Strangers And Aliens (23d): You Are Not Alone (1 Peter 5:6–11)

Politicians have often been tempted to declare “Peace in Our Time.”

In our time there has been an almost desperate desire to be approved by the broader culture, even as orthodox Christianity is marginalized. We see this in the compromises made by the mainline denominations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the liberals and critics demanded that the heretofore culturally acceptable and occasionally influential denominations (the so-called “Seven Sisters of the Mainline,” the UMC, the ELCA, the PCUSA, ECUSA, ABC, UCC, and the D of C) give up the ecumenical doctrine of Scripture, of its infallibility and authority. Then they came for the ecumenical doctrine that God is almighty (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon are apparently too narrow) in favor of some version of process theism.

 

v. 8: Resist The Devil
Politicians have often been tempted to declare “Peace in Our Time.” The most notorious example of this folly is the 1938 declaration by the Prime Minister of Great Britain that he and the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler had reached an accord to prevent war between them.

As you can see for yourself, Chamberlain was fairly bursting with pride at his accomplishment. That pride was quickly dashed, however, as Great Britain was at war with Germany by 1939. Like all tyrants, Hitler was willing to offer what he never intended to give. He was a liar and a murderer, which became evident soon enough. He was not the first, however. There have been many such liars and evil totalitarians. The impulse to make ourselves into gods is ancient. We know who the father of lies is. Jesus said to those who claimed to be Abraham’s children but who sought to murder him:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44; ESV).

Satan came to Eve and lied. He offered what was not his to give: divinization and equality with God (Gen 3:5; Phil 2:6). He grasped at what was not his. Adam foolishly made a false covenant with him and, in so doing, broke the covenant of works. Instead of an eternity of blessed fellowship with God, represented by the tree of life, he sought to be God, to supplant God, and so ate death and judgment (represented by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). So it ever is with the Evil One. So it has been with us since the fall.

Peter had great cause to warn the Christians of Asia Minor to “resist” (ἀντίστητε) him. Given the suffering of the Christians in Rome and the pressure they felt from the surrounding pagan culture, from their families, from their masters and employers, it must have been a great temptation for them, as it is for us, to “cut a deal,” as we say, to sue for peace with the Adversary (ἀντίδικος; v. 8).

In our time there has been an almost desperate desire to be approved by the broader culture, even as orthodox Christianity is marginalized. We see this in the compromises made by the mainline denominations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the liberals and critics demanded that the heretofore culturally acceptable and occasionally influential denominations (the so-called “Seven Sisters of the Mainline,” the UMC, the ELCA, the PCUSA, ECUSA, ABC, UCC, and the D of C) give up the ecumenical doctrine of Scripture, of its infallibility and authority. Then they came for the ecumenical doctrine that God is almighty (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon are apparently too narrow) in favor of some version of process theism. Then they came for the doctrine of salvation, the ecumenical doctrine that only believers are saved, which they replaced with universalism. Over the course, of time the rot has worked its way through to Christian ethics so that the ancient and universal understanding of marriage and human sexuality have been, in some of the mainline churches, replaced with socially acceptable views. All along the way the mainline churches have capitulated in the hope of regaining their former, imagined influence.

Since the the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy marginalized the fundamentalists, their evangelical grandchildren have spoken of a “seat” at the cultural table. Over the last 40 years, as the early neo-evangelical leadership of Carl Henry et al gave way to the baby-boomers, the evangelicals have given conceded the old doctrine of the complete infallibility of Scripture for, e.g., the infallibility of Scripture on theological, as distinct from historical, matters. Where the liberals  adopted process theism and Unitarian Universalism, the evangelicals capitulated on Open Theism. We could go on but you get the picture.

Peter knows nothing of “peace in our time” with the prevailing pagan culture, insofar as the pagans refused to distinguish religion from civil life—Darryl Hart is right. It was Christianity that gave us the sacred/secular distinction—and demanded that we Christians acknowledge the pagan pantheon, Caesar as a deity, and that we denounce Christ. The pagan Romans were sometimes willing to  allow us to co-exist but sometimes not, even though we were manifestly no threat to the empire or the civil order.

Neither is Satan willing for us to co-exist.

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