American Christianity is heading towards a civil war due to woke theology. This is according to John Cooper, the lead singer of the Christian rock band Skillet. Cooper has, in many ways, risen to become a voice in the wilderness, drawing attention to the serious dangers that threaten the Church and Evangelicalism in the United States.
It’s not surprising that we would be facing these issues though. When we study the history of the Church, particularly the Church in the West, we tend, frequently, to focus on a few pivotal moments or periods. We look at the persecutions that happened in the early days amidst the backdrop of the Roman Empire or the Reformation carried forward by Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and others, perhaps going a little earlier to the trials of Jan Hus, or we study the most recent events that have happened. To paraphrase Captain Pete in the What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver Series, you’ve heard of Jesus way back then, and you’ve heard of Billy Graham way over here, but what happened in between?
When we go back to study the entire course of church history though, we come up with an interesting picture. What we find is that it is rife with civil war. I don’t simply mean the Great Schism which separated the Eastern Church and the Roman Church, nor do mean the Reformation which gave birth to Protestantism. I mean earlier than that even.
The Council of Nicaea in 325, for example, had to contend with the Arian view espoused by the Presbyter Arius and his followers. This wasn’t just a fringe group with a fringe voice. It, in fact, was a very serious threat, one that had the potential of displacing orthodox Christianity with a heretical Christology. To witness the years that would follow would see periods where the Arian factions would gain power and influence within the Imperial Court following Constantine’s legalizing of the Christian faith. This would, in turn, force the exile of true and faithful Christian bishops. Athanasius, a giant of the faith, would struggle throughout this period as would others. Ambrose of Milan, the Bishop who had helped guide Augustine of Hippo in his faith, had to make his stand against the Arian Emperor Valentinian II and his mother Justina.
As the state sponsored heresy which sought to supplant true Christianity civil war ensued as the two factions fought for the heart and soul of the Church.
None of this is to say that this is a desirable state for the church to be in. As we are reminded in the psalm of David,
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore. (Ps. 133)
Unity is the preferred state of things as we find ourselves bound together through the Spirit in Christ. Yet, this is not always the way in which it can be. After all, as the apostle Paul reminds us, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). We are to live in unity, but that unity is to be marked by true teaching and a faithful witness. Anything short of that is to be watched out for and avoid.
Individuals like Cooper are absolutely right. There is a coming storm. It is a storm that threatens to rip apart the fabric of the unity of the Church through dangerous, heretical secular thought. It is weaving its way through American Evangelicalism. The warning that he, and others like him, are offering are of the utmost importance, and should wake us from a sense of complacency that has, for so long, gripped us amidst the ease of our Western life.
More than that though, it is a call. It is a call to faithful Christian to see the challenge that lays now before them. It is a fight for the heart of Western Christendom, and to rise up to offer a true and faithful witness, to stand for true doctrine according to the divinely inspired, inerrant Word of God in the face of the Woke Theology that seeks to supplement orthodox Christianity.
Christian men must take an active role in this battle. They must be true Christian leaders amidst this fight. This is because, to quote John Piper, “Our existence as male and female commits us to different responsibilities of leadership in relation to each other. One way to put it is that God wills that men, by virtue of their maleness, have a greater responsibility for personal, directive, spiritual leadership in relation to women than women do in relation to men.” As men we are called to spiritual leadership, guarding and protecting the church from these dangers as they appear. This is a responsibility that we must take seriously, recognizing the task that lay before us.
Even as we witness the growing wave of woke theology that is being foisted upon the church, we must have the courage to stand up and push back, defending scriptural truth and biblical doctrine in a world increasingly hostile to it. We need to know the Word and we need to live the Word even as we pray for the strength of God through His Spirit. We cannot abdicate or forgo the place that we have in this struggle, or in the challenges that lay ahead.
The truth is the Church has been sustained by the Spirit throughout the generations, even in the face of incredible hostility and popular heresy, in the face of open struggle and widespread false doctrine. Even as restrictions were lifted on the Church during the reign of Constantine and after, it still had to face hardship, and rely on the Spirit as those in power, those of influence, sought to impose heterodoxy upon believers. The Spirit did this through men who would lead through a love of the Word and were humbly submitted to God. We must desire for the Spirit to do the same with us, through us today, even if it comes at a cost or a price that seems perhaps too heavy to bear, recognizing that God, in His love and mercy, will give us the strength to endure what we must endure for Him.
Cooper is right, a civil war is coming in American Christianity. What we are seeing right here, right now is not going away, not any time soon at least. We may have to watch this struggle go on for generations, even as the Early Fathers did. We, as men, must then prepare for it. We must be the warriors for Christ that we need to be, putting on the whole armor of God that we may stand firm in His truth through it all and in it all.