April 11, 2016

How Will We Stand?

I have oft pondered the question, especially in recent months, are American Christians ready for what is coming?, a question which I must firmly answer with a no. But what do I mean by the question, let alone the answer?

What is coming in America, indeed is already upon certain parts of our nation, is the full-scale rejection of Christian virtue. By rejection, I do not mean in a personal sense. That happened long ago for many Americans; what might be considered "orthodox" Christian views on issues of homosexuality, the nature and purpose of marriage, etc, have long been turning away from "our side", though these turns have been accelerated in recent years. But what I mean when I say rejection, is the rejection of any possibility that such values may be right or have any potential validity. In short, it is the refusal to acknowledge Christian virtue, particularly as pertains to sexual ethics, as anything besides unabashed bigotry and hate. This rejection is largely in place already, and will be complete within the next 2-3 years, if trends hold.

What will this lead to? It will lead to cases like those we have become familiar with in Oregon and Washington, of florists and bakers, being the norm, such that they will no longer be news. These stories are paraded in the news now to show us the hate and bigotry of the people attempting to politely refuse to put their stamp of approval on a wedding service. They will, soon enough, be so commonplace as to not need parading in the national media. Or so many people will simply fold under the pressure that such cases will all but cease to exist.

Here's what I really mean when I ask are Christians ready for what is coming?: Are Christians ready for those people whom they considered friends, loved ones, and the like, to totally turn their backs on them? Are we ready to be ostracized because of our beliefs about who God is and what He says? Right now if a florist makes such a call, they can still get their opinion published in the Seattle Times, they will still be able to find a network of friends all over the country who think like they do, and will speak in their defense. In the future, these things, these broader networks of cultural support, which are already thinning, will all but vanish. What will believers be left with then?

I fear too many Christians in this country pin their hopes on America. We believe that we are just a few good elections from turning this ship around. But nothing could be further from the truth. Very little of the undoing of this culture is centered around elections, especially presidential ones. These things are important, but other things carry far more weight.

The sexual revolution of the 20th century which brought us rampant promiscuity (at least in an accepted way), cheap birth control which detached the sexual act from its natural end, no-fault divorce and its erosion of familial stability, and here in the last few years, the widespread acceptance of same-sex sexual activity and marriage. The values of this revolution, which prize personal satisfaction and self-realization in sexual activity above any other goals or restraints--consequences be damned--are deeply embedded into the minds of nearly every person alive in the West today. This is why many people think nothing of the fact that upwards of 8 in 10 men in my age group (18 to 30) view pornography at least monthly. Why would we ever deny ourselves the ability to immediately gratify our every sexual desire? Isn't this the reason iPhones exist?

What those of us who desire to live and promote a Christian virtue, a Christian sexual ethic, must come to realize is that most of our fellow church goers and believers share the underlying assumptions about sexuality and personhood that the rest of the culture holds in common. Presidential elections, Supreme Court appointments, and majorities in either House of Congress mean nothing in terms of moral change, advancement of virtue, or course correction, when almost everyone believes that what the Bible teaches about sex (insofar as they grasp it) is outdated, hateful, mean, and unenlightened. Restrictions upon what we view as our chief means of self-expression constitutes an attack upon personhood, so far as this culture is concerned.

What Christians who hold to the teachings of the Scripture on issues of marriage, sexuality, and perhaps other issues such as abortion and euthanasia, must realize is that they are already out of step with most of the people in this country, and that divide is going to sharpen, and we will find ourselves in the very clear minority. Are we ready for this? Again, I say no.

And so I am left with the question, How will we stand? Rod Dreher is proposing what he terms the "Benedict Option." My suggestion is that you follow that link and just start reading what he has to say; and then sit tight for the book he has coming out next year If I were to summarize in my own words what he is calling for, it is the purposeful forming of Christian communities wherein we self-consciously disengage from certain aspects of the broader culture in order to more thoroughly engage with God, ourselves, our families, and with whom we are in community, in order that we may be more deeply rooted in our faith. We need to pursue this in order to withstand the cultural pressure to fall in line, to pass along to our children a faith with genuine substance, and to have a faith worth sharing with the world.

I just wrote yesterday trying to give a very brief, positive, outline of Biblical sexuality. I think as believers we need more of these sorts of things. Positive statements of our faith, clear affirmations of what we do believe. Not lists of things we don't believe, don't like, or want to avoid. Such things are not unimportant, but it would seem that for some believers, it's all they have. And series of negative statements will not take you through the cultural wringer intact.

Read your Bible. But don't read it as an inspirational book full of pithy life-helps. Don't look at it with some stilted, clich├ęd, "basic-instructions-before-leaving-earth" mindset. Pick it up and realize that in your hands you hold the very words of the Living God. The self-revelation of the God of all the universe. That in it He does reveal how He would have us live, but that life He calls us to is a life lived in light of His glorious character revealed therein.

Pick up great statements of faith such as the historic catechisms and confessions. Read classic works of literature, and be read by them. Become less technology-driven machine, and more human. And in your newfound humanness, your newfound creatureliness, relate to the Creator of your body and your soul. Read His book in humility, and pray to Him in reverence. Ask for His help to live every day in increasing obedience, and seek to instill a deep awe of God in your children and those whom you have the opportunity to influence. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fearing Him and knowing Him is the beginning of wisdom. And living in this sort of God-birthed wisdom is the only way in which we will stand,

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I love Jesus, my wife, and my kids. Writing and teaching are two things I have a passion for. Gardening and fishing are cool, too. I blog @ willdole.com, you can reach me @ contact@willdole.com