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doctrine and morality

March 22, 2019

Avoiding Death by a Thousand Cuts

The recent decision of Azusa Pacific University to again reverse an earlier decision on same-sex relationships on campus, reviewed by an article earlier this week, clearly points to the need for contemporary Christians to understand that in the world we live, that there are costs to discipleship, and to know in advance how we will respond to them. It is possible to set such events aside, since they do not immediately affect one’s life, and go on as if it didn’t happen. That would be folly, and really, unfaithful.

For that indeterminate mass of religious Americans who go under the label “Evangelical,” this identity began in the early twentieth century, when many of the major Protestant denominations, what became known as “mainline,” ceased to enforce doctrinal orthodoxy. The loss of Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 1920s is commonly regarded as the signal event. The response of orthodox Christians in these denominations was in some cases to leave, but more broadly to establish a Christian subculture of liberal arts colleges, Bible colleges, mission agencies, youth ministries, publishing houses, and religious broadcasting. It was within this subculture that Christian life was lived.

Things became less secure in the 1960s, as the wider culture and its laws and policies moved away from a broadly Christian basis and toward one based on self-fulfillment and quality of life. The school prayer decision of 1962 might be regarded as the signal event here, and particularly its underlying justification of not giving offense to unbelievers. (“Established religion” was found to foster “hatred, disrespect and even contempt of those who held contrary beliefs”). The common thread of the offensiveness of traditional Christian doctrine and morality runs through all the contemporary legal and social pressure against the practice of orthodox Christianity, and all the political and legal losses since then. After this mid-twentieth century change, Evangelical primary and secondary schools became more common, and homeschooling appeared.

At the present time, the very existence of Christian doctrine and morality in its traditional, pre-Enlightenment forms is the real issue in the fierce culture war, and the Left proposes to destroy the Christian subculture with anti-discrimination law and policy. Whether the Left will have the power to do this remains to be seen. The crucial linchpin of the cultural revolution, the homosexual revolution, was achieved largely by court order. But with cultural trends directed by the entertainment industry, a radical academy, and the leftist news media, the post-1960s generations are increasingly socially and politically leftist. They may well accept and enact into law provisions that make it impossible for Christians to live in obedience to God in their personal and corporate lives. Since Christian commitment to obey God cannot change with public opinion, it is imperative that there be no compromise which involves complicity with sin.

Under pressure, some traditional Christian believers and institutions are accommodating sinful behavior. Some examples of this include Azusa Pacific University, Trinity Western University (which dropped its requirement of chastity for students under pressure from professional associations and the Canadian Supreme Court), Pepperdine University (which dropped its Title IX exemption from sex discrimination requirements, thus opening itself to same-sex and transgender claims), Grand Canyon University (which recently began providing benefits for same sex couples, under ACLU pressure), specifically Christian dating sites (required to facilitate same-sex relationships), and perhaps most well known, adoption agencies (required to provide children for same sex couples, resulting in their closure or secularization).

This kind of compromise, or in the cases of Christian dating sites and secularized adoption agencies, simple surrender, indicates that the Christian subculture is slowly being destroyed under pressure. Leftists clearly hope that, in the case of people still faithful to traditional Christianity, a slow, sluggish acceptance of sinful behavior will make it acceptable and irreversible. An individual’s own viewpoint may change when one is desensitized to sin by constant exposure and compromise. Substantial numbers of people from Christian homes and churches who grow up in the present environment can reasonably be expected demand changes in Christian doctrine and morality to accept both the sexual revolution and an inclusive, or even universalist, understanding of salvation. This clearly shows the two big issues, namely sex and hell – and behind them, the ultimate theological issue of obedience to a personal God – where the liberal/left finds traditional Christianity offensive and intolerable.

It is imperative then, that faithful Christians not be complicit in sin, although it means loss of opportunities, jobs, property, or friends. The difficult and insidious problem, that will work against long term faithfulness, is knowing when an accommodation to the world we find ourselves in becomes sinful. Beyond that, a disciple of Christ cannot go. Short of that will be the world in which faithful Christians can live, perhaps very much reduced in opportunity and income.

Two examples should show how Christian institutions responded to intense pressure. In the second half of the twentieth century, it was thought by some Christian schools that to carry forward the Biblical idea of male headship of the home and family responsibility, men should receive higher pay than women for the same work. This is not legally possible, even for a Christian institution. Hence Christian schools follow the rule of “equal pay for equal work.” Different pay rates for different sexes are not required by Scripture, and doubtless many Christians today would not believe they are desirable. So a state requirement forbidding a practice justified from the Bible can be complied with, because it does not involve sin. Much more questionable is last year’s decision of Trinity Western University in Canada to no longer require Christian sexual morality of its student body. To do this, the university seems to have redefined itself from a covenanted Christian community to a Christian ministry (since Christian doctrine and morality continues to be required of the faculty). The real problem here is that in the ongoing life of the university, it will still be understood as a Christian institution functioning in the Evangelical world. The faithfulness of that world is thereby diminished, and demands for more compromise likely to result. And it likely will be (wrongly) pointed to as an example of how to be “Christian” or even “Evangelical” while tolerating sin.

Perhaps this will be an easier question for individuals. Is one directly facilitating sin, as one is clearly doing by designing a homosexual wedding, assisting in an abortion procedure, publishing literature condemnatory of Christian faith or morals, or participating in a “Christian” organization which has come to tolerate or even advocate sin (II Cor. 6:17)? These activities clearly cause one’s neighbor to stumble (Matt. 18:7), and thus are sins in themselves. On the other hand, we are to live in the world but not of it (Jn. 17:14-15). Thus Christians accept employment with secular organizations that are not committed to obeying God, and might patronize stores offering some goods that facilitate sin (e.g., a drug store selling the Plan B abortifacient).

For a professedly Christian organization, it may not be possible to continue to exist as such. Christian adoption agencies are perhaps the most striking example. Faced with an absolute requirement to provide children to same-sex couples, some have closed; others have redefined themselves as secular. But providing goods and services that facilitate sin, or tolerating sin in the lives of what is supposed to be a community of Christians, is simply contrary to Scripture, and thus disobedience to God.

The intensifying time of trail shows no signs of abating, and signs of getting much worse, as recent articles by this writer on the Equality Act and the multipurpose “dignitarian harm” concept make clear. But here we need to realize that God and his truth do not change, and our commitment to God should not change, nor should our enthusiasm at being Christ’s disciples in a dark world. It may be necessary to live as an underclass for many years. But we know that nothing happens apart from the will of God, and we have absolute assurance is that he will be victorious in the end.


21 Responses to Avoiding Death by a Thousand Cuts

  1. Lee D. Cary says:

    Excellent piece. Thank you, sir.

    Four grandchildren left the public school to attend a Christian school where they’re learning more, in all subject venues.

    It’s time, I believe, for those homeschooling or sending their children to a private school demand a reduction in their public school taxes. Or, at least, better organize to run for School Boards.

    “At the present time, the very existence of Christian doctrine and morality in its traditional, pre-Enlightenment forms is the real issue in the fierce culture war, and the Left proposes to destroy the Christian subculture with anti-discrimination law and policy. Whether the Left will have the power to do this remains to be seen.”

    Perhaps it’s equally true to ask whether the Right has the will to resist the Left.

    • Diane says:

      Excuse me? As a senior citizen who chose not to have children, I’ve always gladly paid my taxes to educate every child, none of them my own. Furthermore, I’ve donated thousands of dollars in my lifetime and thousands more in volunteer hours to our public schools. So-called “Christians” who want an opt-out of taxes paid to educate kids other than their own are, in my opinion, self-sentered, self-serving, selfish and just plain greedy.

    • Diane says:

      Don’t you just love all those right-wing self-righteous folks who constantly defend their “right-to-life,” pro-unwanted-babies beliefs and then are anti-adoption of those same little ones by single folks, same-sex couples, Jewish folks, etc. Jesus wouldn’t qualify to let the children be raised by him because last I checked, Jesus was Jewish. The nurture, love, and parenting of unwanted children is not dependent on sexuality, gender, or religion. Get over yourself. Leaving unwanted, hard-to-adopt children to struggle in the foster care system without any sense of a secure, permanent family just because you think others not like you make unsuitable parents is despicably cruel to children. I have friends a gay couple – who adopted four Hispanic, hard to place children, all brothers, so the kids could stay together after their alcoholic, heterosexual parents were judged by child protective services as unfit and abusive. The boys are happy and thriving, no thanks to right wing Christian bigots who won’t adopt these kids and stand in the way of loving parents who’re all to happy to adopt them and give them a loving, happy, supportive, and stable family. Have you no resurrection faith?

      • Diane,

        While it’s been several days since you posted this comment, and I don’t intend to respond to everything in this and your other extensive comments, I do feel that I have to respond to a couple of particularly outrageous statements in this one. Same-sex or single parents arguably do not provide the complete family in which it is best to raise children, but those on your side of this argument would close religious adoption agencies rather than allow them function by their own religious standards, which are the very reason the agencies exist. You have decided what is best for everyone (adoption by opposite sex or same-sex couples, single adults, or, I suppose cohabiting couples), and then would impose that standard on all agencies. Similarly, critical comments in this and other articles I have written in support of liberty of conscience on sexual matters will attack traditional sexual morality itself. But all I am arguing – in the articles, at least, although I do believe, as a separate issue, that traditional morality is what God requires of everyone – is the right of traditional believers to practice it. But this is forbidden by the new morality that finds it offensive.

        You also refer to social conservatives being “pro-unwanted baby.” I must spell out that this means that you are maintaining that unborn children should be killed because the mother determines it adversely affects her quality of life. This kind of new morality is nothing short of barbaric.

        Rick

    • Mr. Cary,

      Responding almost a week later, thank you for the complement and let me say that is one of the greatest questions I try to address in my articles. Obeying God is a non-negotiable with God, and thus a non-negotiable for Christians. As noted in this article’s excerpt, it may mean loss of job, family, friends, or beloved institution. People do unexpected things under pressure. May God give us the grace to obey him always.

      Rick

    • Loren Golden says:

      “It’s time, I believe, for those homeschooling or sending their children to a private school demand a reduction in their public school taxes. Or, at least, better organize to run for School Boards.”
       
      As the husband of a former public schoolteacher who now homeschools our two young daughters, while I appreciate your sentiment, I believe it wisest not to demand that our local government reduce our taxes used to support the local public schools.  First, public school is the only viable option for children living in poverty, and such rarely get the support they need at home.  Second, the public schoolteachers are underpaid for all the work they do, and the taxes raised, as high as they are, are still inadequate to provide a decent salary to those charged with the education of the next generation.  Third, the Lord Jesus admonishes us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” which includes duly raised taxes.  And fourthly, we are to pay duly raised taxes, so as “not to give offense” (Mt. 17.27).  “Live in harmony with one another. … Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom. 12.16-18)

  2. Andrew Hughes says:

    Thank you for your faithfulness Rick.

  3. David says:

    “After this mid-twentieth century change, Evangelical primary and secondary schools became more common, and homeschooling appeared”—think Brown v. Board of Education. Bible reading and school prayer originated as a way to convert Catholics. Only Protestant prayers and bibles were ever used. Why students could not simply pray privately in their free time has never been answered.

    • diaphone64 says:

      Yet the same schools that prevent Christians from praying will gladly accommodate ritual cleaning stations, prayer rooms and students leaving class for prayer if Muslim.

      • David says:

        No one has ever been prevented from praying on their own during free time. What was prohibited was schools conducting religious services of a sort. If a school ever conducted a non-Christian prayer, the howls would be immediate.

        • David,

          I believe you are incorrect. School officials sometimes do prevent teachers and/or students from engaging in private prayer at a public school, although current jurisprudence from the Supreme Court does not require that, and in fact I think, does not allow that. The following case in Colorado, posted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, is an example:

          https://www.adflegal.org/detailspages/press-release-details/colo–school-relents-on-prayer-ban-during-free-time

          Rick

          • Diane says:

            Rick,
            I was a public school teacher. I prayed all the time – silently. I had kindergartners who individually self initiated their own prayers before eating lunch. No problem. Anyone can pray silently in our schools, anytime, anywhere. I recall how evangelical Christians demanded before and after school prayer and bible study groups on school grounds. No problem. But as soon as Gay-Straight Alliance student organizations asked to meet, those evangelical Christians demanded all groups (including their own bible study and prayer groups) be prohibited. I guess bible study and prayer groups really weren’t all that important after all. I also recall the tragic shooting and killing of students in a before-school prayer/bible study group in Peducah, KY. The shooter had been repeatedly harassed and bullied because a student newspaper added to its”rumor has it column” that the young man (the shooter) was gay (he never identified he was gay, it was a rumor). While there’s no excuse for the violent retribution he sought after months of being mercilessly bullied, it is also notable that all those Bible-studying and praying Christian kids never lifted a finger to stop the bullying. Their “religion” was all for show. Really sad, pathetic, and tragic situation all around. Some kids would be alive today had a responsible adult intervened and taught something basic tomthe Christian faith, “love one another, as God has loved you”. The Bible doesn’t say “love others like yourselves, bully the gay folks, jeven as God loves you.

          • Diane says:

            In my post about the tragic Peducah, KY, High School shooting, I apologize for stating the religion of the students in the Bible study and prayer group was “all for show”. I confess don’t know their hearts and minds. I’m sure they’d say they were acting with sincere faith.

            We do know that a Peducah kid who was publicly identified and cruelly belittled in a school publication’s “rumor has it” column for having a boyfriend (though he never identified as gay) was continuously tormented and ridiculed each and every school day by students.

            Yet when school systems want to add lgbtq children to their non-discrimination policies, it’s evangelical folks who scream “no” the loudest.

            I recall a young, openly lesbian student at a university who was continually interrupted while studying for final exams by an evangelical student who felt “called” to remind her that she was going to hell and needed to repent & accept Jesus as her savior. This is harassment. It is bullying. Evangelical kids have learned this is OK after growing up in churches where they’ve been told homosexuality is evil and they’re God-given duty is to save gay people. No! They’re God-given duty is to love. They are neither called to save or judge. Evangelical folks need to be reminded to stop pretending they’re God. Maybe they should go humbly back in their closets and pray about it. In the meantime, they would do well to tell their kids in Sunday School to love lgbtq folks without arrogantly judging them or trying to save them.

    • Diane says:

      David, you are spot on! In the 1950s, every school day began with the recitation of the Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer and then the pledge. One third of the class was Jewish and another third was Catholic. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize Protestant leaders (bullies, all white men) devised a daily weapon of cruel intimidation toward non-Protestant kids. I rejoiced when corporate prayers were removed from schools. There was nothing godly or Christian about the practice of belittling non-Protestants.

  4. Johan says:

    “At the present time, the very existence of Christian doctrine and morality in its traditional, pre-Enlightenment forms is the real issue.” Well stated. The faithful orthodox Christian must be openly and forcefully pre-enlightenment and pre-modern, and not allow modern knowledge to supersede traditional interpretations of the Bible, and worldview in general.

  5. Diane says:

    their, not “they’re” in my previous post

  6. Gary Bebop says:

    Thanks again, Rick, for presenting this topic of interest despite the noisy static it attracts from those with other agendas.

  7. Richard Bell says:

    Yes, “we know that nothing happens apart from the will of God, and we have absolute assurance is that he will be victorious in the end.” In the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent vindication of civil marriage equality, we see God’s plan being realized. From now on, everywhere in the United States, Christian same-sex couples will establish homes and families free of the legal-social disabilities that once hid or distorted their witness. God will bless their civil marriages in all ways he blesses Christian marriages. These manifestations of God’s blessing will persuade conservatives that God wills same-sex marriages. Conservative leaders of the Church will be enlightened in the same way Peter was when he witnessed God’s giving his Holy Spirit to Gentiles (Acts 10:44-47) and they will make celebration of same-sex marriages a standard ministry.

    • Mr. Bell,

      We know God’s will from the Bible, not prevailing opinion. There is no indication that the uncircumcised believers of Act 10 were either advocating or practicing the vices the New Testament condemns. To the contrary, Peter indicated that they feared God and did what was right (v. 35). Divorce and remarriage are now commonly accepted by many Christians, but it is as much a violation of Jesus command against divorce and remarriage as it ever was. The fact that people are pleasant and seem happy does not mean they are not engaging in gross sin.

      Rick

  8. Ted says:

    I see a couple of “Christians” on here have a different Bible from the rest of us. Evidently, their Bible leaves out the story of Sodom & Gomorrah and Leviticus 18:6, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and
    1 Timothy 1:9-10

  9. Joe M says:

    “two big issues, namely sex and hell – and behind them, the ultimate theological issue of obedience to a personal God – where the liberal/left finds traditional Christianity offensive and intolerable.” this is the bottom line.

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