Cultural captivity thesis

You have come to the heart of the matter when you ask why there is so little demonstration of a heterogeneous Christian community.

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The answer is that, in the main, the Church is trapped in the gross sin of cultural captivity. In the book of Acts we see the story of how the Church struggled to break free of a Jewish Captivity.

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The Apostle Paul was at the forefront of this battle and saw the issue far more clearly than did the other Apostles. Paul also saw the opposite danger of a Gentile Captivity of the Church, and he sought to avoid it, though history shows that he failed. In every culture there are points at which the Gospel is continuous with that culture and points at which it is discontinuous.

One of the points at which the Gospel is always discontinuous with the culture is at the point of Nationalism; that is, the exclusion of others on ethnic and cultural grounds. One of the key messages of the Tower of Babel story in the Old Testament is that Nationalism is part of the fallen nature.

This is what is so dangerous about civil religion, for civil religion always ends up as the promulgator of Nationalism. Perhaps the most startling example of this was under the Third Reich where Nazi altars and baptisms became common, and the Church had become the virtual peon of the State.

Mary Rowlandson: Captivity as "Literacy Event"

But this has also occurred in other countries; and in America under the influence of Jefferson and Lincoln, a form of civil religion was established. A specific example of how this has worked out today is the fact that the chaplaincy is a part of the military structure, with the result that there are some moral issues that chaplains simply cannot talk about.


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The way to solve this difficulty is not to abolish the chaplaincy but to establish a civilian chaplaincy. To the extent that the Church of Jesus Christ capitulates to civil religion and its incipient Nationalism, it is no longer prophetic nor Christian and has fallen into a cultural captivity. Civil religion and Biblical faith are never agreeable bedfellows.


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Perhaps this crisis was inevitable. Baptists have always prided ourselves on local church autonomy. In an increasingly post-denominational society, the decline in the ability of large associations such as CBF to be able to bind everyone together seems logical.

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Hill saw it coming with the SBC in the 20 th century, and those who will listen can see it coming now. LGBTQ individuals, allies and affirming churches simply cannot be expected to stay and continually be told to wait. Perhaps they will move to other groups, such as the Alliance of Baptist or Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.

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Perhaps they will form local or regional associations of like-minded churches, such as we saw in the early years of American Baptist life. Perhaps more and more will simply choose to walk alone. For some, the search for that Way may take them away from the Baptist fold.