If you’re reformed, you have likely heard the expression semper reformanda (always reforming). This phrase was meant as a rally cry for the church to be continually reevaluating traditions and beliefs to ensure accordance with the Word of God. At the heart of the sentiment is an emphasis on purifying both doctrine and practice (theology and ethics). And while this slogan is often used in association with the church as a whole, its message is one with particular application to today’s individual Christian who finds him or herself mired in the mental muck of Western society.
My fear today is that so many Christians are losing the ability to think with a Christian mind, to see every aspect of life through a Christian lens, and to throw off all practices and beliefs that are inconsistent with biblical truth. Worse, there is an apathy more endemic than any pandemic sickening the members of the modern church. “Is such-and-such really that big of a deal?” Or, worse, we don’t even bother considering what we’re doing at all. We have no qualms about the blending of culture and religion nor do we feel remorse when we compartmentalize our Christian faith from the remainder of our daily lives. So, how do we overcome secular brainwashing and regain the Christian mind? How do we realign our thoughts and actions to glorify God in all things?
Recognize Traditions and Cultural Bias
The first step in any good recovery system is admitting you have a problem, yet so many of today’s Christians are insistent they have no unbiblical church traditions or cultural biases. In many ways we’ve been so brainwashed by our environment that we can no longer discern the difference between our assumptions and the truth.
For example: As my husband and I prepare for the arrival of our first child, a daughter, we have had several discussions about what we should be teaching her about God, life, family, and sex. Such as: is it appropriate for men and women to kiss before marriage? This was a question I had never really considered before. I had assumed, based solely on my culture and without any biblical basis, that it was no big deal. This is the nefariousness of secular brainwashing, that it places the Christian mind in a vegetative state. To wake from the coma means to actively challenge your preconceived notions as a daily habit.
Study Church History
It’s a popular maxim that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. It’s no wonder, then, that all sorts of ancient heresies have a way of rearing their ugly heads in the modern world when America’s evangelicals could not care less about church history. In fact, so many of the practices in today’s American churches have arisen, not from adherence to biblical principles, but from manmade religious movements or ideas.
Take the altar call. Do you know its origination and how it has perpetuated decisional theology? What about the social gospel movement of the early 20th century and how it has influenced the way Christians interact with society today? Does the average professing Christian know anything about what early church fathers believed on any topic let alone why they believed what they did? Could he or she tell you anything about the Reformation aside from that there was some guy hammering 95 theses to a door?
We have thousands of years of Christian history, a family of countless men and women of faith from whom we can learn, and yet we are so arrogant as to believe we know better without ever taking the time to trace our beliefs through the past. In short, an ignorance of church history makes it impossible to evaluate one’s traditions without bias. We should be very wary of ignoring the lessons of those who came before.
Submit to Church Authority and Be Teachable
I’ve written an entire post about why church matters (read here), but it’s important to reiterate once again that separating yourself from the local church is a recipe for spiritual disaster, making you a ripe target for secular brainwashing. Submitting to the elders of your local church allows you to grow in sanctification through the preaching of the Word while being held accountable for your response to that teaching.
Being teachable is synonymous with humility. It is demonstrating a willingness to submit oneself to God apart from one’s emotions or bias. Again, this goes back to semper reformanda. The prideful refuse to reconsider their positions when faced with biblical evidence. The wise are always reforming their positions to ensure consistency with and obedience to Scripture. Those who want to avoid being manipulated by the surrounding culture need to understand that theology matters and take seriously the teaching of those whom God has placed over them.
Understand the Necessity of Systematic Theology Over Prooftexting
One of my pastors (shoutout to theological sushi) has a shirt that reads: I can do all things through a verse taken out of context. This is called prooftexting, and isolating verses in this way to support one’s biases only serves to plunge one deeper into heresy. It’s nearly impossible to overcome cultural brainwashing if you’re only going to use Scripture to prop up your own presuppositions. Instead, we should see the Bible as an orderly whole, conveying truth through a comprehensive and consistent system of theology.
A good point of application for today’s Christian women is to consider what it means in practical terms to be a complementarian. Is it enough for us to merely affirm that women can’t be elders (1 Tim. 2:11-12), or is there a deeper systematic theology undergirding what the proper and distinct roles of men and women should be? The former idea argues anything is permissible if it isn’t explicitly barred in Scripture, the latter recognizes God has laid out a positive framework of living that must be earnestly derived from the whole counsel of His Word. These overarching principles, not an arbitrary collection of a prooftexts, should determine how we see and interact with the world around us.
Take Holiness and Obedience Seriously
You aren’t going to take any of these steps seriously if you aren’t concerned with holiness or obedience. Sadly, this is a reality in much of today’s evangelicalism which animates the boogeyman of legalism to justify engaging in sin or indifference. While we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, we are called to obedience as a demonstration that our faith is true. A self-proclaimed Christian who has no concern about holiness should question whether he or she is a Christian at all.
We should desire to grow in sanctification, to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ, and to glorify God through our thoughts and actions. This yearning to serve our Lord should be the catalyst that encourages us to evaluate our surroundings with a distinctly Christian mind, casting off all secular debris that would pollute our thinking and dishonor God.
The question is not whether we can perfectly disconnect ourselves from secular persuasion but rather whether we will be complicit in surrendering our minds to society’s whims. Dear Christian, let us fight daily with fervor for the battleground of our minds.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV