Whenever believers confront unbelieving cultures, the perennial question arises — what can and cannot be taken from them and used by us in the advancement of the kingdom? One of the most enduring illustrations of what to do here is the image given by one of the early church fathers, which is that of plundering the Egyptians. When Israel came out of Egypt, they did so with many Egyptian treasures, treasures that were subsequently used in the building of the tabernacle. And this is a great image — we ought to use it more, and apply additional aspects of the metaphor. I say this because of the temptation that many contemporary Christians have to plunder gold from the postmodernists. And this is fine, provided we remember two important points related to the process.
When do you plunder the enemy? Well, you do so after you have defeated him. You do not get to do this simply because you are “against” your enemy. You have to actually defeat him. When did the Israelites take this gold from the Egyptians? This occurred after the superpower of Egypt was a smoking helicopter on the ground, blades sticking out at grotesque angles. The Lord Jesus followed this reasonable procedure as well — He did not take the strong man’s goods until after He had bound him securely. Then He plundered the house. But there are a good many confused souls who, in the name of plundering the enemy, are actually fraternizing with the enemy. I have no problem taking insights from the postmodernists. But I don’t think we ought to do it until after the cathedral is built, and Derrida’s visage can be found on one or more of the gargoyles.
This is related to the second point, which is, what do we plunder? If we are confused about our need to be loyal to Christ above all, in all, and through all, we will have a tendency to take “gold” from the Egyptians that is not gold at all. In the name of plundering the Egyptians, we will actually be dumpster diving in Egypt. Sure, take gold from the Egyptians. But at this point in time, those who are urging the church to avail ourselves of all this gold are not setting the kind of example that inspires me to confidence. “Let us take gold from the Egyptians!” say they, and yet when I look in the rusty shopping cart they are pushing away from Memphis, all I can see is Holiday Inn towels with holes in them, used grapefruit rinds, some Elvis knick-knacks, and some old Tarentino videos.