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Praise for Culture Shift “From grade inflation to global calamities, Albert Mohler is a steady guide. From the psychological coddling of the American ego to the hollowing of the American conscience, Mohler is unremittingly clear-headed. From Nineveh to New Orleans, Mohler holds the mirror at a blazing fortyfive-degree angle between heaven and earth. The burning light of divine wisdom illumines a hundred shadows of our human folly. And at the center of the blaze is the mighty cross of Jesus Christ defining the final meaning of everything. I thank God for Albert Mohler.” —JOHN PIPER, pastor for preaching, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN “Al Mohler is a unique gift to the church. His writing combines penetrating theological discernment and insightful cultural analysis with a passion to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m delighted that Al’s wisdom is now available in this book.” —C. J. MAHANEY, Sovereign Grace Ministries “We all know, as Dorothy said to Toto, that ‘we are not in Kansas anymore.’ But how to apply the deep truths of our Christian faith to a culture that seems to be transmogrifying before our very eyes, well, that’s perhaps the most difficult question facing the church today. In this well-written book,

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Al Mohler surveys the landscape and offers insight and wisdom that helps us do just this. A manifesto for responsible Christian engagement!” —TIMOTHY GEORGE, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and senior editor of Christianity Today “Thoughtful Christians seeking to engage the culture from a well-informed and thoroughly bibilical perspective will find an impressive resource in this work by R. Albert Mohler. Culture Shift is an outstanding contribution, which I heartily recommend.” —DAVID S. DOCKERY, president, Union University “Dr. Albert Mohler brings his intellectual brilliance, moral wisdom, and theological insight together in a book that belongs on the shelf of anyone who is interested in both understanding the shifting sands of morality in our culture and how to deal with them. If you are in that category this is a must read.” —JAMES MERRITT, senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church, Duluth, GA, and host of Touching Lives media ministry “Understanding our culture is a matter of Christian responsibility. Culture Shift helps us to do that and do it well.” —DANIEL L. AKIN, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC

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Excerpted from Culture Shift by R. Albert Mohler. Copyright © 2008, 2011 by R. Albert Mohler. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

CULTURE SHIFT PUBLISHED BY MULTNOMAH BOOKS 12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921 All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New American Standard Bible®. © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org). Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-60142-381-8 Copyright © 2008, 2011 by R. Albert Mohler Published in association with the literary agency of Wolgemuth & Associates Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York. MULTNOMAH and its mountain colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc. The Library of Congress cataloged the hardcover edition as follows: Mohler Jr., R. Albert, 1959– Culture shift / R. Albert Mohler. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-59052-974-4 (alk. paper) 1. United States—Church history. 2. Christianity and culture—United States. 3. Christianity and politics—United States. I. Title. BR515.M56 2008 261.0973—dc22 2007031614 Printed in the United States of America 2011—First Trade Paperback Edition 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 SPECIAL SALES Most WaterBrook Multnomah books are available in special quantity discounts when purchased in bulk by corporations, organizations, and special-interest groups. Custom imprinting or excerpting can also be done to fit special needs. For information, please e-mail [email protected] or call 1-800-603-7051.

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P R E FA C E

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ristotle once described our challenge as the problem of a fish in water. Knowing nothing but life in the water, the fish never even realizes it is wet. This describes the situation of many Christians in America—they do not even know that they are wet. We are swimming in one of the most complex and challenging cultural contexts ever experienced by the Christian church. Every day brings a confrontation with cultural messages, controversies, and products. We are bombarded with advertisements, entertainments, and the chatter of the culture all around us. We are Aristotle’s fish. How are Christians to remain faithful as we live in this culture? How should we think about so many of the crucial moral questions of our day? These questions are not merely academic. They will eventually touch every church and every Christian family. Our homes are constantly invaded by the culture all around us. Our children are targeted by advertisers and the marketplace of ideas. Entertainment has become a constant—symbolized by the satellite dish, the iPod, and the smart phone. There is no place to hide. Moreover, the pace at which our culture is changing has accelerated over the past several decades. Transformations in the law, government, social morality, and education have

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accompanied the radical advances in technology and knowledge that mark our era. Like an earthquake that is caused when the tectonic plates on the earth’s surface begin to shift, we are experiencing a seismic event in our culture. How are Christians to think about these new cultural challenges? Some Christians prefer not to think seriously about these issues. This falls far short of an acceptable posture, however. Those who do not think seriously about how Christians should respond to these challenges will find that the dominant culture will simply pull them into its vortex. They will simply fail to live and think as Christians. Others think they can somehow evade the culture. In reality, this is impossible. We may try to remove ourselves and our children from the culture, but the culture will find us. We use language, wear clothing, and engage as consumers in a world of continuous cultural invasion. The culture is a vast network of institutions, laws, customs, and language that is a constant part of our lives, like it or not. Still others try to embrace the culture without reservation. This doesn’t work either. An honest evaluation reveals that many of the most cherished assumptions of our culture are in direct conflict with the teachings of Christ. We cannot accept the idea that we are what we consume and possess. We cannot accept the denial of human dignity that underlies this culture’s acceptance of the destruction of human life in the womb and in the laboratory. We cannot buy in to the cherished myth of autonomous individualism,

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and we cannot compromise with a worldview based on the assumption that truth is relative or socially constructed. At the same time, we remember that our Lord gave His church an evangelistic commission—to be witnesses of the gospel. Every single person we will try to reach with the gospel is embedded in some culture. Understanding the culture thus becomes a matter of evangelistic urgency. Jesus was confronted one day by a lawyer who asked Him: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36–40, ESV). Jesus told that lawyer—and His own disciples—that our first priority is to love God with heart and soul and mind. Our second priority is to love our neighbor as ourselves. As the Lord said: “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, the Christian life is summarized in these two commands. We must first understand our culture and its challenges because we are to be faithful followers of Christ and faithful witnesses to the gospel. We are called to faithfulness, and faithfulness requires that we be ready to think as Christians when confronted with the crucial issues of the day. This is all rooted in our love of God.

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But Jesus also commanded love of neighbor, and Christians must be driven by love of neighbor as we confront the issues of our day. We care for the well-being of our neighbors, and we want to see them come to faith in Christ. We care about marriage, sexuality, children, the dignity of human life, and a host of related issues because we love God first, and this leads directly to love of our neighbor—and our neighborhood. In the end, the culture and its challenges will pass away. But our Lord has left us here for a reason—as His people, we are to be salt and light in a dying world. My hope is that these essays will assist you as you seek to be faithful to Christ as a concerned and intelligent Christian.

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1 E NGAGING TH E CITY OF MAN Christ i a n F a i t h a n d P o l i t i c s

O

ver the last twenty years, evangelical Christians have been politically mobilized in an outpouring of moral concern and political engagement unprecedented since the crusade against slavery in the nineteenth century. Is this a good development? Given the issues now confronting our nation, the issue of political involvement emerges anew with urgency. To what extent should Christians be involved in the political process? This question has troubled the Christian conscience for centuries. The emergence of the modern evangelical movement in the post–World War II era brought a renewed concern for engagement with the culture and the political process. The late Carl F. H. Henry addressed evangelicals

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with a manifesto for Christian engagement in his landmark book The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.1 As Dr. Henry eloquently argued, disengagement from the critical issues of the day is not an option. An evangelical theology for political participation must be grounded in the larger context of cultural engagement. As the Christian worldview makes clear, our ultimate concern must be the glory of God. When Scripture instructs us to love God and then to love our neighbor as ourselves, it thereby gives us a clear mandate for the right kind of cultural engagement. We love our neighbor because we first love God. In His sovereignty, our Creator has put us within this cultural context in order that we may display His glory by preaching the gospel, confronting persons with God’s truth, and serving as agents of salt and light in a dark and fallen world. In other words, love of God leads us to love our neighbor, and love of neighbor requires our participation in the culture and in the political process. Writing as the Roman Empire fell, Augustine, the great bishop and theologian of the early church, made this case in his monumental work The City of God.2 As Augustine ex1. Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of American Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003). Originally published in 1947. 2. Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

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plained, humanity is confronted by two cities—the City of God and the City of Man. The City of God is eternal and takes as its sole concern the greater glory of God. In the City of God, all things are ruled by God’s Word, and the perfect rule of God is the passion of all its citizens. In the City of Man, however, the reality is very different. This city is filled with mixed passions, mixed allegiances, and compromised principles. Unlike the City of God, whose citizens are marked by unconditional obedience to the commands of God, citizens of the City of Man demonstrate deadly patterns of disobedience, even as they celebrate, claim their moral autonomy, and then revolt against the Creator. Of course, we know that the City of God is eternal, even as the City of Man is passing. But this does not mean that the City of Man is ultimately unimportant, and it does not allow the church to forfeit its responsibility to love its citizens. Love of neighbor—grounded in our love for God— requires us to work for good in the City of Man, even as we set as our first priority the preaching of the gospel—the only means of bringing citizens of the City of Man into citizenship in the City of God. Because of this, Christians bear important responsibilities in both cities. Even as we know that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and even as we set our sights on the glory of the City of God, we must work for good, justice, and righteousness in the City of Man. We do so, not merely

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because we are commanded to love its citizens, but because we know that they are loved by the very God we serve. From generation to generation, Christians often swing between two extremes, either ignoring the City of Man or considering it to be our main concern. A biblical balance establishes the fact that the City of Man is indeed passing and chastens us from believing that the City of Man and its realities can ever be of ultimate importance. Yet we also know that each of us is by God’s own design a citizen, however temporarily, of the City of Man. When Jesus instructed that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, He pointed His followers to the City of Man and gave us a clear assignment. The only alternatives that remain are obedience and disobedience to this call. Love of neighbor for the sake of loving God is a profound political philosophy that strikes a balance between the disobedience of political disengagement and the idolatry of politics as our main priority. As evangelical Christians, we must engage in political action, not because we believe the conceit that politics is ultimate, but because we must obey our Redeemer when He commands us to love our neighbor. On the other hand, we are concerned for the culture, not because we believe that the culture is ultimate, but because we know that our neighbors must hear the gospel, even as we hope and strive for their good, peace, security, and well-being. The kingdom of God is never up for a vote in any elec-

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tion, and there are no polling places in the City of God. Nevertheless, it is by God’s sovereignty that we are now confronted with these times, our current crucial issues of debate, and the decisions that are made in the political process. This is no time for silence or for shirking our responsibilities as Christian citizens. Ominous signs of moral collapse and cultural decay now appear on our contemporary horizon. A society ready to put the institution of marriage up for demolition and transformation is a society losing its most basic moral sense. A culture ready to treat human embryos as material for medical experimentation is a society turning its back on human dignity and the sacredness of human life. Trouble in the City of Man is a call to action for the citizens of the City of God, and that call to action must involve political involvement as well. Christians may well be the last people who know the difference between the eternal and the temporal, the ultimate and the urgent. God’s truth is eternal, and Christian convictions must be commitments of permanence. Political alliances and arrangements are, by definition, temporary and conditional. This is no time for America’s Christians to confuse the City of Man with the City of God. At the same time, we can never be counted faithful in the City of God if we neglect our duty in the City of Man.

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