Men’s ministry in the morning at 8:00. The question will be: what is the practical reality of “dealing with the world as though you had no dealings with it” (1 Cor 7:31). We’re usually better at the extremes: monastic avoidance or apathetic immersion. What does an authentic Christian solution look like?
This note is a continuation of two weeks ago on gender equality. You may want to go back and read that one. If you don’t have it in email it’s also on the CPC website.
I do have an argument regarding gender-equality I’d like to continue to advance for the next couple weeks, but here’s an interlude that I’m convinced is necessary. I doubt we know how much the culture of the world is in us. Francis Schaeffer once said something to the effect of, “tell me what the world is saying today and I’ll tell you what the Church will be saying in seven years.” It’s this that explains the Mainline denominational shift in views over the last 40 years on gender and sexuality issues. Despite endless warnings in the OT that the people of Israel should not co-opt Canaanite culture, and virtually identical warnings from Christ, Paul, and John that the “world” is a system of thought and action in conflict with the pattern of the Kingdom, Churches, and ministers love the favorable opinion of the world. I’ve watched ministers for years and they have a complicated attachment to being considered cool by non-believers. They are usually terrified that the world might consider them discriminatory, narrow, and ethically/intellectually unsophisticated. The gaze that many ministers feel most powerfully is not the Father’s, but that of the culturally hip non-believer.
Say it this way: when we know that the ancient and orthodox Christian positions on gender and sexuality are in radical conflict with that of the surrounding culture, are we genuinely prepared to walk with Jesus who is necessarily “outside the camp” (Heb. 13:13), to bear whatever reproach he calls us to bear? We may not really know. Do we have the kind of robust, expansive faith that will allow us to love those who call us discriminatory, hateful, and “phobic”? I hope so. Such was the love of Christ.
Finally for this week — these thoughts have been rattling around in my head since having coffee with a couple of old friends several weeks back. I hadn’t seen them for maybe 15 years and there had been a change in their views. Now this is the tricky part, but let me say it this way. The Church is always moving toward being a merely human and natural institution. Listen carefully for it and, over time, you will hear her language shift from speaking plainly of God as a living being who is constantly moving in gracious action in our lives and world, to language that personifies virtues derived from God: mercy, compassion, grace, love and so on. Because the language is “biblical” we rarely notice the shift.
But the change is profound: we have moved from a place of being centered on God to being centered on values. The former is necessarily ordered by God himself, who is alive and in all we think and do. The latter is ordered by derived ethics that govern how we treat one another. At the center of the former is God; at the center of the latter is us. Once that shift occurs, or even begins, churches end up accommodating and appeasing other people. The highest and best ethical practices are not those that please God alone, but those that please other people. The modern church deals with this criticism by saying the two are the same thing. My point next week, or at least one way of seeing it, will be that the two are not the same: sometimes people are not pleased with what God deems best for them.