How the Church’s Mere Existence is Cast as Oppressive (Introduction to Preparing for the Underground Church, Part II)

(Part II of VII of Pastor Foley’s introductory essay to Rev. Richard Wurmbrand’s Preparing for the Underground Church. The Korea edition of Preparing for the Underground Church, including Pastor Foley’s introductory essay and a foreword by Voice of the Martyrs historian Merv Knight, is scheduled for release January 19, 2017. To read Part I, click here.) 

 

Even in the midst of today’s emerging skirmishes between Christianity and the sexual revolution, it is still hard for many Christians in the free world to grasp that our churches could be driven underground simply because our views on sex differ from the society at large. Yet as early as 80 years ago many enemies of the church were each drawing exactly this conclusion: only sex, not socialism, could destroy Christianity. As the French Surrealists wrote in their manifesto, “The decisive battle against Christianity could be fought only at the level of the sexual revolution.[1]

But why is the sexual revolution the one revolution capable of a decisive battle against the church in the free world? It is because differences in sexual ethics go much deeper than questions about economics or politics. They go to the heart of our understanding about God and human beings. Christianity does not need a particular political or economic system in order for it to function. But it does require a particular understanding of sex. As John Rist puts it, human history is always “conflict between a monotheistic God and a race of men inclined to will their absolute autonomy.”[2] Sex either humbly and faithfully serves God’s purposes, or it accords humans the most arrogant, virulent autonomy.

Sex’s alliance with science and with atheism was its declaration of independence. During the Enlightenment, science narrowed its domain of inquiry to “empirically verifiable facts.”[3] No longer would science consider the teleological cause (that is, the final end or purpose) for which God made a thing. In fact, no longer would science consider God at all, since God is not an “empirically verifiable fact.” This gave rise in short order to the philosophy of scientism, which asserted that not only would God not be considered in science, science—in order to be faithful to the full extension of its principles—must assert that “nothing exists apart from empirically verifiable facts, nothing at all.”[4] When sex is studied in this way, as it was most famously first by the Marquis de Sade and then later by Wilhelm Reich, then sex can’t be for procreation. In fact, according to scientism, sex can’t be for anything.  When science examines sex in this way, as Augusto del Noce notes with concern, “all that is left is vital energy.”[5] Any restraint on that vital energy must be regarded as “repressive.”[6] As Stephen Adubato notes, that “discovery” cast the church decisively in the role of oppressor:

A largely “puritanical” moral worldview was accused of having reduced the human person’s horizon of freedom and fulfillment…. Supported by scientific and psychological evidence that aimed to prove that sexual repression caused damage to the human person, they defended a “free” expression of sexuality that rejected any moral implications: “sexuality is a pleasurable experience and nothing but that… The therapeutic task consisted in changing the neurotic character into a genital character, and in replacing moral regulation by self-regulation.” The Sexual Revolution was preparing to ring in a new era of utopia.[7]

Just as the communist revolution called workers to join in the “struggle against repression” at the hands of their capitalist oppressors, now the sexual revolution calls all people to join in the “struggle against repression” at the hands of their sexual oppressors, the church.[8] Peter Leithart says that the battle cry of the sexual revolution is, “Any limit on our drives is an assault on our dignity. Sexual inhibitions are unnatural, every prohibition a threat to human freedom”:

Sexual revolutionaries thus turn sexual morality upside down. Earlier ideals like modesty, purity, and restraint are now seen as repressive and abnormal. The category of “sexual perversion” must be eliminated. Behind this is the anti-teleology of the new sexual metaphysics: Sex best expresses its essence when it has no goal (e.g., procreation) beyond itself, and so “homosexual expressions, either masculine or feminine, should be regarded as the purest form of love.”[9]

When sex is shorn of (or as scientism would contend, liberated from) any goal, then its physical and emotional aspects—which have historically been “but a tiny part of what we in fact experience as our sexual beings and meanings”[10]—become our experience of sex in total. And since sex is the “vital energy” at the center of the person, the physical and emotional experiences of sexuality become the locus of personal identity. In an act of liberation from the church’s sexual repression, the sexual revolutionary is encouraged to “self-identify” with the physical and emotional characteristics they experience most strongly or attractively. The body becomes “modeling clay,” “raw material at the service of our wills.”[11]

[1] Matthew Hanley. 2016. “Modernity as Metaphysical Collapse.” The Catholic Thing. https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2016/07/28/modernity-as-metaphysical-collapse/. Emphasis in the original.

[2] John M. Rist, 2014. Augustine Deformed: Love, Sin, and Freedom in the Western Moral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 10.

[3] Michael Cook, 2016. “Why Did the Sexual Revolution Happen?” Intellectual Takeout. http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/why-did-sexual-revolution-happen.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Peter Leithart, 2015. “Sex and Tradition.” First Things. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/10/sex-and-tradition.

[6] Stephen Adubato, 2016. “A Revolutionary Attraction.” Homiletic and Pastoral Review. http://www.hprweb.com/2016/06/a-revolutionary-attraction/.

[7] Adubato, 2016.

[8] Michael Cook, 2016.

[9] Peter Leithart, 2015. “Sex and Tradition.” First Things. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/10/sex-and-tradition.

[10] “It is the ordering of our entire life spans that in fact and properly defines our sexuality in the

sense of ‘setting it up’ and providing the constraints and channels for sexuality’s enactment.” Ephraim Radner. 2016. A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, Loc. 979.

[11] Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., 2016. “Address at Brigham Young University: Awakenings: Living as a Believer in the Nation We Have Now.” Archdiocese of Philadelphia. http://archphila.org/address-at-brigham-young-university-awakenings-living-as-a-believer-in-the-nation-we-have-now-2/#_ednref4.

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UT: Loving Enemies Like Us

Last week we heard Pastor Foley speak about our Underground University program, a school that teaches North Korean defectors how to serve as missionaries wherever North Koreans are found. This week we hear about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Underground Technology (UT) program; a school where North Korean defectors receive comprehensive personal discipleship training with the support of their local church.

Students come to our UT class because they want to learn more about Christianity. More often than not, they have met Christ on the road from North Korea and want to learn more about this God-man who lays down his life in love of his enemies. They sometimes struggle to understand the dialect and even the teaching at the (South) Korean churches they attend, since South Korean culture is as new to them as Christianity is.

“Why did Jesus love his enemies?” they wonder. “And does that include even me?”

Students enroll in UT to study God, but they soon learn that it’s impossible to study God without being transformed by him, even in the little details of life.

At UT students learn about those little details of life in light of the greatness of God’s mercy.

UT students also learn life skills that can aid them in ministry. They gain confidence that they can share the love they have received—with their families, their neighbors, and maybe even with their enemies. They become a part of our UU/UT community. They meet men and women who are going through similar struggles. They are able to share their worries with one another, to share their burdens, and to lift one another up.

Students learn to see the face of Christ in one another.

Although UT is the shorter of our two programs, lasting 20 weeks, it is also the program in which we see students grow the most dramatically.

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

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The Only Revolution Capable of a Decisive Battle Against Christianity in the Free World (Introduction to Preparing for the Underground Church, Part I)

(Part I of VII of Pastor Foley’s introductory essay to Rev. Richard Wurmbrand’s Preparing for the Underground Church. The Korea edition of Preparing for the Underground Church, including Pastor Foley’s introductory essay and a foreword by Voice of the Martyrs historian Merv Knight, is scheduled for release January 19, 2017.)

 

Persecution inevitably catches the church by surprise. Despite Jesus’ warnings to his followers about how they would be perpetually reviled by the world, the church does not expect to be persecuted. Because the church seeks to do good even to its enemies, it mistakenly expects to receive the regard of the world in return. It does not perceive itself as a threat to anyone except those who demand its worship, which it reserves for God alone.

That is why Rev. Wurmbrand knew that he faced a difficult challenge in persuading Christians in the free world that they must prepare to take their churches underground. Christians in the free world simply can’t imagine an opponent motivated and capable of systemically persecuting all of them. Christians in the free world put great faith in their governments. Even when they don’t agree with their political leaders, they are confident that their country’s law and culture will protect them from losing the right to believe and freely practice their faith. They trust that their country’s courts will generally protect their freedoms and provide redress against individual attacks. Christians in the free world also have great faith in the power of their churches. Even in the countries in the free world where the church is a minority, it is usually influential, wealthy, educated, and well-connected internationally. Thus, even though the Apostle Paul warns that “everyone who seeks to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Christians in the free world tend to regard themselves as immune from persecution by means of their geography.

But even four decades ago when Rev. Wurmbrand first presented Preparing for the Underground Church, he knew that the church in the free world would itself come under serious persecution one day. He did not believe this would happen only as the result of political regime changes. Instead, he believed this would happen because of what he had come to understand during his fourteen years of imprisonment in communist prisons, as well as his subsequent years of working with persecuted Christians in communist countries. Rev. Wurmbrand came to see that there was something hidden deep within communism–a principality or power that didn’t have anything to do with politics or economics or military power at all. Communism was only the vessel. What the vessel held was rebellion against God.

Rev. Wurmbrand wrote about this hidden wellspring in his book, Marx and Satan. He documented how Karl Marx “was once a Christian” who “began life in a God-fearing family.” Wurmbrand detailed how “a drastic change at some point in his life led Karl Marx to a deep personal rebellion against God and all Christian values.” Long before he had any interest in communism, Marx wrote, “I wish to avenge myself against the One who rules above.”[1]

This is why Rev. Wurmbrand was not focused on defeating communism as a political system. He was focused on exposing it as a satanic power from which people also needed to be spiritually freed. Communists weren’t the enemy; Satan was. For Satan, the important issue is never economics or politics. These are only pretext. The important issue is always destroying authority, since all authority, even twisted and misused authority, must come from God. Satan used communism to create chaos in the realm of economic and political authority, with its call to workers to “throw off” the yoke of their capitalist oppressors.

But as Rev. Wurmbrand traveled to speak around the free world, he could see that Satan was not content only to fight economic or political battles, and he was certainly not confined behind the Iron Curtain. In Marx and Satan he wrote,

It was with a sense of horror that I read the mystery of the seventh degree of Satanism inscribed on a poster at the University of Paris during the 1968 riots. It had been simplified to the formula, “It is forbidden to forbid.”[2]

It is forbidden to forbid. Satan had created much chaos through communism. But what Rev. Wurmbrand and other Christian thinkers of his time began to discern was that Satan’s strategy was hardly restricted to political or economic realms. Ultimately, Satan’s strategy would be actualized even more fully in the realm of personal identity, which would come to drive the politics and economics of the free world in ways that few had foreseen or could imagine. It would be through that realm, buttressed not only by politics and economics but also by science, education, entertainment, and even spirituality, that “forbidding to forbid” would come to be hailed as the enlightened ethic of the free world.

It would be through that realm, more commonly called “the sexual revolution,” that Satan would seek to level his conclusive blow against the church, deriding it as the greatest forbidder in history.

[1] Richard Wurmbrand, 1986. Marx and Satan. Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Book Company, back cover.

[2] Richard Wurmbrand, 1986, p. 107.

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