In his 1913 classic, “Christianity and Culture,” J. Gresham Machen, theologian and seminary professor, used the term “intellectual monasticism” to describe a tendency among some seminary students. For a Christian codger whose radius of activity is constricted by age and the empire’s edicts, but whose mental capacity is more or less holding its own, and whose view of cultural trends ranges from grim to alarming, the term has great appeal. I’ve logged a lot of edifying hours sequestered in my not-so-spare cell, comfortably reclined with my face in a Kindle or Surface Pro, feeding my hunger and thirst after the righteousness of the One who has dealt so bountifully with me, who loved me before I was, created me, died for me and controls the next beat of my heart. God has placed me in an age where I have the world’s largest library at my fingertips and I can search its archives in nanoseconds … and not think about the troubling world outside my door. If that approximates Machen’s definition of an intellectual monastic, well…it has a nicer ring to it than “aged recluse who reads a lot.” 

But, alas, Machen said it’s not an option for a child of God. We have an obligation to stay in the fight. We are called to engage the culture. “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). The Wall Street Journal once titled an op-ed piece of mine, “Still the Noblest Calling.” The editors created the title from a phrase in my piece referencing military service—“God, duty, honor, country will always remain the noblest calling.” I had simply borrowed three words General Douglas MacArthur made famous and preceded them with that all important three-letter word—a stealth evangelism application of Mark 16:15, so as to pass muster with big-time business editors.

As an aged recluse in this age I still have an avenue for pursuing the noblest calling, and I have abandoned stealth evangelism—time is of the essence. The same library at my fingertips also functions as a cultural soap box, and I intend to engage whatever small portion of the culture that wanders by, as long as I can string coherent sentences together.

Machen observed, “Modern culture is a tremendous force either subservient to the gospel or else the deadliest enemy of the gospel.” The latter case prevails today. The culture is desperately in need of that noblest calling:

 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

That “gospel in a nutshell” (Luther): “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

See you in church.

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