“The church is to be in the world as a ship is in the ocean,” declared Dr. Erwin Lutzer. “But if the ocean gets into the ship, the ship is in trouble, and I believe that the evangelical church is taking on water. So one of the things we have to do is bail out the water, but we also have to continue to sail on the ocean.”
Lutzer, the former 36-year pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, was sharing about his 2018 book, The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness. He told AFA Journal, “This book is my word to the American Church. [Immigration, Islam, and sexual purity] are the kinds of issues we are confronting, we have to address as Christians.”
The battle must be hard, the enemy must be strong, because Lutzer persisted even after circumstances caused him to miss three deadlines at the publisher. “The question is,” he said, “how do we relate to this culture? How do we confront our culture in this very confused world?”
Bowing in silence
He continued: “This is my great concern: Many Christians are bowing through silence because the [intimidation] pressure is so great. The shame is so great – if we take a stand – that many people go for silence. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right when he said that when we are silent, we also speak.”
Lutzer believes the church has three options, just as the Jews did when they were to represent God in Babylon. Many Jews first got very angry at the Babylonians. Many Christians have mirrored that response, but Lutzer said, “It’s not a good bridge to the culture.”
The next choice is assimilation. “You just go with culture,” said Lutzer, “which is where a lot of people are.”
Drawing a line
The best, faithful choice is to engage the culture. Lutzer added, “When Jesus said we are to be in the world but not of it, [He meant] we are to be in the world but not contaminated by it.” He cited the book of Daniel when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were able to go with the culture to an extent but also drew a line in the sand.
Lutzer hopes readers will ask themselves: What can I go along with, and where is my line in the sand?
The first 10 chapters of The Church in Babylon address current problems from within and outside the church. (See below.) The final chapter answers the question “What are the core things that we must hang onto if we want to survive Babylon?”
In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” The answer may be no — unless the church heeds Lutzer’s challenge and aligns itself with God’s Word.
Editor’s Note: The section below was a sidebar for the article as an overview of the book mentioned in the interview above. The book can be purchased here and at other major book retailers.
Government and God
In The Church in Babylon, Dr. Erwin Lutzer articulates the church’s options and lines in the sand for hostile work environments, technology, purity, transgenderism, sexuality, Islam, and immigration. He also addresses the challenge when government wants to become God, five false gospels within the evangelical church, and being the gospel to the world.
Lutzer’s last chapter includes six common behaviors and actions which will be pillars of a church that can survive Babylon. They include being a body in unity with Christ as the head, persistence in prayer and study, and listening to hard truths from the Bible as they plant the seeds of the gospel outside the church.
“Farmers plant seed in a field, not a barn,” he wrote. Learn more at erwinlutzer.org.
Editor's Note: Originally published online here and in the June 2019 issue of The AFA Journal, under the title: The church must sail on.