Domestic Religious Liberty


obeying god

October 9, 2018

How to Respond to the Adversary Morality of Consent

Obedience to God in all of life is surely a Biblical commitment, and one all faithful Christians agree with. Maintaining this in a rapidly changing world, in which the social favor with which Christianity is regarded swings wildly (e.g., Bush to Obama to Trump), and uncertain of where such favor will rest in the foreseeable future, is more of a challenge than American Christians have known in the past (i.e., the twentieth century and before). It requires clear, conscious thinking about how we engage the world in faithfulness to God, and how our moral reasoning conflicts with other moral reasoning widespread in society. This clear and conscious thought should be on the part of everyone who lives under Biblical authority, because the old days when commitment to the God of the Bible was noncontroversial in American society will not soon return.

Christians’ faith is based on authority, that of God speaking in the words of Scripture. This immediately puts Christians at odds with contemporary morality which requires consent for legitimacy. It does not allow the dictates of any external authority, save to protect people from “harm.” But not only is “harm” increasingly subjective, with even mental distress counting as “harm,” but contemporary partisans of moral autonomy are not consistent with physical harm, as they do not allow the protection for unborn children. Inequality of human beings is achieved by counting only some human beings as “persons,” so that the guarantee of “rights” and “equality” become as subjective, and thus as liable to the different interpretations of those in power, as is the understanding of harm. But external determination of anyone that contemporary liberalism classes as a person is absolutely ruled about, as is becoming strikingly clear in the case of self-defined sexuality, or transgenderism.

But Christians know by God’s revelation that we must be who he says we are and do what he prescribes. He is the source of our being, and the source of all things. God indeed loves everyone, but he does not accept everyone – only penitent sinners. And so the church should love everyone, but not accept everyone. This means that the church must exclude those who are faithless or impenitent, and must discipline its own members who are impenitent. At the level of the individual Christian, he or she must accept who God declares him or her to be, and act in obedience to God’s commands. Nor can he facilitate the disobedience of others to God’s commands (Matt. 18:7). It is in this requirement that Christians today give social offense, and have legal difficulties.

But as this writer has emphasized in many previous articles, our absolute obedience must be to God, regardless of legal penalties or the social offense given. The best we can do in making a moral case to the wider world that it is likely to accept is to plead the commonly recognized wisdom that people should never take actions they believe are evil, regardless of how offended anyone is, or how severe the penalty. And this obedience must be with respect to relations among Christians, relations with the wider world, and behavior in one’s personal life. Christians, after all, are part of the kingdom of God, which is an absolute monarchy. Relations among Christians, with the wider world, and the life of the individual Christian must indeed be a theocracy, since the kingdom of God is, by definition, a theocracy. Against any claim that this is aggressive or an imposition on others, it must be pointed out that it is action by Christians to disobey God which is being required, and so it is Christian believers who are being imposed on when they are required to take action against God’s commands.

A challenge in future years, especially if the attack on the Christian conscience continues, and particularly over the generations, will be to maintain belief in the priority of obeying God in all things. And it will be especially severe if there is, as there may be in a few short years, a permanent liberal/left regime in this country. Compounding the problem, too, especially for young people, will be the popular culture, which glorifies behaviors God has declared to be sinful in his revelation, and presents as virtuous attitudes conducive to sin. Against this, Christian parents and preachers can only impress on young people the duty of obeying God, who is the source of our being, and the divine punishment we face if we disobey him. They must be motivated to resist involvement in the entertainments of the popular culture that produce attitudes that are sinful or are conducive to sin. Parents will restrict their children’s access to media which give access to this entertainment, including, particularly in this day, cell phone use, but the use of other media as well. Parents will be conscious of the pervasiveness of messages and entertainment hostile to Christian faith and morals, and endeavor to carefully teach their children Biblical faith and morality, and (perhaps something of a challenge for many Christian parents) how to answer common attacks on Christianity.

Another part of the same problem will be that on the crucial moral questions of sex and religion, the American majority now believes in social liberalism. It is accepting of non-marital sexual relations (although not adultery), and considers good will rather than any specific religious commitments sufficient for a good life, acceptable to God. The narrow gate of orthodoxy and chastity is attacked as cruel. But if we believe God, the narrow gate is the way to life, and it is what God, in his absolute wisdom, has prescribed for everyone. Educating young people who never knew the traditional America that accepted Judeo-Christian beliefs and values to belief in and commitment to the narrow gate will be a challenge.

At the present time, the above task is made easier by a large apologetic literature, and by the relative freedom parents still have to educate and discipline their children. But this authority could diminish or go away in the future. Then Christians will have to exercise wisdom and discretion in raising their children, but still must endeavor to do so in obedience to God. The task is somewhat less daunting because children have a natural tendency to align themselves, and not uncommonly militantly align themselves, with their parents’ beliefs and values. Against any claim that this is biased, and that it should be corrected by the state, we must point out that the state itself acts from a viewpoint, that of the interest groups that are influential with it.

How large the religious and moral minority will be that is faithful to God in the coming years is simply unknowable – it could be quite small, with very few denominations actually living in obedience to God’s revelation in Scripture, and local churches so obeying God relatively uncommon. But we are assured that some people will continue to be faithful until Christ’s coming, as we know by God’s Word will be the case (I Thess. 4:14-18).

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