Modernity & the Church

Impossible PeopleI’m working my way through a new book by Os Guinness called Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization. It diagnoses the problem of the church as it becomes co-opted by modernity.

Guinness says, quite correctly, I believe, that it’s not the frontal attacks of secularism and atheism that do the real damage; rather, it is the seduction and distortion of the faith through modernity that leads us astray and destroys the Christian witness to civilization.

Guinness says that predictions of the disappearance of religion in our culture are off-target. In fact, religion is flourishing, but the nature of the Christian faith has been subtly altered, thereby making it less genuine.

One major change in perception that has changed the faith is the undermining of the whole concept of submission to authority. We have shifted “from a stance under authority to one of preference. . . . All responses are merely a matter of preference.” This is at odds with basic Christianity. “Unique among the gods believed in throughout history, the Lord is transcendent, so what he says is truth, binding truth, because it addresses us as authority. To dilute this authority is to dismiss the Lord himself,” Guinness notes.

The statement “Jesus is Lord” is the essence of Biblical truth. There is no other name through which anyone can be saved.

Our modern world, though, informs us that there is no ultimate authority; we have unlimited choice in life.

From breakfast cereals to restaurants and cuisines to sexual identities and temptations to possible sexual arrangements of all types to self-help techniques and philosophies of life, we are offered an infinite array of choices, and the focus is always on choice as choosing rather than choice as the content of what is chosen. Simply choose. Experiment. Try it out for yourself.

Os GuinnessGuinness goes on: “Our freedom is the freedom to choose, regardless of whether our choice is right or wrong, wise or stupid. . . . Choosing is all that matters. Truth, goodness, and authority are irrelevant.”

In the world at large, this leads to the rejection of any absolute standard. Guinness explains,

Does it matter . . . whether your sister-in-law is straight or lesbian, or your boss is a heterosexual womanizer, a homosexual, or was once a woman? There are different strokes for different folks. We are all different, so who are we to judge? . . . This is my choice. That is yours. We are all free to choose differently, and our choices only amount to different preferences, so who is to say who is right? . . . And what business do any of us have to judge other people’s preferences?

It’s understandable that the world outside the Christian faith would fall for this, but when it shows up in the church, that’s when the faith is compromised and loses its witness of truth to the world.

As Guinness laments, “Christian advocates of homosexual and lesbian revisionism believe in themselves and in the sexual revolution rather than the gospel. They therefore twist the Scriptures to make reality fit their desires rather than making their desires fit the truths of the Scriptures.”

In our seeker-friendly church world, we often exchange the truth for a lie. Guinness quotes from a Christian marketing consultant who said, apparently without any sense of irony, “It is . . . critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign.”

TruthGuinness expresses his shock over such a statement: “The audience is sovereign? No! Let it be repeated a thousand times, no! When reaching out as the church of Jesus, the message of the gospel and Jesus the Lord of the message is alone sovereign—and never, never, never the audience, however needy, however attractive, however prestigious or well-heeled an audience may be.”

While we are to be sensitive to those seeking the truth, we must have truth to offer them. While we are to be all things to all people, the purpose for that admonition is to bring them to the Truth Himself.

Here is the challenge, as Guinness so clearly lays it out:

All Evangelicals should search their hearts. For a generation now the air has been thick with talk of “changing the world,” but who is changing whom?

There is no question that the world would like to change the church. In area after area only the church stands between the world and its success over issues such as sexuality. Unquestionably the world would like to change the church, but does the church still want to change the world, or is its only concern to change the church in the light of the world?

Something is rotten in the state of Evangelicalism, and all too often it is impossible to tell who is changing whom.

I would add that as I survey the current political state of America and the evangelical rush to support, and even promote, a candidate whose worldview and lifestyle is contrary to the Gospel, that I see this rot infecting evangelicalism to its very core.

Who is changing whom?

I applaud Os Guinness’s clarion call that we be the church once more.

American Morality: The Latest Survey

The Gallup organization has just released its newest survey of Americans’ moral values. One needs to look no further than this survey to comprehend why our culture is changing. I know people may be tired of hearing Christians bemoan the state of morality in society, but from a Biblical perspective, it’s obvious we’re in deep trouble, and this could signify the death of our society eventually. Here are the highlights:

  • The survey shows that 52% of Americans now find homosexual relations as morally acceptable. This is why taking a strong stance against homosexuality elicits such politically correct outrage. I also heard this week that another poll indicates this number has risen since the president verbalized his support for same-sex marriage. Whenever civil government takes sides on an issue, it can also influence the culture. In this case, those who are morally confused find solace in accepting the new morality because the government says it’s okay.
  • Sex outside of marriage is just fine say 59% of our fellow citizens. Well, why not? If you follow the cultural trend as showcased in the movies and television programs, it’s simply a fact of life. Rarely do you see anyone resisting sex at any time with anyone prior to marriage. I remember when dating didn’t used to be associated with an active sex life. It used to be, well . . . dating. Now the assumption is that dating is inextricably linked with sexual relations, and that it would be “puritanical/Victorian” to believe otherwise.
  • How about having a baby outside of marriage? The stigma for that has nearly disappeared with 54% not finding anything wrong with it. Yet the bad effects of absentee fathers is well documented. About 70% of all children born in the inner cities are without fathers. How’s that working out?
  • Remember when doctor-assisted suicide was endorsed only by the likes of Jack Kevorkian? Now 46% of Americans see no problem with it. This is moving us slowly toward acceptance of euthanasia.
  • Stem-cell research from human embryos finds support from 59%. This is distinguished from overall stem-cell research, which is becoming increasingly successful using adult stem cells. In spite of that, 3 of 5 Americans don’t object to harvesting unborn children for their stem cells, even though there’s no need to do so scientifically. This whole argument for using embryonic stem cells has always been a cover for promoting abortion.
  • So this leads logically to the statistics on the moral acceptability of abortion. How are we faring on that issue? This is one of the brighter spots of the survey, which indicates a trend against viewing abortion as moral. Only 38% say they favor abortion. That’s certainly movement in the right direction, while we seem to be drifting away from Biblical standards in other areas. Yet it’s still sobering to realize that nearly 4 of 10 Americans don’t find the taking of innocent human life as repugnant.
  • Fully 69% find divorce to be moral. There are some gray areas here. I do believe there are some Scriptural grounds for legitimate divorce, but I know most of those surveyed aren’t taking Scripture into consideration. They just like the idea of an easy path to break a vow. Again, we are experiencing the sad effects of this lax approach to what should be a lifelong commitment.
  • There’s another category that should help balance most of this sorry list, but I’m afraid it’s not what it appears to be. It should be encouraging to discover that only 6% of Americans believe it’s okay to have an extramarital affair, but here’s where we find a dichotomy between what people say and what they do. While 92% indicate they believe this is wrong, there’s a large segment of that 92% that violates what it says it believes. Hypocrisy is another factor in our moral degeneration as a people.

Government is not the solution to this current state of affairs. All government can do is try to set moral boundaries. If people, by and large, don’t believe in those boundaries, no law will suffice. That means it all comes back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the good news about how to restore our broken relationship with God can bring people out of moral darkness and into His light. Our primary task remains: teach and model Biblical truth.

Funding an Abomination

Planned Parenthood was in the news this past week. An undercover sting videoed a PP clinic manager in New Jersey coaching two individuals presenting themselves as a pimp and an underage prostitute on how to cover up their illicit business.

This type of thing is not unusual at Planned Parenthood. A few years ago, someone recorded a phone conversation with a clinic employee in which the caller said he wanted to donate to the organization, but he wanted his money to go toward reducing the number of black babies being born. The employee said that would be no problem; they could direct the money as he wished.

It’s hard to believe that many people still don’t grasp the nature of this organization. It is the foremost provider of abortions in the world, yet the name itself—Planned Parenthood—sounds so good. I mean, who could ever be in favor of chaotic parenthood? Sometimes, if you win the semantic war, you can create an image that looks respectable when, in fact, you may be one of the most reprehensible agencies on the planet.

Planned Parenthood qualifies as a reprehensible agency—easily in the top ten in reprehensibility, if that is a valid word.

All one has to do is investigate the founder, Margaret Sanger. She was a full-blown eugenicist, a pseudo-science popular in the early twentieth century that believed in creating superior people through the right kind of breeding. What, specifically, did Sanger promote?

  • The elimination of what she called “human weeds.” Is that any way to talk about human beings made in the image of God?
  • The cessation of all charity. After all, if you help those human weeds, they will only proliferate, which is bad for society.
  • The segregation of “genetically inferior races.” For Sanger, blacks qualified as one of the inferior races. She started the “Negro Project,” the purpose of which was to stop blacks from having too many children. She didn’t wish to see such an “inferior race” propagate itself.
  • To accomplish her goals, she advocated birth control methods, not simply for parents to choose when to have children, but to ensure that only the “best races” would have the most children. As techniques advanced, birth control was joined by abortion as a legitimate means for controlling designated populations.
  • Complete sexual freedom, undermining the institution of marriage and promoting promiscuity. Currently, Planned Parenthood teaches young people to “explore” their sexuality without guilt. Nothing is out of bounds if you really want to experiment.
  • Socialism—she desired the government to step in and direct society.

What a list. Could she possibly be one of the worst individuals in the history of our nation? Here’s a fascinating photo of Sanger speaking to a group that should be easily recognized:

Historically, Planned Parenthood has been a blatantly racist organization. Presently, it pushes sexual immorality of all types and seeks to demolish all Christian morality in society. Yet our federal government continues to fund this abomination. As we seek to cut back on government spending, might I offer a suggestion?

There are Republican congressmen who are trying to defund all abortion providers. They need our support. Pray that they succeed.