient Christians, medieval Christians, and 20th century Christians all had unique cultures that they (in part) created, yet what they had in common was worldview (God’s truth).

    We are mandated to create culture. Humans are creative beings. We are made in God’s image, and creating a culture is a natural extension of who we are. I’d argue that it’s a part of subduing the earth and exercising stewardship. It’s how we mirror the creative greatness of God.

    I completely agree with you, Kristin, that homeschooling and dressing modestly are shining examples of counter-culture – examples of actions that are meant to cause change. And, we can already see the stunning success of the homeschool movement and it’s impact on the world when we look at Noah Riner’s speech at Dartmouth college, at the success rates of homeschooled graduates, or at the way academically excellent colleges court homeschooled students.

    When we look at these examples we need to say first, “Yes! Exactly right!” And then, “More! Let’s do more!”

    To engage the culture, to realistically see all it’s sin and shortcomings, and then, by God’s bountiful oceans of grace, to create something better, is what Christians are called to do.

  3. Just as clarification, “Spunky” (comment above Karen) is my mother :) Interesting thoughts Tim…very thought provoking!

  4. Karen K.

    I agree that culture can be created and should not be confused with worldview. But culture is the by product of seeking and applying truth, that’s a worldview. It is a matter of focus. To say we need to create culture puts the emphasis in the wrong area in my opinion. Yes, different cultures were created in each of those eras you mentioned. But as Christians we are called to go out and “make disciples” not make a culture. Culture is the result of disciples walking in truth. We should not make it more than it is. Our families worldview determines its culture. We did not create a family culture it is derived from our worldview.

    By way of analogy, people began to recognize the need to homeschool as a mandate of the truth “fathers teach your children” from Deut 6. From that obedience to truth a homeschool culture has been created. I don’t think the homeschool culture would be as strong if we sought out to make a “homeschoool culture” as the first step. It was as individuals applied the truth that the culture was created. Not the culture created so that individuals will follow.

    I guess what I am saying is that worldview does create a culture. It is automatic. We don’t need to create it or even worry about creating it. It is the natural expression and out growth of the worldview one believes. And when a large number all walk in the same truth that creates a culture and impacts the counterfeit culture of the god of this world.

  5. Christ is our example, Tim. Think about how he approached those who didn’t know him, whose lifestyle or actions who were critiqued by others, were put to the side as he addressed them personally. After that, he showed them a new way — a way that they could discover for themselves what God intended from the beginning.

    This is a beautiful, insightful post.

  6. Good post Tim. I think Nancy Pearcey makes a good point here:
    “The best way to drive out a bad world-view is by offering a good one, and Christians need to move beyond criticizing the culture to creating culture.”

    Of course she isn’t saying that culture doesn;t come from our worldview – knowing her work it’s obvious that her botttomline position is that it is our worldview that influences what we do. That’s the whole point of her book. We have different gifts and abilities – we do take part in creating culture. And we can create things that differ from the spirit of this world.

    Spunky, I think you are being too hard on this post actually. Yes, we are called to make disciples – but that’s not all we do in life. You are splitting off our work and creativity as if it doesn’t count. We can do both – make disciples and create culture – which is what L’Abri was all about and is where Pearcey is coming from.

    You said:
    But culture is the by product of seeking and applying truth, that’s a worldview.

    Well yes, but Pearcey is simply a little further down and saying how do we apply that worldview – what ae we doing with it? It’s not an either/or but a progression.

    I guess what I am saying is that worldview does create a culture. It is automatic.

    Well no, it’s not. A worldview is the blueprint – but not everyoone lives it out. And none of us have “arrived” in that sense either. It’s possible to have a worldview but still live in a dualism of sorts, or still live without creating anything different from the world. It’s not automatic that worldview creates culture – which is why Peacrey encourages the living out of it. And homeschooling isn’t an automatic result of the Deuteronomy verse. For some the application of that verse is quite different. I’m not arguing the pros and cons of homeschooling, but pointing out that there is a worldview and then there is the decision about the expression/application of that worldview. And it is not always going to be the same, and creating something culturally different is not automatic at all. We would have a much more effective church if it was automatic. Plenty of people know the truth on things – but do not understand the application of applying it in every sphere of life.

  7. I think it helps to look at the first part of Pearcey’s statement:
    The best way to drive out a bad world-view is by offering a good one,

    Yes. And how do we offer it? Anyone can talk, but do our live match what we say? In other words – how do we look culturally? Culture encompasses many things. Are we creating something different that matches our words, or are we just talk. I completely agree with Tim on this one – we need to live the life. That’s creating culture.

  8. Catez said exactly what I was going to say. The bottom line is “What is Pearcey really saying?” I want to make sure that we don’t look at one paragraph of the book and say “Oh no!” and forget the context of the entire book. But I’ll talk more about this in part 2.

  9. Spunky Sr./Mrs. Braun – sorry for confusing you with Kristin! I didn’t mean to be disrespectful at all. (Blush)

    Catez – I completely agree. People will always listen to music, read literature, and be involved in other types of culture. There’s no way to get around that. If Christians don’d develop a godly counter-culture, if there is no alternative to worldly music, etc, then people won’t alter their lifestyles. You can’t fight something with nothing.

    Again, there certainly is a vibrant Christian counter-culture. It’s just that we need to keep developing and growing it.

  10. Why do we have to create a counter culture? Why can’t Christians infiltrate our country’s culture? (in a missionary minded way, not in a way to conform to it but to place Christ in it.) This is a problem I have with the “Christian culture” It becomes nothing but a ghetto. I suggest an excellent book on the subject called, “Roaring Lamb.” Can’t remember the author’s name, sorry. But he worked in TV and wrote about how Christians need to infilitrate our country’s culture and media instead of living outside of it.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Agent Tim Online :: Culture And Theology--Hand In Hand - April 20, 2006

    [...] If the context of the Total Truth is examined, we quickly come to the conclusion that, within its context, Nancy Pearcey is right on (See Part I including comments). [...]

  2. Agent Tim Online :: Culture And Theology--Hand In Hand - May 8, 2006

    [...] There was no comment on whether or not the decision came from the recent discussion between Spunky Jr. and Agent Tim or the recent visit of co-writer Hannah Beth from BfTH. [...]

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