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Captive to Culture

Philip S. Gorski outlines our decline into captivity.

Philip S. Gorski traces the decline of evangelicalism and outlines its present captivity to cultural forms in “The Long, Withdrawing Roar” (The Hedgehog Review, Summer, 20210).

“There was a time in American history, until around 1900, when religious capital acquired through religious socialization and training and manifested in religious knowledge and piety, was actually the dominant species of cultural capital. Most of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious universities were originally religious institutions; many of the nation’s best and brightest became pastors and theologians. Most of the books, magazines, and pamphlets published in the United States were religious in nature.” All that is gone now, and evangelicalism has lost both its distinctives as a movement and its influential role in society.

The Church has become captive to the culture and is more concerned with outward appearances than inward and spiritual realities. Economics, politics, and secular business practices have seeped into the evangelical world and become its defining standards. Gorski traces the process by which the Church’s subjugation to secular ideals and aspirations has rendered it captive to the culture and powerless to effect the most important kinds of changes.

He offers this advice to Church leaders: “Religious leaders need to retreat from politics and re-establish their authority over the religious field. They should focus on building the Kingdom instead of ‘changing the culture’ – because ‘the culture’ has already colonized their kingdom.”

This is a brief and helpful overview of a process that has been ongoing for over 100 years. It’s not likely to change until Church leaders rediscover their vision of Christ and His Kingdom, and give themselves to repentance, revival, and renewal in Christ and His Word.

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