God has His winnowing fork in His hand

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week about something Peter Leithart wrote last summer in the wake of the Windsor decision. Among other things, Leithart observed that the culture war over homosexuality is all but over and that Christians will be entering a time of conflict and (for some) suffering. Anyone who speaks plainly about what the Bible says will face the onslaught. The separation he predicted is underway right now (see Trevin Wax’s delineation of the fault lines). All ambiguity is being swept away. Looking back, it’s hard to deny that Leithart’s words are prescient of the current moment. He writes:

Windsor presents American Christians with a call to martyrdom. In Greek, martyria means “witness,” specifically witness in a court. At the very least, the decision challenges American Christians to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics without compromise or apology. But Windsor presents a call to martyrdom in a more specific sense. There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms. Scalia’s reference to the pagan Roman claim that Christians are “enemies of mankind” was probably not fortuitous.

Many churches have already capitulated to the Zeitgeist , and many others will. Some Christians and some churches won’t be up to the challenge. For those who heed Paul’s admonition not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, things are going to get sticky. But we are servants of God. He opens our ears to hear, and he gives us tongues to speak truth. If that means we are insulted and marginalized, if it means we yield our back to the smiters and our face to those who spit on us, so be it.

This will force a major adjustment in conservative Christian stance toward America. We’ve fooled ourselves for decades into believing that Christian America was derailed recently and by a small elite. It’s tough medicine to realize that principles inimical to traditional Christian morals are now deeply embedded in our laws, institutions and culture. The only America that actually exists is one in which “marriage” includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.

God has his winnowing fork in his hand, and he’s ready to use it. There’s likely to be a lot of chaff, blown away like mist. But there will be a harvest. We’re being sent into an oven, but Jesus will crush the grain of the harvest so that, baked in the fire of the Spirit, it will become bread for the life of the world.

23 Responses to God has His winnowing fork in His hand

  1. Joe Rigney April 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    Denny,

    Good word here. I recently read Steven Keillor’s book God’s Judgments in which he argues that we are able to offer a biblically rooted, historically careful reading of historical events. He emphasizes God’s judgments as siftings, in which the righteous and wicked are separated as God does his winnowing work. Keillor uses the run-up to the Civil War as a good example of this extended sifting, which climaxed in the war. As I read his descriptions, it was eerily familiar to many of our contemporary debates. I’d recommend the book.

    • Denny Burk April 2, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

      Well, I don’t know if I can read that. I’m already scared just reading your description.

    • Denny Burk April 2, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

      Seriously, though. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • James Bradshaw April 3, 2014 at 6:16 am #

      @Joe. What’s frightening is listening to men pretend to know the mind of God. I guess it’s intriguing to speculate on these things, but let’s call it what it is: speculation.

      Since we are doing that – and since you brought up the Civil War – which side do you suppose was more under the judgment of God … and why?

  2. buddyglass April 2, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    “There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms.”

    Seems like it really depends on one’s situation. How have you suffered, Denny, for speaking the truth? Or, if not yet, how do you expect to potentially suffer?

    • Denny Burk April 2, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

      I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was thinking about folks like Baronelle Studsman and Elaine Huguenin.

      • buddyglass April 3, 2014 at 12:00 am #

        Understood. But that’s kind of the point. Leithart (and perhaps yourself) seem to want to make a universal statement. You write, “Anyone who speaks plainly about what the Bible says will face the onslaught.” Leithart says, “There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms.”

        If you’re speaking the truth but haven’t paid a cost then either:

        1. You aren’t actually speaking the truth, or at least not in the way Leithart has in mind,
        2. You’ve paid a cost but don’t realize it, or
        3. Leithart’s statement is not accurate.

        “You” in the above is meant to be the generic “you” and not a reference to you personally.

        • Ian Shaw April 3, 2014 at 8:25 am #

          His Grace may be a free gift, but it is costly.

          -to be called a bigot or homophobe
          -to lose friends or family over your view-point on social issues
          -to be ostracized at your workplace for your views
          -to be called narrow minded
          -to be sued in court over your religious views

          These things are flying around everywhere. If people are experiencing a cost at this exact moment, that doesn’t mean it will not happen in the future. When this new cultural moral standard matures, you will see this all over the map.

          • Ian Shaw April 3, 2014 at 8:26 am #

            *aren’t

        • Esther O'Reilly April 3, 2014 at 9:14 am #

          I know personal friends who’ve come under pressure at their jobs to affirm homosexuality. One of them was being bullied as a department store counter girl by a transgender “man” to say he looked good in a dress. Another has repeatedly refused to participate in office activities that celebrate/affirm the normalcy of homosexuality (e.g., a quilt celebrating “gay pride”).

          You can’t be vocal about what you believe in the “real world” right now and not take some heat. Sometimes, you can’t even escape if someone just decides to push your buttons and senses discomfort.

          • Ian Shaw April 3, 2014 at 9:48 am #

            Or an employer mandating volunteer hours at certain organiztions as part of the company’s “social responsibility” values, that clash agianst what some employees believe.

          • Rick Wilson April 3, 2014 at 11:21 am #

            Esther is so right here, I am hearing more and more stories, and especially from public school officials and teachers. It’s coming, and Buddy has been on the “deny deny deny” path for some time, saying that we shouldn’t talk about the path we are clearly on until we arrive at the destination. I do not understand your motivation in this Buddy, but you do much harm with your glib attitude towards real people who are paying prices for truth and the many more who are to come. People who share your attitude are not going to stand faithful with what is to come. You need to stop this.

          • buddyglass April 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

            I wasn’t attempting to make the point that nobody will suffer. Rather, that not everybody will suffer. Denny, for instance, instead of being persecuted at his job for speaking the truth, stands to be promoted for doing so.

        • Gus Nelson April 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

          buddyglass: The key words here, I think, are “will be.” Thus, maybe you could add a part four to your analysis: You haven’t paid a cost, yet. What do you think?

          • buddyglass April 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

            Point taken. That’s why I asked Denny in my original post, “Or, if not yet, how do you expect to potentially suffer?”

  3. James Stanton April 2, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    “It’s tough medicine to realize that principles inimical to traditional Christian morals are now deeply embedded in our laws, institutions and culture.”

    I think this is somewhat myopic. There’s this myth that this country ostensibly founded on “Judeo-Christian” values actually functioned that way from its inception. Gay marriage and abortion are merely modern-day examples of society’s degeneracy. We can find other gross examples of moral evils from our own history across generations.

    I do have to point out that it’s actually become much harder for women to “kill their babies” in some parts of the country in the last few years. I do make a distinction between the use of contraception and the premeditated decision to take a specific life.

  4. Brian Watson April 3, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    Something I’ve been thinking about in recent days: we (Bible-believing Christians) should refuse to use the term “culture wars.” It seems to me that this term is used by liberal Christians to imply that debating issues like homosexuality and abortion is somehow peripheral, and not connected to the core doctrines of the faith. One can imagine a statement like this: “You evangelicals only care about culture wars. You don’t care about souls.”

    Of course, depending on how one defines “culture,” these are culture wars. But, really, those who want to affirm that homosexuality and abortion are somehow morally neutrally are waging war against God. They are denying the words of a personal God, ignoring what the Bible says. This act is nothing short of rebellion. So, perhaps we should reject that we are waging “culture wars,” and instead assert that they are raging against God, and the Word. The issues of human sexuality and human worth are not side issues. To deny what God says about these issues is to deny the Creator.

    • Denny Burk April 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

      I think the culture war over homosexuality is over. But we never get past the need to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

    • James Stanton April 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      Brian, I think part of your premise is that the term “culture wars” implies that something can be won, perpetuated, lost, or submitted to in defeat. In that sense, the “culture wars” are purely political and there is no change to the mission of the church regardless of the “result” on the battlefield.

  5. Chris Ryan April 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    Where’s the cheer here? This is too fatalistic. Let’s not wrap ourselves in the cloak of victimization. God calls us to be happy soldiers, joyful in our sacrifice. James 1:2 says to count it all joy! Romans 5:3 says we rejoice in our sufferings! 2 Corinthians 12:10 says I am content with insults and hardships! The church has some serious issues to saw through, but we will emerge the stronger and better for it.

  6. Kelly Hall April 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Howdy Denny, seeing this post and the one regarding Jen Hatmaker/World Vision, I can’t help but think of something. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one authority to handle these matters of defending the faith? Wouldn’t it be nice to have one person in all of the world guiding Christ’s followers and His Church? If there was one authority, might we actually be united in Christ and evangelizing–instead of debating amongst Protestants, Catholics and non-Christians?

    • Ken Abbott April 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

      “Wouldn’t it be nice to have one authority to handle these matters of defending the faith?” We have such an authority. The word of God is the sole infallible norm in matters of faith and practice.

      “Wouldn’t it be nice to have one person in all the world guiding Christ’s followers and His Church?” We have such a Person. The Holy Spirit is the real vicar of Christ on this earth.

      The problem is, we refuse to submit to either.

  7. James Bradshaw April 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Only in Crazy Land is “having to tell a transgender male he looks good in a dress” deemed “persecution”. I’m somewhat doubting this story, anyhow. Since when is having to lie a job requirement? Tell the creep that the dress makes his thighs look fat. What’s he going to do?

    Look, you’re all being way too melodramatic about all of this. Christianity has gone through the split between the East and West (Orthodox/Roman Catholicism). It has gone through the Protestant Reformation (which often involved persecution of Christians *by other Christians* to the point of bloodshed). I’m sure it will survive the ability of gay couples to get a civil marriage license by their own government that is supposed to represent them (as well as you).

    So you don’t like being called names. Neither do I. If that’s all you end up having to deal with, consider yourself fortunate (especially when you look at the very real persecution and threats to life suffered by Christians across the world).

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