Just as city fell into injustice one person at a time, so will it become just amid reform
For there to be reformation in Chattanooga there has to be a change in the individual. For there to be fig, maple and apple trees and their fruit, structural brambles and thorns must be heaped and burned.
The gospel truth works from the individual outward. If my city or yours is going to have reformation and revival, the work begins with individuals spreading the gospel claims to other individuals, to families to professions to callings to businesses and non-profit organizations.
By David Tulis
Indeed reformation comes from individuals, but has a societal and cultural and municipal effect. If there is going to be a Christian revival in Chattanooga it must come by individuals working en masse, in groups, through churches, through charities, via city council meetings, county commission gatherings, courts, lawyers’ offices, specific court cases, charity organization president’s offices, and in the neighborhoods among the poor and neglected without show.
I make this point recently to a Christian woman sitting next to me in Sunday school, telling her that my argument overall as journalist is “the argument of this church lived out and bearing fruit in the culture and byways of Chattanooga.”
The gospel has a cultural claim, and that nothing in the city does not belong to God and is exempt from His claim. She seems to bridle at this suggestion, implying that I am missing the point of the gospel, which apparently is salvation of the individual. Perhaps I am missing the point, she suggests, that I should focus on individual reform and let the cultural reform take care of itself.
Her comments give me an insight. Yes, the individual matters. Just as the full-orbed gospel changes society for the better one person at a time, so, too, does the half-gospel that passes for church doctrine today work one person at a time. And we are living out the fruit of that process today, with Christianity in my city here in Tennessee (and no doubt, yours, if you live elsewhere) being detached, indifferent, helpless to see problems, careless about injury and injustice, unable to see Christ’s claims in anything in the public realm.
We’ve arrived at our place today here in Chattanooga because of church doctrine that deny the kingship of Christ, His absolute government of all, His total jurisdiction over Hamilton County courthouse, the Tennessee Code Annotated, the Hamilton County bar association, the local international branch of ironworkers, the county school system, the traffic court of Judge Sherry Paty, the operation of the highway patrol, the doings of child welfare agencies, the re-election of Dr. Elenora Woods at the NAACP, the claims of federal law on local employers such as VW or Food City, the mayor’s office and its budgetary process, Sheriff Jim Hammond and his hiring and firing rules, the bail bond industry, the practice of the jail magistrate and so on.
We’ve arrived at the status quo of state violence and corruption because a weak form of Christianity with a weak God and a self-interested pietistic theology among the faithful spread person by person, heart by heart, individual to individual. And this gospel has, indeed, had a societal effect as God has ordained it to.
We are in our position today because of the individual’s place in American culture and how culture reflects individual en masse as the externalization of religion, as R.J. Rushdoony and Cornelius van Til point out.
Culture in Chattanooga and surrounding areas typifies what is American. That American life draws its customs and rituals from individuals, groups of individuals, populations of men and women, and groupings of families in neighborhoods and sectors.
Do we see problem in Chattanooga?
We seem locked into an immoveable situation because individual Christians believe a truncated private soul-oriented gospel, and the fruit of their convictions has spread abroad and put us into a situation that seemingly nothing can change.
I keep coming back to the woes covered in the news. Sixty-six percent of people in the jail are UNCONVICTED. Cops harass private travelers and are now highwaymen. Courts ignore the law. Lawyers have seized the general assembly and locked into place emoluments. The state operates systems outside of lawful warrant. Surveillance is rampant. The currency is corrupt and no one can stop it. The; district attorney subsidizes private criminal acts by city employees.
The discouragement of godliness in the public school system, the advocacy of public schools by ostensibly Christian men and women and family men, the desolation of the welfare state, the false hope of politics pumped in the press — these ideas are all nourished by the privatized concept of Christianity which is spread man by man, woman by woman, one person at a time, by the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us to be blind and deaf.
We are living out to day a conflict between two versions of Christianity. The strong version of Christianity is in the wings, and is taught here and there, and has proponents here and there, such as those writers and advocates of Christian reconstruction — Joel McDurmon, Bojidar Marinov, R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Gary DeMar, Greg Bahnsen et al — a group whose labors began in the 1960s.
The weak form of Christianity controls culture in Chattanooga. Its victories are all around us. Salvation is secured personally among tens of thousands of individual Christian believers in the Lord Jesus in the Chattanooga area. But the public and civil life of city and county, state and nation, evidences great ruin, if only by the power of the Holy Spirit might God’s people realize it and get to work in Christian reformation and rebuilding.