MUST CHRISTIANITY CHANGE ITS SEXUAL ETHICS? HISTORY MAY HOLD THE KEY

Trevin Wax 2By Trevin Wax

(RNS) Whenever people today say Christianity needs to update and adapt its moral standards for the 21st century, I hear echoes from 100 years ago. Back then, the calls for change had less to do with morality and more to do with miracles. But the motivation was similar, and the results are instructive.

What rocked the early 20th century was the call of many church leaders to adapt the Christian faith to the scientific age of discovery. One could not expect thinking men and women to accept at face value all the miracles in the Bible, the thinking went. The biblical testimony of the miraculous was embarrassing to an educated mindset.

In order to rescue Christianity from superstitious irrelevance, many church leaders sought to distinguish the kernel of Christianity (the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man) from the shell of Christianity (miracle stories that came from another cultural vantage point). One could still maintain the moral center of Christianity while disregarding the events that required suspension of disbelief.

As this adaptation spread, belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus was reinterpreted and given a solely spiritual meaning (he is alive in the hearts of good people). Miracle stories such as Jesus’ feeding the 5,000 were given a moral twist (the true miracle is that suddenly everyone shared). The Virgin Birth was rejected altogether.

Meanwhile, churches outside the West were appalled to hear “Christians” reject the clear testimony of Scripture and what the church had always believed. In North America, the rise of the evangelical movement was due, in part, to a desire to reclaim the center of Christianity and refuse to allow contemporary sensibilities to alter the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”

Presbyterian minister and theologian J. Gresham Machen made the case that this refashioning of Christianity was no longer Christianity at all, but a substitute religion with a Christian veneer.

Over time, the effort to save the kernel of Christianity and leave aside its shell had the opposite effect. The distinctiveness of Christian teaching disappeared, and the shell of church rituals was all that remained. This is why, even today in some denominations, bishops and pastors and parishioners openly reject the core tenets of the faith but continue to attend worship and go through certain rites. The denominations that followed this course have since entered a sharp and steady decline.

One hundred years later, the church is once again being rocked. This time, many Christians are calling for us to rethink the “embarrassing” parts of Christianity — specifically, our distinctive sexual ethic. After all, many of the moral guidelines we read in the New Testament were written from another cultural vantage point and are no longer authoritative or relevant today. If Christianity is to survive and thrive in the next century, many of our ancient prohibitions (sex outside of marriage, homosexual practice, the significance of gender, etc.) must be set aside.

Outside the West, this enthusiasm for rejecting Christian moral precepts that have been accepted by all Christians, everywhere, for 2,000 years is mind-boggling.

Churches that accept society’s dogma on marriage and sexuality may think of themselves as “affirming,” but the global church sees them as “apostate.” Meanwhile, it is the height of imperialistic narrowness for a rapidly shrinking subset of white churches in the West to lecture the rest of the world — including those places where Christianity is exploding in growth or where Christians are being martyred — on why they are wrong and how everyone else in Christian history has misread Scripture regarding the meaning of marriage.

Nestled within our own times, it is easy to think the trajectory of history will lead to an inevitable change within the global Christian church. But history’s lesson is the opposite. A century ago, the modernists believed that the triumph of naturalism would lead to the total transformation of Christianity.

It must have seemed thrilling for these leaders to think they were at the vanguard of reformation, that they were the pivot point of Christianity’s inevitable future. But such was not the case. Traditional stalwarts like Machen and G.K. Chesterton (who were criticized as hopelessly “backward” back then) still have books in print. The names of most of their once-fashionable opponents are largely unrecognizable.

It’s commonplace to assume that contemporary society’s redefinition of marriage, gender and the purpose for sexuality will eventually persuade the church to follow along. But if we were to jump forward into the 22nd century, I wonder what we would see.

Most likely, we would see a world in which the explosive growth of Christians in South America, China and Africa has dwarfed the churches of North America and Europe. And the lesson we learn from a century ago will probably still be true: The churches that thrived were those that offered their world something more than the echo of the times.

—————————————-

Trevin WaxTREVIN WAX is the editor of TGM – Theology, Gospel, Mission, a   gospel-centered small group curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs at www.trevinwax.com and is also the author of Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals. He has served in pastoral roles in churches in the United States and in Romania. His wife is Corina and they have two children.

Religion news Service is a news agency about religion, ethics, spirituality and moral issues, based in Washington, D.C.; April 9, 2015; Used by Permission

Related posts

IRS TAXES PASTOR FOR SALARY HE NEVER RECEIVED

www.utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blog&utm_content=irs_taxes_pastor_for_salary_he_never_received_2017_10_05 By: Raul Rivera This time of year we get an abundance of phone...

A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING UNDERWAY AT WHITE HOUSE

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2017/july/bible-studies-at-the-white-house-whos-at-the-heart-of-this-spiritual-awakening “It’s the best Bible study that I’ve ever taught in my life. They...

REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU’RE TIRED OF PEOPLE

thrivingpastor.com/remember-this-when-youre-tired-of-people-2/?refcd=518301&utm_campaign=Remember+This+When+You’re+Tired+of+People   By: John McGee  July 10, 2017 / Focus on the Family Have...

HOW TO LAST IN MINISTRY

Pastor Rick’s Ministry Toolbox <info=pastors.com@mail143.wdc02.mcdlv.net By: Rick Warren Ministry is a marathon: it’s not...

THE MANY BENEFITS OF GRATITUDE

http://blog.thrivingpastor.com/the-many-benefits-of-gratitude/?refcd=504701&utm_campaign=The+Many+Benefits+of+Gratitude This well written article is excellent for focusing us on the grace of...

COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS

sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/lance-witt-courageous-conversations–part-2 By: Lance Witt Courageous conversations is a battle of prepositions.  Half of the...

ONE QUESTION YOU MUST NEVER ASK IN MINISTRY

classic.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/joe-mckeever-one-question-you-must-never-ask-in-ministry-2697.asp? “Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the...

I WENT TO HELL IN A DREAM

  charismamag.com/spirit/supernatural/28155-revivalist-i-went-to-hell-in-a-dream During this night of terror more than 25 years ago, I fell...

FRANKLIN GRAHAM SPEAKS OUT ABOUT ELECTION

theblaze.com/stories/2016/10/16/franklin-graham-sounds-off-about-the-evangelical-response-to-trumps-latest-scandals By: Franklin Graham   October 16, 2016 A lot of people are slamming evangelicals...

WILL MORE INVITATIONS RESULT IN MORE SALVATIONS?

http://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/hal-seed-will-more-invitations-result-in-more-salvations-2592.asp? By Hal Seed // PastorMentor.com For a long time I’ve wondered if there...

DANCING ON THE EDGE

Released by Focus on the Family, June 6, 2016 http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/affairs-and-adultery/dancing-on-the-edge By: A pastor who’s...

WHEN TO DISOBEY?

 By: David Koyzis  What happens when the demands of government contradict our faith in...

The Day I Hit the Wall

By: Gordon McDonald Marathon runners speak of “hitting the wall,” a moment in a...

HONORING MARRIAGE

Posted by Focus on the Family, December 7, 2015 by Kevin Conklin I once...

Life Is Eternal; Don’t Have an Affair!

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/august/life-is-eternal-dont-have-affair.html By Ed Stetzer  Aug. 25, 2015. This week, we’ve found it’s not as...

MODERN-DAY MARTYRS

BY Richard Greene With cancer eating away at her, the Iraqi woman faced a...

Divorced Dads

A Helpful Perspective on Your Ex The Championship Fathering blog by Carey Casey One...

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.




Top