Genesis 4:16-24 Is Clear Evidence That The Culture Is Not Worth Fighting For
Posted by Job on December 25, 2010
In Bible-based Christianity today, there are two major camps. The largest camp by far is evangelical Christianity, and then there is fundamentalist Christianity. In terms of doctrine, it is fair to say that Bible-based evangelicals and Bible-based fundamentalists are indistinguishable. Instead, the core difference between is their approach to “the world”, or the larger culture. Fundamentalists believe in remaining separate from the larger culture however and whenever possible. Evangelicals believe in fully engaging the larger culture however and whenever possible. Evangelicals fear what happens to the larger culture when the influence of the church is removed. Fundamentalists fear what happens to the church when the influence of the culture is present.
Both groups have a large body of Bible verses on their side. For instance, in the Old Testament, fundamentalists point to how Israel was called to be separate from the other nations, and how they fell into apostasy when they refused to do so and wound up adopting the evil practices and false religions of the pagans. Evangelicals mention how Israel was called to be a light to the other nations (and some even claim that Israel erred in failing to try to convert the other nations) and of course speak of how the priests and prophets were integral to Israel’s government and culture. In the New Testament, evangelicals speak of the mandate to be salt and light to the nations, and of Jesus Christ’s prayer that the church not be taken out of the world. Fundamentalists counter with the Biblical admonitions of how we should not love the world or be conformed to it.
It comes down to fundamentalists and evangelicals’ having different views on how to interpret and live out the “in the world but not of it” not only for the individual Christian’s daily life, but for the mission of the church in the world as a whole. Is our role of the church to preserve itself as Christ’s spotless bride (and to ward against apostasy) or to restrain evil in – and possibly even help reform – the world?
Now the New Testament appears to provide more evidence to the evangelicals, if one uses the number of Bible verses as a gauge. However, when one understands that many of the Bible verses that appear to endorse “taking on the culture” were actually in the context of liberating Christians from dead Jewish practices (i.e. the words of Jesus Christ to the Pharisees and the writings of Paul to Gentiles), and still more were meant to warn Christians against becoming monastics (which was a common practice of both certain Jewish sects and of zealous Gentile pagans). Also, consider the judgments of Jesus Christ of the church in Revelation 2 and 3 – and especially to the Laodicean church – was over their failure to keep themselves pure, and not over their failure to take on, influence and change the world.
Now the evangelical arguments for engaging the culture are many, and most of them are supported with very sound theological foundations that have excellent Biblical support. The problem is that the witness of both the Bible and of church history is consistent: whenever the church takes on the culture, the culture wins. And whenever the church engages the culture, the result is never the culture becoming more like the church, but the church becoming more like the culture. It has been this way ever since Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom (and the disastrous consequences that resulted).
The reason is that when we take on the culture, we move outside of what we are called to do. We go from God’s mission, God’s mandate, God’s territory and into our own. So, we do not have God’s resources at our disposal for the “culture-changing” mission. Instead, we have our own resources. Now these resources may be considerable, especially in wealthy, powerful cultures where a large percentage of the population adheres to or respects some of Christianity. For instance, lots of money can be raised, lots of manpower can be marshaled, and things ranging from moving oratorical skills, inspiring artistic talents, and cunning organizational or strategic abilities can be dedicated.
And it is because of all this great human ability united towards a common purpose, it is possible to win a few battles. And when those battles are won, it does honestly appear as if God is on their side, especially if one’s approach to Christianity is numbers-driven, results-driven, outcome-driven etc. … anything that allows you to evaluate your success based on something that comes to fruition relatively quickly and is easy to measure.
But the truth is that it is all illusory. Gains made are turned back; battles may be won but the war is lost. The reason: Christians are not the only ones with great human abilities at their disposal. Non-Christians have the same. Not only that, they have superior numbers and resources, plus the god of this world, Satan, on their side.
With these “facts on the ground”, to employ a military term, the only way for a Christian to be able to claim victory in culture wars is to become so compromised and worldly, to become so dispirited by a series of defeats, surrenders and capitulations that a lesser defeat seems like a victory. It is like a sports team who goes winless for 10 straight years, then posts a season where they win a single game (or maybe 2), lose the rest, and celebrate it as progress. Or the situation of a school where 95% of its students are performing under grade level, and when “only” 75% of the students are performing under grade level, the principal and teachers are rewarded with promotions and bonuses, and a party is thrown for the parents. Or when a military goes into war with great aspirations i.e. to force a complete surrender and a peace treaty according to the terms of the invading army, but instead finds itself beaten, driven back and humbled, and winds up having to “declare victory” based on a much more modest set of “goals” that do not come close to justifying the invasion in the first place, and withdrawing while leaving the enemy regime and military in an even stronger position than they were before. So, evangelical theology – doctrine and practice – must contort itself in ways to contrive failures as successes so that both past endeavors that did fail and future efforts that will fail can be justified.
Now this should not be viewed in terms of fundamentalists’ possessing any sort of virtue for refusing to involve themselves in this folly. Quite the contrary, fundamentalists have a different set of problems of their own. Instead, all virtue and wisdom – all credit – belongs to the God who inspired the very Bible that is to be our guide on this matter and all others. And it is to this Bible that we can turn to for clear evidence that the church is not to fight for the culture, because the culture is not worth fighting for.
The Bible text in question: Genesis 4:16-24. Why? Because this text deals with man’s increasing in number and a culture forming as a result. It is true: God did create and give to mankind certain foundations or building blocks of culture. For instance, God created the institutions of marriage and family by joining together Adam and Eve and telling them to procreate. God also created occupations (work or labor) by making Adam the keeper of the garden of Eden, and by commanding Adam to till the ground to support himself and his family after the fall. So, it is safe to proceed from there with the position that marriage, family and labor were given by God to man through special, divine revelation and that they therefore are to be promoted and nurtured by the church among Christians in order to have marriages, families and labor that glorifies God. (Working to somehow sanctify the marriage/family/work habits of non-Christians is not part of our Biblical mandate.)
But in Genesis 4:16-24, we see other cultural developments taking place wholly outside of God’s involvement. We know this because this passage deals with the lineage of Cain, who was driven from God’s presence for murdering righteous Abel, and not with the Godly line of Seth. Now the Bible doesn’t deal much with Cain’s seed (or with people outside of God’s covenant in general except when they interact with or take actions that effect God’s covenant people) so we can take the position that this information was included for a reason, so that we can draw lessons from it. And what do we learn?
First, we learn that Cain built a city. So, civilization, or a more advanced and orderly structured human society, was a development that came from human invention and not as a result of divine command or revelation. Second, we learn that one of Cain’s progeny, Lamech, corrupted the institution of marriage by taking two wives. Further, this same Lamech created the beginnings of false religion by making authoritative claims – based on himself as the sole authority and source of power – and compelling other humans to hear and heed his claims. Also, Lamech’s claims – that if Cain would be avenged sevenfold, that he would be avenged seventy sevenfold – were designed specifically to emulate, challenge, magnify himself against, and rise above God’s power and revelation. This has been the purpose and goal of all false religions and ideologies ever since. Further, Lamech’s involving his wives in his religious pronouncements gave an organization to it, so Lamech then was not the originator of some self-styled individualized spirituality system internal to himself, but false organized religion observed and shared by other people.
Then there was Lamech’s own children. One began the practice of living in tents and also of cattle ranching, which was higher, more advanced and organized socioeconomic based lifestyle, a key cultural component of civilized societies. Another, Jubal, created music, and another still, Tubalcain, created metallurgy. Both of these are vital to both the arts and commerce, and necessary elements to the formation of higher culture and of civilization.
Add it all up, and you have cities, God-dishonoring marriages (marriage quickly became merely arrangements for economic and tribal purposes), false religion, advanced economics (and a lifestyle centered around it), the creative arts and advancing technology. What do you have? Civilization. Culture. And with all the norms, morals and values that go with it. Again, while God did give basic, lower forms or building blocks of culture as part of divine command and revelation, the higher forms, the cultural advancements, came from the line of Cain. They did not come from the Godly line of Seth, or of any of God’s covenant people.
Now this does not mean that culture is wholly, inherently evil. Quite the contrary, the Bible is filled with examples of God using culture and guiding or establishing cultural norms when dealing with His covenant people, including the fact that God organized Old Testament Israel along tribal lines. And Jesus Christ Himself was born in a Jewish culture that He loved, adhered to and respected. It is clear from Romans 13 and other places that Christians are not to be anarchists, subversives or other elements that debase and marginalize culture, because God uses some elements of culture to restrain evil. Amazingly, this actually does include false religion: consider that murder, adultery, theft etc. are considered sinful by Islam. These things are evidence of common grace, of God’s general revelation to all people. We have a merciful God who causes it to rain for the just and the unjust so that both can have water to drink and food to eat, and for that we rejoice!
However, the unjust are the unjust still. The Biblical record is clear: culture – or at least higher culture beyond marriage, family and work – was an innovation of the seed of Cain acting apart from God’s special revelation or direct command. And Revelation tells us that Babylon, the result of Cain’s work (human civilization), will be judged for its wickedness, which include acts defiance against God and of persecution of God’s people throughout all of human history beginning with Cain’s murder of righteous Abel.
So, human culture is not to be engaged and reformed by the church. Instead, human culture’s fate is to be judged and destroyed by God, and replaced by New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is not a human city built by fallen human efforts (which describes Cain’s city and all since) but a city built by God. A city or civilization built by humans will have a fallen human culture that is not worth fighting for. But New Jerusalem will have a redeemed Godly culture that we will not have to fight for, and that is what the church should set its eyes in anticipation for. Instead of loving and fighting for that which is corrupt, fallen and will be destroyed (this world), we should love and fight for that which is redeemed and will last forever (the world to come).
Christians have no part in Cain’s city, and should not even desire or aspire to, for the very idea of being a stakeholder in something that is wicked and will be destroyed is folly. It is worse than buying stock in a company that you know will go bankrupt and be shut down. It is worse because the money that you invest in that stock is temporary, but investing your heart and labor into Babylon will have eternal consequences. That is why instead of loving and laboring for what man has built, Christians should instead labor for and love what GOD is building.
Before you ask about Old Jerusalem – which is of special interests to dispensational Christians and many others – realize that while that city was given an exalted status in the Bible for old covenant Jews, please realize that Jerusalem was not built by Israelites. Instead, the first reference to Jerusalem in the Bible has the city being ruled by a wicked pagan king, and associated with the Jebusites. Similar is true of Bethlehem: it was not built by Israelites, but was a pre-existing village built by pagans that Israel assumed control of. Please note that God did not have Israel build a new nation from scratch, but rather had them take possession of a nation that already had cities, villages, economic infrastructure etc. in place.
From this, we can deduce that God wanted to build His own permanent city for His own people, and that Jerusalem and Israel were to be the temporary schoolmasters. And we see evidence of this even in the Old Testament scriptures from Old Testament Israel, as even with them, the emphasis began to shift from Old Testament Israel and its physical temple to the eschatological Zion. Let us recall that in Acts, Stephen bore witness of the fact that with the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this shift had in fact taken place. The result: Stephen became the first Christian martyr, murdered by Jews in love with the temple built by human hands (including the very evil Herod!) and the physical city built by pagans.
Make no mistake, Stephen, who rejected the world, was martyred at the hands of those who were unwilling to separate from the culture, from the world. In this manner, Christians are to be as Stephen, and not as those who stoned him.
Please keep in mind: all those born again in Christ Jesus will have their portion in New Jerusalem. Those who do not will spend eternity with the lost in the lake of fire. If you are not born again in Christ Jesus, you will have no part in New Jerusalem. To be in Christ Jesus and have a part in New Jerusalem: