Ancient truths in a changing culture
At a recent Vatican synod to discuss the challenges of modern family life, for example, it quickly became apparent that many of the prelates who had gathered in Rome were ready for change.
The media reporting on the synod was fairly typical – it cast the issue in terms of conservatives against progressives, hardliners against reformists, an open and caring pope against a clutch of closed-minded and out-of-touch bishops.
Staying relevant in a changing world
It is clear that the media at least, and certainly the gay community, feels that acceptance of gays, gay marriage and gay culture is long overdue. By implication, the church is out of touch, discriminatory, uncaring, unloving and even unchristian in excluding different sexualities from church life.
The argument goes that the church needs to stay relevant in a changing culture if it is to survive.
Often, critics of traditional biblical Christianity quote scripture to support a more inclusive, merciful, caring, forgiving and loving Christianity: God is love, God is merciful and forgiving, judge not for you cannot judge rightly, do not condemn because Jesus did not condemn, etc. Of course, the Biblical references to “sin” are conveniently left out of the discourse as was Jesus’ “go and sin no more” exhortations.
In some countries, the culture has changed so dramatically that to hold to traditional Biblical teaching on sexual issues is to immediately earn the opprobrium of society, be condemned as homophobic and perhaps even to be found in violation of human rights legislation.
Many Christian leaders have sought to avoid being drawn into the debate while others equivocate, prevaricate and obfuscate when questioned on the issue. Pastor Brian Houston of the world-renown Hillsong Church, for example, said “it was “an ongoing conversation” among church leaders and they were “on the journey with it.”
Where do we draw the line?
What are we to make of this whole issue of differing sexualities? How should the church respond to a rapidly evolving culture? Where do we draw the line; indeed, should we even have such boundaries in today’s morally borderless society?
Many of the church’s critics appear oblivious to the fact that the church is not a repository of cultural mores and standards. It was not created to act like a supreme court which today merely codifies into law the lowest common acceptable standards of societal behavior. As society evolves, the law changes. What was deemed unacceptable generations ago is considered acceptable today.
The church stands apart from society, from culture, from human wisdom and posits a worldview and an attendant standard that is unchanging and timeless. The only foundation of the church is the unchanging written word of God contained in the Bible. The church stands or falls on that written word and that alone.
No fifty shades of grey
And therein lies the problem.
The Bible is very clear on the issues of human sexuality. Leviticus 18:22, for example, says that a man must not lie with another man as he would with a woman because it is detestable. The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Romans, wrote that because men exchanged the truth of God for a lie, God gave them over to shameful lusts – women exchanges natural relations for unnatural ones while men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another, committing indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion [Romans 1: 25-27].
There’s no wriggle room, no fifty shades of grey here. It is touch, straightforward, uncompromising, unequivocal. The world, even Christians, might not like it or might be embarrassed by it and certainly it would be more convenient if it wasn’t there but it is and we have to face up to it.
Cannot bless what God has already condemned
And whether we like it or not, neither Christians nor anyone else have the authority to alter ancient truths in order to accommodate modern society. We cannot bless acts that God has already condemned as immoral, detestable, unnatural. We are not empowered by God to decide what’s relevant and what’s not, what should be obeyed and what can be disregarded. The word of God stands unchanged no matter what we think or say or do.
In any case, it simply makes no sense to try to build standards of truth and righteousness on the shifting sands of public opinion and personal preferences. To argue that standards of righteousness should be build on such foundations is, in fact, to argue against having any standards at all.
As well, is the church to depend on a culture that has largely rejected God to define how it should interpret the Word of God?
In the end, we are not divided into conservatives and progressives or hardliners and reformists but between those who uphold the sanctity of the written and those who do not, between those who hold fast to the standards of the Creator and those who want to live by their own standards of right and wrong.
Our culture today insists on an all-inclusive, non-judgmental, amoral, big tent kind of religion with a place for everyone, whatever their beliefs, practices and lifestyles but that is not the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to draw a line between sin and righteousness, between what is of God and what is not. He came to call sinners to repentance and reconciliation with God not to give them license to live in their sin or endorse what is clearly offensive to God. He came to call out a people who would stand apart from society and culture and accept His standards above their own.
And for that, the church of Jesus Christ, when it is true to its Master, will always be despised, hated, and rejected. The only way the church is going to find acceptance in today’s culture is by turning its back on the Bible and becoming as compromised and perverted as the culture itself.
Sadly, many churches appear to have opted for compromise and retreat in a desperate effort to stay relevant. In the process they are condemning themselves to irrelevance in the grand panorama of God’s work of salvation on the earth.
As Andrew Walker of First Things put it: “A church in exile (and that’s how I’d describe the current placement of confessional evangelicalism) is one that is faithful amidst the culture, regardless of whether that culture looks more like America or more like Babylon. It knows that it may lose the culture, but that it cannot lose the Gospel.”
As for me and my house
As for me, I will not yield even a single word of Scripture. It stands as unchanging truth in a changing world, ancient wisdom for modern man. I confess that there’s so much of the word of God, the ways of God, that I don’t understand. I admit that it often puts me in an unenviable, even difficult position but that’s the way God chose to put it and I must yield to Him and Him alone, without regard to the consequences or to what others may think or do. I trust in the wisdom of God more than I trust in the wisdom of man.
I do not demand that everyone else conform to my position and I certainly do not support the abuse and ill-treatment of those with differing opinions or beliefs but as for me, my faith demands that I take no other position for I am a Christian and the Bible is my ultimate authority on all things.
Dennis Ignatius | 10th September 2017