Suppose we were defending a city, and you and I and two other guys were sentries on the wall. You, of course, are a most reasonable fellow, as am I, so that’s all good. But unbeknownst to us, the sentry on our left is really on the enemy’s side, and the guy on the other side of us is the sweetest fellow ever, and cannot be prevailed upon to believe anything negative about anybody, which would include those who might be attacking our city. Between us girls, he really shouldn’t have been allowed even to be a sentry, but he does bring the men coffee and cocoa, and he is a very pleasant companion in the mid-watch.
The two of us in the middle are known for our extremist views, by which is meant the fact that we can see the enemy approaching, and we have actually been discussing sending up another alarm about it. Once or twice before during the night one of us walked over and rang the bell, and there was a great pother about it. The captain of the watch, who was a really nice guy also, just like the sentry to our right, was actually starting to get annoyed. It was quite something to behold. But he was not annoyed at the fact of enemies approaching, but rather with the fact that he had people in his guard who kept ringing bells in the middle of the night.
So there we were, discussing ringing the bell yet again because we were pretty sure (a euphemism for absolutely certain) that we saw them still coming. The sentry to the right was expostulating with us. “Why this alarmism?” Well, you said, it is because we are stationed by this alarm here, and our orders in the book say that we are supposed to ring it if enemies approach. With that you point out into the gloaming, out to the mountains that surround our fair city, trying to get him to look. “Well, I just don’t interpret things in the same black and white way you do,” the nice guy said, staring hard at the tower in the middle of the city.
“Not there, behind you,” you reply. More extremism on display.
“And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men. And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim. Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.”
Judges 9:36–38 (KJV)
And then the sentry over on the left, the enemy plant who had been quiet up to this point, said to the sentry over on our right, “Where is now thy mouth?” You are going to die also, just like these two noisy buckets.
The Sheepdogs That Wouldn’t Bark
How many reassurances need to be proven false before we stop believing those reassuring noises? How many times did faithful sentries have to get written up for ringing the bell before we realize that the wrong guys are in charge of this outfit?
The established leadership of Big Eva has consistently, and for decades now, been warning the people of God about all the wrong dangers, about the things that are not the true threat. It is as though—in the months running up to Pearl Harbor—the people in charge of all the defenses there had been warning the people about a possible Peruvian invasion from the east.
You doubt what I say? So right on the threshold of a major satanic offensive against God’s design for human sexuality, gender roles, the definition of marriage, and the family, what were our Approved Voices telling us to guard against? Don’t you remember? That’s right—our idolatry of the traditional family. Or our making a fetish out of heterosexuality. Or the fact that your congregation in northern Wisconsin did not reflect the same demographic realities that will be present at the general resurrection—which is like telling a church in the north of Finland that they didn’t have enough Congolese members. That’s right. We put up with that kind of nonsense for years from men like Tim Keller, Russell Moore, David French, Matthew Hall, et al (which is Latin for “and Al” Mohler). Beware of rising Peru in the east!
But please note. Returning to my first illustration, I am not charging these men with being the sentry to the left, the guy who is actually on the side of the bad guys. No, they are good guys who nevertheless still failed at their assigned job. They either refused to see the real threat themselves (French) or they saw and spoke about the real threat, but somehow kept hiring people who wouldn’t see the real threat (Mohler).
“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.”
Ezekiel 33:6 (KJV)
Now is there such a thing as idolatry of traditional family? Of course there is. Fallen humans are capable of fashioning an idol out of pretty much anything. But was that the actual threat looming on our horizon? What was actually headed out way? What was headed our way was something like a cross between the Central Plaza of South Sodom and Bourbon Street— and yet we were being warned about the white picket fences of a small town in central Iowa.
The reason this happened is because our evangelical sentries had become creatures of intellectual fashions of thought —instead of students of the Word, and the world in the light of that Word. They had been educated by our institutions of higher respectable thought, which are, in effect, just hot tubs of intellectual fashion.
But notice what Lewis warns us against. When we go along with the “fashionable outcry” of each generation, what happens then?
“The use of fashions in thought is to distract men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gone under.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
And this is exactly what has happened to our evangelical elites.
What We Should Pray For
There is going to be a recoil to all this madness. Right now, I don’t think that can be avoided. I suspect that we are going to come down to a choice between some kind of a red pill blow up, on the one hand, and reformation and revival on the other. And because this is a big country, we even might get both. We might get attempts at secession, we might get a constitutional crisis, and we might get shooting. Whatever it is, I predict a mess.
Our interest as Christians first should be the advancement of the kingdom of God. That means that we should pray for peace. While it is true that God often uses turmoil to wake His people up, He nevertheless does not instruct us to pray for that turmoil.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:1–4 (KJV)
But here is the trick about those “quiet and peaceable lives.” On the one hand you have to guard yourself against the temptation to go to sleep while on sentry duty. Francis Schaeffer warned us about how we could be bought off with “personal peace and prosperity.” So that is a danger.
On the other hand, we have to guard ourselves against those hectoring voices who tell us that God wants all men to be saved, and so we must take special care not to pray the way He said. That would be “making an idol” out of “quiet and peaceable lives.” Now we shouldn’t make an idol out of anything, but that does not change the fact that the apostle Paul taught us that because God wants all men to be saved, we should therefore pray for a quiet and peaceable life in the suburbs, with green lawns everywhere you look. And if we get that, which we did, we should have used the opportunity the way God instructed us—for the advancement of the kingdom.
Because we refused, by which I mean we found ourselves with leaders who warned us more about the idolatry of green lawns than they did about the orgies and pride parades downtown, we therefore squandered the opportunity God instructed us to pray for, and which He mercifully gave to us.
And that is why we are now having to do our current work of advancing the kingdom in the middle of clown world. If my suspicions are correct, it is also why, in just a few years, we are going to be working at advancing the kingdom in an angry red pill world.
Neither scenario is pretty, but faithfulness calls for it.