Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

HOW THE SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE IS CHANGING IN NAMIBIA

Churches  exist in societies, and the changes that happen in these societies   tend to     affect the church.  Since  our world is  subjected  to the  effects of the fall described in Genesis  3  and illustrated in chapter 4,  and indeed  in the rest of the Bible, the pull is sadly   ‘downward’.  

Society, contrary to popular opinion, unaided  by the gospel  and left to  itself  does not  evolve  nor improve with time.  If it were not for the   continuous preaching of the Bible  in the pulpits of the world, and if it were not for  heaven–sent reformation and revival movements   given by God from time to time, and if it were not for the  common grace and the patience  of God,  and were it not for the true  church of the Lord Jesus Christ, acting as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in all ages, the  self-destructive nature of  fallen men  would have brought about the total   demise of this world  far sooner.

Many people  are  not sure as to what the role of the church  ought to be  in  our ever changing society.  On the one hand there are those who maintain  that the church ought to accommodate herself to the times. Their representatives   call the church  to adapt her message to suit  the  times.  On the other extreme  there are those  (they are  not too many these days)  who believe that  the church ought to resist  the times, to the point of becoming isolationist and  non- interactive.  Therefore, since  they do not intersect with their society, they have no influence upon  their society, and  for all intents  and purposes,  they are irrelevant.

Jesus  never intended  His church to be an uncritical  follower of  culture or societal norms. Jesus Himself was not afraid to take on    religious and cultural establishments  in His day. What mattered to Him was  that  the truth  of God’s plain Word should be applied  to  man’s thinking,  thus correcting the  continuous  drift of society  into  evil and falsehood.  The church must do likewise.  

The church is  not a  cultural  phenomenon.  The church is not an institution designed by man.  The church is  not an uncritical  rubberstamp  of  her society. She  is  a creation of God.  She is the ‘ekklesia[1]  of God. She is the people  of God, purchased by the  death of Christ on the cross.  She represents  the people  that are ‘called  out’  of the world , and called to belong to God.[2]   She  is ‘God’s new society‘[3]. She is  called  by God to be God’s alternative society. She is  called  to proclaim the gospel  to this corrupt  society, declaring  the  good news  that God has made a way for sinners[4]  to be reconciled  with God  through believing in Christ and to be changed  by Christ once more  into a God  fearing, godly people. So, the  gospel  is not only  an announcement concerning how  sinners may be  reconciled with their Creator. The gospel  is also an announcement regarding ‘how we should live’.  

 SECULAR VERSUS BIBLICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 

In this regard  one of the  greatest  challenges in our day has become  the matter  of biblical anthropology (i.e. the doctrine of man)   severely clashing  with  an aggressive secular  and atheistic  anthropology  that is challenging  the way in which we have traditionally and biblically looked  at God and man.

I consider how the landscape has changed even within my life time. I find that the  greatest challenge started when society began  to   abandon  the biblical  distinction concerning the  different  roles of  men and women in favour of an ‘egalitarian view‘.  The biblical view is ‘complementarian’,  meaning that men  and women have been created by God  to complement one another, rather than to compete with one another. The egalitarian  world view recognises  no  functional  difference  between men and women, and therefore  men and women are now  competing  with one another, rather than completing  one another. The  gender wars  have become  not only a feature of  the international community, but indeed also of Namibian society. 

This ongoing gender  war  has opened a   proverbial can of worms. If  we  challenge the biblical view  of   the unique design of men and women  in terms of their unique design in terms of their  differing roles, and their  different  sex, then   we  must  not be  surprised  that,  following the abolishment  of  these biblical distinctions,   further cracks  appear.  The little  crack in the pipe has now become a  serious  water – leak.  Lack of gender distinction has now become gender confusion. And  all of a sudden,  and at a dizzying speed,   the gay, lesbian and transgender    agenda has appeared with an  astonishing  force and  strength,  challenging   everything sacred:  marriage, biblical sexuality, child raising principles, education.  

In the  church  the  prevailing trend    in  Namibia has  been   to  almost uncritically  endorse   the prevailing  culture, even to the point   to  which  the plain  meaning   of the  Bible,  the  Word  is of God  is challenged and re-interpreted  to suit  the  culture.   For instance, the  Bible  knows nothing of women elders and  pastors   leading the church,  and yet  it is true that more and more  women take over the leadership roles of  the Namibian church. The Bible  would  firmly challenge this development.  People would call this a fundamentalistic position, when in truth  it has everything to do with the authority  of Scripture  which is being plainly ignored.   
It is this  tendency to rebel against biblical authority in the church   which  ultimately gives way to the great  spiritual apostasy of the church  and thus ultimately to the  disassembly  of society. 

Namibian  churches and pulpits must be prepared  to see this and  to pray, preach and obey    the gospel, rather than pandering   to our society's  whims and fancies.




[1] From the Greek word  ‘ek’ & ‘kaleo’ -  literally, ‘ to be called out’. The church is  the people of God called out of this world and called to belong to God . She is  God’s  new society  
[2] 1 Peter 2:9-10
[3] John Stott : Commentary of Ephesians , BST Series (IVP) , p.26
[4] The  Bible  makes it clear  every man is a sinner :  “ All have sinned  and fall short of the glory of God.” ( Rom  3:9-26) 

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