Is there a Christian ghetto in our future...

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This is a talk given by ruling elder Ken Patrick at a conference held this past Saturday at his church, Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Ludlow, Kentucky. Titled "Maintaining a Christian Witness in an Increasingly Pagan Culture," the conference's other speakers were Trinity's pastor Chuck Hickey and an attorney from the Alliance Defending Freedom, Jeff Shafer. I attended the conference with my son, Joseph, and his fellow pastor Paul Belcher (both serving Christ Church in Cincinnati). Hope you find this talk as wise and helpful as Joseph, Paul, and I did.

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Maintaining a Christian Witness in an Increasingly Pagan Culture

by Ken Patrick

Before we begin, let me talk about my qualifications to divine the future: I’m not a prophet; I don’t have a “word from the Lord” in the sense that I’m about to share any divinely sourced revelation with you; God didn’t appear to me in a dream.

What I’m going to share are simply observations on what may come to pass if current trends continue, and what I would do if I were in charge. If you find yourself disagreeing with what I say, hopefully you’ll stay until I’m finished. We’ll have a Q&A session where you can ask a question, and of course you can pigeon-hole me afterward.

So, to answer my own question right up front—is there a Christian ghetto in our future?—I think the most likely answer is “of course, yes” at least in an intellectual sense and perhaps in a real, physical way as well. I think it’s very possible that we’ll see both. Before I begin describing what these Christian “ghetto” scenarios might look like, let’s establish why many of us think...

there’s a ghetto in our future in the first place.

The original thirteen British colonies that became the USA were founded largely by Christians, whether cultural or truly devout, and most of them were of the Protestant persuasion. As the thirteen colonies formed themselves into a continental union, they developed a shared belief in the importance of defending the right of religious pluralism. This shared belief was eventually enshrined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights attached to the Constitution.

Funny thing about religious liberty, though; it turns out that, as a basic human right, religious liberty is only important to religious people—and perhaps more pointedly, it’s really only important to Protestants or religious minorities. Historically, neither the Roman church nor the Orthodox Church have ever been champions of religious liberty or any form of religious pluralism (until they were religious minorities themselves). Freedom of religion as a principle of liberty originated in Protestant countries, and it was Protestant majorities who protected it by force of law—which makes sense given the factious and fractious nature of Protestantism. But when Protestantism goes sour, the principles it holds dear go too, and so it is with our First Amendment Freedoms—whether it be speech, religion or assembly—all of which are important to the Protestant project.

So what happened to religious liberty as a principle? It’s being pushed aside by another “liberty” whose adherents are apparently a bit more committed to their cause than we are.

What is this competing liberty?

Al Mohler has coined the phrase “erotic liberty”—defined as the freedom/right to pursue whatever sexual inclination one has in mind without legal restriction; and perhaps more importantly, without any societal opprobrium whatsoever. Erotic liberty is replacing religious liberty as one of, if not the, first freedom; within two generations it has become the paramount civil right that commands all others. It is the one right that rules them all (and in the darkness binds them…) As the principle of erotic liberty is now firmly established within our culture, any attempts to restrict libidinous license are challenged as a civil rights violation. It’s now common for the erotic liberty crowd to label calls for public restrictions on sexual license as violating civil rights (e.g. the fight over gay marriage), but even now, we’re seeing private actions being labeled as potential civil rights violations as well (e.g. the right of pastors to counsel same-sex attracted individuals to refrain from sin).

Do you grasp what’s happening? By framing erotic liberty as the essential human right, one that we’ve creatively found protection for within the Constitution, anyone who opposes it is a threat to the Republic and the freedom for which it stands! “Hate speech”—which is now any speech that denigrates, devalues or denies the goodness of someone’s sinful choices—becomes the unforgivable sin. Your Christian convictions aren’t only superstitious and false, they’re actually a threat to the public good; adhering to the Ten Commandments makes you a public nuisance and unpatriotic. It doesn’t matter how much you “love” your country; wrapping yourself more tightly in the flag isn’t going to make you any more acceptable in the sight of the growing mass of Americans who see your values as antithetical to the values of the republic.

And, oddly enough, if you weren’t already struck by the number of parallels between the Roman Empire and our own Federal behemoth (things like burgeoning religious pluralism, increasing sexual deviancy, growing emphasis on pursuing pleasure vs. embracing responsibility, etc.), you should know that Imperial Rome did not persecute Christians because they loved Jesus and wanted forgiveness from their sins and to enjoy eternal life in the presence of the Creator. Who could argue with that? They persecuted Christians because Christians were viewed as a threat to the Roman state, to the Pax Romana. They were deemed unpatriotic because they didn’t honor the pantheon of gods that had made Rome great. If the Romans allowed Christianity to flourish, the gods would withdraw their favor and calamity would befall Rome. Because Christians said Jesus—not Caesar—was the King of Kings, they were branded enemies of the state, and this despite copious evidence to the contrary from their own governors.

So your Christian convictions regarding sin, sexual sin in particular, make you quite unsuitable for participation in an open, progressive democratic republic. You are a threat to the pursuit of unfettered license and thus you are a public nuisance worthy of re-education, at best; but more likely, attempted eradication. Remember that, for the last 2,000 years, the kinds of behavior we now openly celebrate were considered criminal offenses (and some capital crimes). The sexual revolutionaries know what’s at stake; they don’t want to go back into the closet or to jail or to the gallows. So when we talk about a ghetto, we mean that the people and government of the United States want to limit our influence. They will do so first by marginalizing us within the public square; and once they have denied us any popular influence, they will seek to re-educate us so we become good citizens in their new mold.

We must understand that the sexual revolution that seeks to place erotic liberty as the true “first freedom” is, by definition, a popular rebellion against God. This isn’t just being crammed down our throats by elites. As a people, we demand bread and circuses, entertainment ad nauseum and continuous pursuit of ruinous lifestyles—and no one has the right to tell us, red-blooded Americans, any different. As a people, down deep we want this, and we’ve proven it in our high divorce rates, our skyrocketing illegitimate birth rates, our pervasive addiction to pornography, and the continuous coarsening of our entertainment culture.

If you think the recent election of Donald Trump is going to stop the sexual revolution, two words: “you’re wrong.” It’s possible that a new administration and balance of power may grant us a reprieve from the current pace of the revolution, but it does nothing to change the fundamentals of our situation. The president-elect is twice unlawfully divorced; he is unrepentant and proud of his many adulteries and fornications; he boasts of his desire to cuckold other men; and he looks at your daughters with a lascivious eye. Mr. Trump didn’t get elected to turn back the tide against the sexual revolutionaries; he’s one of them! Who among us thinks Donald Trump would respond to a prophetic rebuke of his sexual sin or abuse of power as David responded to the prophet Nathan? Who among us would want to be the prophet delivering that message? Far more likely than it being received with repentance (he’s said he’s not done anything worthy of repentance), we would hear the Donald's famous words "You're fired!" Don’t take this as a rebuke of the vote you cast; I held my nose and voted for the man for pragmatic reasons. But be assured that, while President-elect Trump may provide some welcome protection for the Church, he doesn’t remove the threat.

So let’s get to my predictions. What does our ghetto look like?

Let’s examine three different areas: church, businesses, & education.

  1. What will happen to our churches?
    1. Antagonistic public leaders will continue to reframe our historic religious liberty as a “right to worship.” The right to worship is an intentional misnomer that emasculates the robust religious liberty we’ve enjoyed for centuries. Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re the same thing. Changing freedom of religion to "freedom to worship" narrows the scope of the liberty to what you do inside the walls of your church sanctuary—and eventually to just within your own mind. This new phrase is their attempt at marginalizing freedom of religion.
    2. Depending on where you are in the country, churches are likely to witness upticks in vandalism and public displays of displeasure. If you don’t believe this, revisit what happened in San Francisco in the early 80’s & 90’s when an OPC church (Rev. Charles McIlhenny) terminated a musician because he was an active homosexual. That was 30 years ago. Since then, outspoken faithfulness to Christian orthodoxy has been muted in the Bay Area. This sort of persecution will likely start popping up in other areas as well, especially the coastal “blue” regions of the country.
    3. Churches that remain true to biblical principles will be made to pay—literally—for challenging the erotic liberty consensus.
      1. Churches who limit hiring pastors or other personnel to persons who actually hold to that church’s doctrinal standards will be guilty of discrimination; preaching that the pursuit of erotic liberty is a sin, calling for repentance of it, and disciplining the obstinate will be deemed hate speech. So envision a Sunday morning where you read from Leviticus where sodomy is named an "abomination," or you read Romans 1. The simple public pronouncement of these verses has been deemed hate speech in some contexts. If you have a visitor, they could report you to a local Human Rights commission (all the rage in NYC) who could then rule you guilty of a hate speech crime. Penalties could be fines; it could mean a loss of tax-exempt status; it could lead to zoning battles, inspection issues, etc. If local municipalities determine they don’t want “purveyors of hate” to find homes within their jurisdictions easily, they will try to make life miserable for you. Think about NYC or Chicago trying to keep Chick-fil-A out of their cities. Of course, it will be easy enough to avoid this persecution: you just need to worship the emperor, publicly stating that you disavow Christian orthodoxy with regard to erotic liberty.
      2. Perhaps even more insidiously, Churches will come under increasing attacks by members of their own flocks. They will be sued by folks who have been disciplined for embracing erotic liberty. If Church discipline is deemed hate speech, declaring it defamatory and worthy of monetary damages will be close upon its heels. Insurers will make a couple of large payments and they’ll exit the Church liability business. Churches will then be responsible for paying monetary damages on their own, and the penalties could extend to the pastors, elders and deacons, personally; This could lead to economic ruin and bankruptcy.
    4. To follow on that last point about members of our congregations, we’re going to see continuing apostatizing on the part of Christians. It’s been going on for a while. Most recently we’ve seen Janet Hatmaker & Nicholas Wolterstorff capitulate, and the trend will likely increase. Some will surrender wholesale, embracing their epiphany with regards to love and same-sex unions. The betrayal of others will be more subtle; we'll hear lots of talk about “social justice”, about “sex-trafficking,” and maybe a little about abortion, but there won’t be direct confrontation of erotic liberty. Pastors who desire cultural influence will self-censor. There will be fewer orthodox churches, fewer self-sacrificing pastors, fewer stalwart sessions, and fewer pious parishioners. Faithlessness and unbelief will sift us.
    5. As the pressure of capitulating to a culture of erotic liberty intensifies, the distinctiveness of our denominationally-driven Protestant landscape will fade. Our theological distinctives will lose importance in the face of the broad assault on biblical doctrines of sexuality. To withstand this onslaught, I think it very possible that God will take the “5,000” who’ve refused to bend their knee and will remake a unified Church that is more centered within smaller geographic regions and local communities where we’re more likely to find fellowship with congregations who are like-minded on biblical sexuality and anthropology. This rather than finding sustaining unity in the more finely wrought denominational doctrines. And—I know this is heretical coming from a self-proclaimed Presbyterian—I think we’re likely to gravitate to an episcopal system of church government as like-minded, Trinitarian, bible-believing Christians band together, and in that unity will possibly elect a spokesman who I think could morph into a metropolitan bishop of sorts… which may not be a bad thing. Just a thought.
  2. So what about the world outside of churches? In a society that increasingly relies on credentialing and licensure, Christians in the professional services and academia will be forced to either subscribe to speech and behavior codes, and thereby deny their faith publicly, or risk the forfeiture of their credentials and positions.
    1. Of course this has been commonplace in higher education for at least a century, with increasing momentum in the last 40-50 years resulting in a vitriolic spike in the last two to three. Unless you are teaching at an actively and deliberately conservative institution, there will be no room for you to advance a career, if you’re fortunate enough to begin one; conservatives in today’s state universities and elite private institutions are largely there incognito. And notice, I did not refer to “Christian” institutions as potential safe harbors for godly academics; sadly, “Christian” means virtually nothing as an appellation in the university discussion. We are seeing a tremendous erosion of commitments to biblical orthodoxy in historically Christian colleges, and much of this stems from Christian college personnel, administrative or scholarly, who are desperate for the approval and approbation of their secular counterparts. They want the glories of advanced degrees, they want the prestige of the secular academy’s approval; and in the process, they have been gelded. So the sexual revolution has come to many evangelical campuses, typically arriving within the guise of the heresies of feminism and egalitarianism, then spreading to the acceptance and eventual embrace of deviant behavior. Calvin College in Grand Rapids would be a prime example. And not to put all the blame on the faculty, a lot of colleges are wavering on commitments to biblical orthodoxy because they’re facing increasing pressure from their own ostensibly evangelical student bodies—their students who are the poorly-discipled products of an evangelical church that has no good news left to share. For too long, these students have had their bellies filled with therapeutic Pablum.
    2. But it’s not just the colleges & universities: if you’re a Christian public school teacher, unless you're willing to lose your job, it’s difficult to see how you’ll have any other choice but to go along with the sexual revolution. While the presssures may not occur in your daily math class, there’ll be that special assembly where you’ll be expected to encourage your pupils to explore their perhaps confused feelings on sexuality, and you will be forbidden to alert their parents. More broadly, you won’t be able to call the children in your class “boys and girls”; you’ll have to go along with the gender-indoctrination of the masses. And there will be other tests. If our culture is going to insist on having government funded schools, then it is probably a good thing to have Christian adults represented there. But remember the warning of our Lord in Luke 17: "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” 
    3. How about the medical profession—anyone in any medical field: maintaining an orthodox Christian position on sexuality, on life issues, on sin, will cause you to be targeted. Orthodox Christian understandings of humanity don’t jive with the current therapeutic culture, and your insistence that sin and a fallen world are the root causes of many, if not all, pathologies will mean you are not intellectually fit to practice in your chosen field. If you refuse to provide marital counseling to sodomites or lesbians, if you don’t support and encourage transgender surgery for that six-year-old girl who would rather be a boy, if you refuse to go along with the growing movement to categorize pedophilia as a normal expression of sexuality, you won’t be allowed to be a psychologist or psychiatrist. You won’t be able to practice basic medicine as a physician or nurse. You’ll be required to perform that abortion or assist in that suicide as well. Unless you’re willing to dispense abortifacients (and who knows what else down the road), you won’t be able to run that cash-cow pharmacy, either. If their perceived to be hindering someone else’s pursuit of erotic liberty, your religious scruples will afford you no protection
    4. What about lawyers? The ABA has already said it wants to make subscription to the reigning orthodoxies of madness a requirement to maintain one’s license to practice law, and that refusal will be considered discrimination. If Christian lawyers don’t have a law license, they can’t practice law. 
    5. What about you managers comfortably ensconced within large American corporations? Does your company actively push “diversity” training on its managers and employees?( I worked for one that now does.) The corporate world used to emphasize “tolerance,” but now “tolerance” is being discarded as insufficiently enthusiastic. In fact tolerance is downright cowardly. We don’t just tolerate “diverse” employees; a just work environment where they can flourish requires that we embrace their lifestyles. Modern HR departments are like the gestapo or the Communist Party political officers who had the assignment of assuring that all persons in all units were thinking the right thoughts. So, as a manager, your HR representative will tell you that you are responsible, not only for preaching the gospel of gay marriage, but promoting the celebration of transgenderism and making sure that any of your female employees who are offended by the new all-inclusive bathrooms understand that if they make waves about it, they will be reprimanded or terminated. All of this will be done to avoid potential discrimination lawsuits within the workplace and to placate potential consumers.
    6. Some of you still believe big business is the heart of what it means to be a patriotic American…baseball, apple pie, Chevrolet…big capitalism represents all that’s good with America. But remember who killed the Indiana RFRA in 2015? It wasn’t the wicked liberal Dems or the ACLU. It was big business threatening to pull their operations, their business, and their events from Indiana. This is what caused the Indiana legislature and our VP-elect Mike Pence to withdraw their feeble attempt at a statewide protection of religious liberty. Big business is not the friend of the Church. And perhaps one more observation: I said earlier that the sexual revolution is a popular revolt. The fact that American businesses have recognized this before most pastors or Christian intellectuals have is telling about who is actually in touch with the common man. Big business is about profit; and what line do we all know? “Sex sells.” Big businesses wouldn’t cater to the sexual revolutionaries if they thought they’d lose market share by doing so. They cater because their own market research indicates joining the revolution will get them new customers. With this in mind, expect a continuing coarsening of public advertising; it can and likely will get much worse. [Pompeii as an example?]
    7. Interestingly, the big corporations have begun to insist that their customers buy into their sexually revolutionary agendas. Witness the recent actions taken by AirBnb where they’ve stipulated that, if you want to rent a room using their service, you must sign a statement that says you support their progressive sexual commitments. As Rod Dreher puts it: “So, let’s get this straight: the state can force a florist to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding, in violation of her religious beliefs. And if this Airbnb policy is legal, a homestay network can force its customers to affirm certain beliefs to have the ability to purchase its service. Crazy times.” Crazy indeed and who knows what other corporations may be planning to do. [And I’ll admit, this one threw me for a loop.]

What if we Christians stay outside of the professions or major corporations? Won’t we have some freedom to live and work within the dictates of Scripture?

  1. Maybe, but that too will be increasingly difficult. 
    1. If you’re a tradesman, your future license may depend on your willingness to conform. It is more difficult for the society at large to police the smaller members, and so this is one area of making a livelihood about which I am less pessimistic.
    2. Small business owners who are suppliers or contractors to larger entities will likely have to demonstrate that they are complicit with the sexual revolution; that they’re socially acceptable. This will especially be true if you’re bidding on public projects; you’re HR policies will have to conform in order to be eligible to bid.
    3. The recent persecution of Christian photographers, bakers, and pizzeria owners should be enough for you to think that small businesses will not be immune to public pressure and potential ruin.
  2. Next, what about the future of Christian education? Will it be abolished?
    1. I don’t predict that it will be abolished, but rather that in several devious ways it will be co-opted. 
      1. First, the elite institutions (and the not-so-elite) could decline to admit students who have high-school diplomas from conservative Christian institutions. I wonder what that will do to upwardly-mobile parents who send their children to prestigious Christian schools and academies that work to get their students admitted to the “best” schools?
      2. Couple this with the likelihood that large corporations and government agencies will discontinue recruiting at orthodox Christian schools. Suddenly, degrees from small, culturally defiant Christian colleges that charged students $40k a year won't be worth the paper they're printed on. These schools won't be able to provide a degree that is marketable within the American business community. And what an awful spiral this will lead to:
        1. Small Christian college maintains orthodoxy.
        2. Small Christian college loses its accreditation.
        3. Small Christian college loses federal loans for tuition.
        4. Family of student at small Christian College can’t afford outrageous tuition, can’t get ridiculous loan (and even if they could, what’s the degree worth now?).
        5. Small Christian College goes out business and the country says “good riddance. (In terms of maintaining their ability to survive the loss of federal funding, the smart Christian colleges—and Cedarville is one example—are already preparing for this contingency. But at this point, it's hard to see how they avoid the public stigma that dramatically reduces the value of their degrees.)
      3. At the local level, in order to maintain their accreditation, Christian primary and secondary schools will have to show that their curriculum meets state standards. As long as you are teaching what the government thinks you should teach (take human sexuality as one example), you’ll be able to retain your operating credentials. But if you don’t, you’ll lose your accreditation. And if the state withholds your accreditation, how big a step is it to say that, if you don’t meet accreditation standards they will revoke your license? Remember, institutions that are viewed as antithetical to the aims and goals of the state will be treated as enemies to be eliminated.
      4. What about homeschooling as an alternative? Well, you’re going to face the same situation as the Christian institutions. Colleges will likely not accept the homeschool diploma—that could be the first pressure. The more serious threat to homeschooling, however, will likely come from your local Children’s’ Services department. In Ohio, it’s already been proposed that every homeschooling family be assigned a Children’s’ Services representative to “monitor” their educational progress. While that proposal didn’t pass, you should pay attention to the growing chorus of folks who want to eliminate the intellectual independence that homeschooling represents. Homeschooling can be co-opted too, of course. Personally, I don’t think homeschooling will be made illegal; you’ll just have to make sure your curriculum coforms to what the local public school is teaching.
      5. One final comment about education; if you don’t think this will be a primary target of the sexual revolutionaries, you don’t know your 20th century history very well. The Bolsheviks, the Nazis, the Chinese Communists, and—apparently—the NEA, have all realized that fundamental changes to a culture require going after the children. Thus when the Bolsheviks wanted to break the power of the Orthodox church in the Soviet Union, they didn’t just put pressure on the Church, directly; they also made sure the peasants were in government schools and members of the Pioneers or Komsomols. Indoctrinating Soviet children was the way to change the future. The Hitler Youth operated under the same principles, and thus some of the most vicious and senseless fighting in late World War II was carried out by children thoroughly committed to Hitler. Mao’s cultural revolution was carried out the same way. Oddly, the American public school system quite consciously morphed into a citizen-making enterprise in the early 20th century in order to turn southern European immigrants into fit Americans. Government education has almost never been about teaching young people to understand the glories of God’s creation. Government education has been about conforming people to certain patterns of behavior that serve the interests of the state. Despite what you hear about the pitiful state of public education, it’s actually quite good at fulfilling its principal purpose which is to produce cultural lemmings. Last thing about the schools: a recent conservative went on a rant where he said, “Third and most important, the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle.” To which I respond by pointing out that 87% of Americans have a high school diploma. Your neighborhood public school has the most access and influence upon our future electorate. They have them 6-10 hours a day, 182 days a year, for 13 years or more. And this is in every single community in the entire 50 states, plus the District of Columbia! If, across the history of the United States, there’s a more influential institution than the government school system, I’d like to see it. (Not even television can compete with those metrics—which is not to excuse the entertainment industry which so relentlessly reinforces public school propaganda.) You should be worried about the future of the electorate, but not because we’re adding immigrants to it.
      6. All this to say that those committed to implementing any cultural revolution will target the most impressionable minds, which means our children. Education is discipleship, and it’s sad the sexual revolutionaries understand this better than most evangelicals.

So we’ve talked about potential issues for churches, for professions, for businesses, and for education. None of this should surprise you. Just about everything I’ve said so far has either been seriously suggested, has already happened, or has been implemented at some point on the globe in recent history. It’s bleak, I know. So, I think there are two natural questions that arise: why is this happening and what can we do about it?

Why is this happening?

First, because Satan has been at war with God’s people from the beginning. We’re not special; this is just the latest iteration of the original cosmic conflict.

Second, to our great shame, the evangelical Protestant church had done a horrible job at developing and teaching a theology of the body. Does anyone else find it remarkable that Western Civilization is coming undone over the issue of sexuality? That fact says much about Evangelical understanding of the importance of biblical anthropology; we have become de facto dualists, denying the important link between soul and body. Take kneeling for example: as a posture of prayer, kneeling is a physical act that underscores a deeper spiritual reality. We are less than God, and we show our lesser-ness by humbling our bodies into a position of vulnerability and obeisance in His presence. Kneeling is an act that unifies body and soul into the same attitude. If your church kneels, that is. Unfortunately, as evangelicals we’ve become so focused on the spiritual that we’ve ignored one of the great Christian distinctives—that we’re embodied souls and that what we do with our bodies impacts/impairs our souls. Perhaps because of this lack of attention, the Enemy has succeeded in breaching our defenses in this area. What we’re doing with our bodies, sexually, is destroying the church.

But primarily, I believe this is happening because it is God’s judgment. Consider the election of last Tuesday; is it reasonable to compare the essential choice between two evils the country was given to the choice God gave David when David had to choose a punishment for his sin of taking a census of the people? I think a case could be made for this. I also think Romans 1 is an overlooked definition of the kind of judgment God employs. It’s not always invading armies, natural disasters, plagues, etc. Sometimes, it’s just being given over to the sins that beset us. It’s not a stretch to say our current trajectory is similar to the story of the Tower of Babel. In our hubris, we attempt to be like God. Thus God has confused our minds and we pursue our own destruction. How else do you describe a nation, a civilization, that delights in killing its unborn, its weak, and its old? How else do you describe a Western world that seeks to turn the created order on its head and redefine the very rules of nature with regard to the essence of being human? Do we not deserve the judgment?

Where has the Church been in the midst of all this rejection of God’s good creation? Apparently no one listens to us anymore, and why is that? Could it be that the world doesn’t listen to our defense of Biblical sexuality because we’ve demonstrated that we’re hypocrites – that we don’t listen to God, either? How often do the sons of the Church indulge the scourge of pornography? How often do the daughters of the Church seek abortions? How many of the wrongfully-divorced sit in our pews enjoying full communion with the Body? How many of our married couples have sought to severely limit, or even to eliminate, the gift of children from their lives? Remember when modesty was a Christian virtue? How often is it commended on the Christian college campus today? In our sanctuaries on Sunday morning? We have turned a blind eye to so many of Scripture’s teachings on this important area of sexuality.

Do you disagree with my assessment of sexuality’s paramount importance?

Apparently the pagans find it important. In fact, so important that they will upend the created order so they can pursue a deviant version of it. The world demands our full-throated support of its decadence and reacts violently against our hypocritical protests.

So why is it happening? All of this is judgment against our culture’s rejection of God’s law in nature as well as the Church’s failure to be the witness we’re called to be. God tells us judgment begins with the household of God. We get it first. 

What can we do about it?

The future can be depressing to contemplate. And some of you may think sadness and mourning aren’t appropriate to the “spirit-filled life.” Others may pull out your postmillennial card as a pair of rose-colored glasses. I believe Jesus is a post-millennialist, but He wept for the mothers of Jerusalem because he understood the pain, agony, and death they were going to undergo during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Of course our God reigns. Of course His Church will emerge victorious, a spotless Bride. But that doesn’t mean we’ll avoid the winnowing and discipline Scripture warns the people of God who embrace or display cowardice in the face of wickedness will suffer. The thought of falling into the hands of our angry God should strike the boldest among us with fear, and mourning is an appropriate response to the recognition of the state we’re in. In fact, sackcloth and ashes and tears might be the most appropriate response for the church at this moment.

The first and most critically important thing we can do is repent. This means we need to turn from our current way of doing things, and seek the path of God. We’ve been going in the wrong direction. We have to do an about-face. We need to seek forgiveness and pursue holiness. In fact, every other suggestion I make is going to be derived from this primary point: we need to repent.

And what we need to repent of is our unbelief and disobedience.

If we’re not repenting, none of the following suggestions matter. Repentance is the means by which, before facing the enemy, we get our own army in order.

As I go through my suggestions for action, let’s not lose sight of some valuable wisdom. We don’t want to get caught fighting the last war. You know, like during the First World War when the armies lined up on each side and advanced against each other as if they were fighting with muskets or single-shot rifles. They didn't realize the machine gun had changed tactical warfare forever.

How might we as Christians be “fighting the last war?”

Consider that we often think our problem with believers and unbelievers is a lack of information, so we Evangelicals have prized the art of communication above all else. While I think effective communication skills are vital to the Christian faith, we are wrong to think our problem today is people not knowing the truth. There has never been a period in history where so many people have access to the truth of God’s Word, and it’s available in every conceivable format—printed, electronic, visual, auditory, etc. The Word of God is ubiquitous across the West. Perhaps its ubiquity was the one true triumph of the Reformation—and we should be thankful for this. The Reformers understood Christians needed to be able to read God’s Word in order to understand, love, and obey Him, so not only did they study the Bible, they printed it in vast quantities and then taught the common folk to read and understand it. It was access to the Word of God that fueled the Reformation. People could see the Church was saying things God didn’t say (and vice versa), so the truth set the Church free. It was a communications war.

But our current war isn’t one of communication; it’s one of belief. We’ve embraced the original lie of the serpent, “did God really say that…?” And if He did, then He probably didn’t actually intend for us to do what the words actually convey or mean.

We know what God says in Genesis, 

“therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife that they shall become one flesh.”

“be fruitful and multiply,” 

We know what God says in Malachi:

“the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth with whom you have dealt treacherously…she is…your wife by covenant…did He not make them One… and why One…He seeks godly offspring…let none deal treacherously with the wife of one’s youth.”

We know what God says in 1 Corinthians:

“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with…anyone named a brother who is sexually immoral…not even to eat with such a person.”

We know what God says in Thessalonians:

“For this is the will of God…that you should abstain from sexual immorality.”

We know what God says in Jude:

“…as Sodom and Gomorrah…having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

We know what God says in the book of Acts:

“…we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain…from sexual immorality.”

This is what God says about sexuality. It’s very clear; there’s little to argue over. Until recently, no Evangelical disputed the perspicacity of these words. The Word is clear about our sexuality, so what’s the problem with the Evangelical church?

We simply don’t believe God when He says these things; we don’t really believe that this is the way the world should work; we don’t really believe that God has prepared eternal punishment for the wicked; we don’t really believe that to obey God is better than worship.

This lack of belief evidences itself in our disobedience. Or, to reverse it, unless you are obeying God, how can you say you believe His Word? (And if you’re first reaction to these words is to get worked up about the potential conflation of works and faith, then you’ve been smoke-screened into fighting a battle that only serves to distract you from where the real fighting is right now. Save your ammo on that fight until the current crisis is past.)

Our unbelief is displayed in our disobedience. We get married, but then we get divorced. We get married, but then we refuse to take pleasure in the wife of our youth and exchange her for pornography. We get married, but then we work hard to avoid being fruitful. Or at least not “too” fruitful. We don’t commit adultery personally, but we don’t mind watching our favorite actors and actresses simulate it on the screen. The list of our disobedience in this one area—human sexuality—is immense, and I haven’t even started on sexual behavior that is creationally deviant! 

So our repentance should begin with an admission of our unbelief, but true repentance isn’t just admission of guilt. It’s actually turning from the wrong path and going down the right path—that’s what repentance means. With regard to the sexual revolution, what does “repentance” actually look like?

  • It means abstaining from any sexual relationship outside of marriage.
  • Because it is obvious how essential sex is to the human condition, to avoid sinning in this area, we should be encouraging an abundance of marriages.
  • Our married couples should be having children; if not their own, then let them pursue adoption or foster care.
  • Don’t watch simulated (or real) acts of adultery committed by other people. It’s not art, it’s indecent.
  • Pursue the Christian virtue of modesty of dress and behavior.

This is what it looks like to actually “turn” from your former path and walk in a different one; your actions are different! It begins to look like obedience no matter how imperfect.

So we must repent and we must learn to obey.

Onto ideas for resistance! At Trinity, we believe and teach that there are three spheres of authority: the civil realm, the church, and the family. Men have responsibilities to all three areas, and I think it would be useful to use this rubric to provide some potential answers/responses or solutions. Given our short time together, I’m really only going to focus on what the Church should be doing, although there may be some overlap into the other spheres. But it’s not just the limitation of time that causes me to emphasize the Church’s role first and foremost; rather it’s the idea that our problems are at root spiritual in nature. Our problems are symptoms of the battle between Christ and Satan, and so the first place to address the problems is not through political solutions, but to use the weapons we have been given to bring down the strongholds of the enemy. Our weapons are not carnal, of the flesh, of the world, but they are spiritual. Spiritual problems require spiritual weapons, thus I focus on the church first.

Strategies for the Church

The abandonment of orthodoxy by most churches, evangelical or otherwise, as well as the lack of exercise of real authority by faithful churches, have completely undermined our present position. How difficult is it for any politician, any public figure, to find a “Christian” willing to support their position no matter how antithetical it is to historic Christian orthodoxy? How easy is it for a self-identified Christian to avoid the rebuke and discipline of his home congregation by simply ceasing to attend that congregation, instead driving down the road a mile or so and joining up with another church who asks no questions about his previous church and whether he's running from its discipline? Our lack of a unified voice on the basic orthodox teachings of Scripture is hugely debilitating, and then our unwillingness to discipline our own has exacerbated that un-orthodoxy.

What can we do about it?

  1. First, we need a new creed. No, we don’t need to re-write the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds (though frequent re-cite-ing is good). Historically, creeds have been formulated to respond to the heresies of the day; and typically, they’re not that long because they’re focusing on a limited issue. Well, we have a heresy today and it’s in the area of faithfulness to the biblical teachings on sexuality. As a church, we need to boldly confess what the Scriptures teach and that confession needs to be pithy and punchy. We need a statement on biblical sexuality that would become akin to that of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy or the Danvers Statement on the roles of men and women (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1988). The Danvers statement begins to approach the need by addressing the heresy of feminism and it mentions the growing problems of pornography and other illicit sexual behaviors. Nevertheless, the Danvers Statement doesn’t have the teeth needed for the current situation. Ideally, this statement on sexuality would be fairly brief (contrast the length of the Danvers Statement with the Apostle’s Creed) and suitable for insertion into confessions (the Westminster Confession of Faith, perhaps?). Ideally, the statement would approach ecumenical confessional or creedal status, but the church has not been pounded or winnowed into a single unified body just yet, so perhaps hoping for an ecumenical creed on the topic is a bridge too far. Maybe it won't be seen in my lifetime? What would the statement contain? It would assert that God created them “male and female”/men and women, and that our sexual identity is fixed by our Creator. It would declare that marriage is between one man and one woman. It would declare that any sexual relations outside the marital union are forbidden, and that the use of pornography is “porneia” condemned at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Then, here’s where it would really get obnoxious: it would actually assert the authority of 1Corinthians 6, and this would prevent our being in fellowship with any who call themselves by the name of Christ and unrepentantly engage in the sexual sins heretofore described. What would we do with such a statement? We’d go around the country promoting it to individual churches and presbyteries, classii, assemblies, etc. How hard would it be to set up a website—a registry of churches that had “signed” as a way of letting believers in communities around the country know what the churches in their community believe? We’d attempt to create a network of churches that could assert the Apostle’s Creed and bind themselves to the Cincinnati Statement on Sexuality. Maybe you think that the “Cincinnati Statement on Sexuality” sounds a little too much like the corporate evangelicalism that is so slick that it makes us want to puke for its obeisance to the culture at large. Maybe we should call it the Boniface Statement—maybe we could work up the courage to use it to attack the great pagan tree of sexual libertinism of our day. Whatever. We need a new creed.
  2. My second suggestion follows the first. We need to explore relationships with like-minded churches no matter their denominational affiliation, and I would suggest that it should be subscription to this new creed on sexuality (in addition to the Trinitarian creeds) that would form the basis of our fellowship. What does this mean? It means networking with churches that want to be obedient to God’s word and want their parishioners, their members, to grow in grace and resist the lies of the devil. It means sharing resources. It means sharing foxholes. (Instead of catacombs, in coming days we’ll likely need “cyber-combs." Remember, fight the war you’re in—not the last one. The battle of our day is not over the composition of the Trinity, nor the details of justification, nor whether or not the Rapture is a real thing. While these are important questions, the debates here sideline us from where Satan has attacked us, and that is sexuality. In keeping with fighting the last war, we probably need to rethink how we engage with the enemy. Perhaps we should adopt some “4th-generation” warfare-type strategies. This network that I’m envisioning is not an organization headed up by a highly-credentialed evangelical academic/activist who maintains a large office staff in Washington DC and who sends out emails of doom every time Congress adds another abomination to our stinking pile of national disgrace. This network should be decentralized and run by men who display courage and exhibit sacrificial love on the part of their flocks. We need shepherds, armed shepherds, to fight the wolves within and without. Not CEOs. The network I envision will eschew assets in favor of relationships. When the fighting intensifies, we’re going to need the strength of the Body of Christ more than ever. Like-minded churches need to know they are not islands.
  3. Third, let’s abolish seminary degrees. No, really. However they may have begun, many of our seminaries have become co-opted by the heresies of feminism and egalitarianism. They turn out men who are culturally hip and, if our own session is to be believed, biblically ignorant. These graduates become our pastors and teaching elders, and it is these same pastors/teaching elders who crave the approbation of the world. After all, they’re the ones constantly pushing the envelope with regard to liberalizing tendencies. I think it’s fair to say many of our pastors have bought into the desire to be credentialed and respected within the broader academic community. Unfortunately, the broader academic community has become stridently anti-Christian, so what’s a pastor desperately seeking intellectual street cred to do? Well, in the PCA they winsomely (can we retire this word?) set up study committees to examine, once again, the role of women in the church with an eye towards the eventual ordination of women to at least one office, if not more. Why do we put up with this? Why do we allow our General Assembly to be dominated by the professional theologians? Why do we restrict the votes of ruling elders, those men who work in a secular profession all week and don’t often have the luxury of attending a GA hundreds of miles away? Why can’t we broaden the suffrage of ruling elders by allowing remote electronic voting on GA overtures? It’s hard to imagine the PCA would allow the shenanigans it currently permits if the more conservative class of ruling elders were enabled to vote en masse. But this is just one denominational example; if you think I exaggerate, go talk to the remnant of God-fearers in the PCUSA, the ELCA, the UCC, or the Episcopal Church. But back to my suggestion. How would abolishing the credential help us? It would thin the ranks of teaching elders to those who have a greater desire to shepherd than study. No credentials mean lack of academic standing. This means there’s no intellectual status to defend because such men won’t have any academic standing to begin with. We will be liberating our pastors from the temptation to pursue worldly recognition—at least to some extent. Now don’t mistake my zeal for abolishing seminary degrees with a desire to eliminate good, rigorous biblical training for church leaders. I’m all for it, but let the culmination of the training be ordination rather than some earthly credential or degree. Let the amount of training be split between the training institution and the church. Let us make our own shepherds, and perhaps we can train them to be warriors to boot.
  4. Fourth, the church should more actively promote Christian education. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on propounding the evils of the public schools. If you don’t already understand that they are the primary vehicle by which Satan has indoctrinated millions, then you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on. You don’t understand that Christian education is a form of fulfilling the Great Commission, a form of discipleship. Any further rant by me won’t make much of a difference. As they are presently constituted, I firmly believe our covenant children should not be in public schools. I think earnest evangelicals agree with this assertion, but we have many families who are in circumstances where obtaining a Christian education is not possible. So let me ask a few questions. First, is our education of our children impossible because we don’t have the facilities in which to educate the children? That can’t be true because the number of edifices owned by the Evangelical church nationwide has to be in the hundreds of thousands. We have the buildings and they go largely unused five to six days a week. This is a scandal. We have the facilities to provide the space for education and discipleship. Second question: is our education of our children impossible because Christian parents can’t afford the tuition? Perhaps, and this too is a scandal. It’s a scandal that the Evangelical church expects young parents to foot the entire bill for the education of covenant children. Ironically, even the pagans understand that the entire community benefits from “educated” children, and thus they spread the cost around the community in the form of property taxes. Typically in this country, the Christian school movement is solely dependent on its customers (parents of school-age children) and has no recourse or connection to the greater Christian community for funding and resources. Our parsimoniousness in this area is a scandal. Is it expensive to pay teachers. Yes, it can be, especially if we expect to have male teachers who are heads of households responsible for raising a family. But what about all the resources of the Baby Boomers in our midst, whether it’s cash, expertise, time—or all three? How many evangelical Boomers are retired in their mid-60s with plenty of time on their hands and nothing really constructive to do, other than their leisure pursuits? If the evangelical church is in a fight for its very existence, why aren’t we using all of our resources? Why don’t we have too many volunteers to educate our children? And I haven’t even touched on homeschooling…
    1. Let me add a caveat here. You may recall a few moments ago I was forecasting potential doom for educational freedom. It may seem contradictory for me to recommend education as an area of focus now. I think right now while we’re being marginalized we should be fighting hard to keep discipleship of our children under our authority. If things get as bad as I think they might, we’ll have to re-think how we disciple our children. Which leads me to something I haven’t spent any time discussing: when do we determine that the scope of judgment is utter destruction and we need to “get out of Jerusalem” as Jesus warned the early Christians? This is a very difficult question. Some of you will likely think it cowardice ever to contemplate leaving. Others of you might be ready to board a plane as soon as the conference is over. I do think flight can be an appropriate response for Christians, but the reason why I haven’t discussed immigrating somewhere is that there’s no readily apparent place to go that isn’t fraught with other issues. And believe me, I’ve been looking. As bad as our trajectory is—and remember, I’m not a prophet—believe it or not, religious liberty is still better here than it is in many places around the globe. Also, there are clear economic advantages, here, and there’s a general lack of violence and civil unrest. So when we talk about leaving an area when the heat gets too intense, I’m not opposed, but we need to be careful about exchanging the devil we know for completely foreign environments. I do think that, of all the potential scenarios I’ve described, losing the right to direct the education/discipleship of our children is probably the one that distresses me most. So if leaving is the only thing that will enable me to disciple my children, I’m willing to leave. This is where a network of like-minded churches across the country (there will be some corners less conspicuous and watched than others) would be helpful. And probably, we should have connections around the globe.
  5. Fifth suggestion, and this is directed to the rulers of the churches, the sessions, the boards, the committees, etc.: you need to get more serious about your shepherding duties. Before I get into the particulars, let me say that, of course, one of your primary weapons is prayer; you should be leading your congregation in terms of time spent on your knees asking God for wisdom, grace, and above all mercy on behalf of your congregation.
    1. Your job is to guard the flock from false teaching and from wolves. You need to find pastors/shepherds who want to work hard in this area. You yourselves need to shoulder the burden with them. We’re in a war. The wolves are in the fold as well as without, so act like it. Local churches have to meet the threat of sexual libertinism head-on. If you’re not in a church that has preached on the roles of men and women in the Church and family within the last year, consider moving to a new church. If your church hasn’t preached publicly about the evils of pornography, consider moving to a new church. If your church’s leadership isn’t regularly counseling, praying for, and comforting those who have been victims of sexual sin—every church has such souls—then consider moving on. It’s time our churches stopped being squeamish and Victorian on the issues. In a culture that is drowning itself in sexual sin, we are literally seeing thousands fornicating themselves to death—both physically and spiritually—yet we say next to nothing in our pulpits about this scourge of our time. Is your church prepared to be a hospital for the community? Hospitals are for taking care of the sick. We are in the midst of an epidemic of sexual sin that leaves terrible suffering in its wake. Are you prepared to show love by counseling the same-sex attracted? Are you prepared to counsel the pornography-addicted? Are you prepared to comfort the sexually abused? Can we care for the women who have been used and abandoned by wanton men? Can we provide shelter for their orphans? Isn’t this what James calls “true religion?” If you aren’t able to do these things because you lack the training and skills, then take the time to be trained and acquire the skills. As an elder, this is the important work of the church; it is to these things that we have been called.
  6. Sixth suggestion: start thinking strategically about the challenges your flock is likely to face. If you have men who might be losing their jobs due to their faith, what can the Church do to care for these men? When these situations arise, do you know how you will counsel these men? Will you be ready with funds, food, clothing, and shelter? When your own congregation is overwhelmed by the enemy’s attack, will you have relationships with other churches through which you can get assistance? You need to be reaching out to these men now, letting them know you’re concerned and want to help develop a plan—even if it’s initially “just” a steady stream of prayer. Are you prepared to challenge the men of your congregation to be the men that God has instructed them to be? Are you actively discipling them? Why do they struggle? Primarily because we don’t teach and demand that they step up to their roles. Instead, our culture keeps our young men at bay by prolonging their adolescence through addictions to various types of entertainment (sports, video games, etc.), and by allowing them to enjoy the pleasure of sex outside the boundaries of God’s law whether it be through the debasement of pornography, the fornicating abuse of unmarried women, or the further unnatural debasement of sodomy. But victory here isn’t just abstaining from the sin; it’s proactive in that it means they should be marrying, having children, participating in their churches by accepting and fulfilling responsibilities. Remember, earlier I spoke of religious people as being the ones who actually value religious liberty. For those of you hoping to hear political solutions to our current crises, you’ve been disappointed thus far, but let me throw one out to you now. In a democratic republic, who holds the ultimate power? It’s the people. Throughout history, even when the people are oppressed over time by small oligarchies or monarchs or totalitarian rulers, they all fall when the masses arise and throw off the tyrants. If you want to capture the seats of power in Washington, Ohio, or Kentucky, you must first capture the hearts of people. And there are two ways to do that: evangelism and procreation. I’d submit that we’re not very good at either method, and for young people I’d suggest procreation as the best place to start. Our young men struggle with understanding that the fundamental element of manhood is being responsible for others: caring and providing for women and children, defending the weak, and giving aid to the needy. Will your church leadership instruct, encourage and model the behavior of what it means to be a Christian man? If our men aren’t pursuing holiness through marriage, if they aren’t defending sexual purity and God’s design, if we/they aren’t living it, there is no hope for us or our descendants.

Let me address one thing very quickly before I end, and I make this point specifically to the men here. Real fighting requires courage. God has created us, He has hard-wired us, to be warriors, to be defenders, to be caretakers, and I think this shows up in all of us to some extent. But too often we are men of small courages committing micro-aggressions. In short, we suffer from the temptation for which Jesus excoriated the Pharisees: we like to battle over the little things, and we avoid tackling the real, existential threat that brings judgment, that foreshadows our complete destruction. Think about it: is a debate over worship-style the issue by which the church stands or falls, or is it the debate over how to confess Biblical sexuality to an aggressively pagan culture? The pagans don’t care whether we clap, whether we lay down a bass line or pull stops on an organ! God's enemies don’t care if His undershepherds wear robes, suits, or skinny jeans. God's enemies care when we name their wickedness "sin" and call them to repentance—when we call them to end their rebellion against God. To stop these things, they have sown our seminaries with the seeds of feminism, they’ve lured our shepherds into silence with the promises of respectability and treasure, they have convinced us to deal treacherously with the wives of our youth, they’ve enticed us to gratify sinful lusts and to follow after strange flesh, and thus they have brought us to real destitution and utter destruction. In the midst of this carnage, we find it easier and safer to have our collegial debates and exhibit censoriousness and displeasure in strong terms against our choice of marching music or the fit and color of our uniforms. Brothers, if the hispters' jeans or the traditionalists’ gowns are steeped in blood because they’re fighting for biblical orthodoxy, their uniform is the right one! If the songs you sing bring glory and honor to our Commander and King, we're marching to the right tunes. The only casualties of petty disputes are miffed brothers. When we focus on these types of battles, we distract ourselves with little braveries and hollow victories while the enemy is literally dragging souls to the grave. This war is brutal, and Satan is a lion seeking whom he may devour. His jowls are stained red with the blood of millions.

The only theological fight worth having in the Church right now is the one over biblical anthropology—or to put a finer point on it, biblical sexuality. We are being assailed by the heresies of feminism and egalitarianism. Mixed with our sinful lusts, these false doctrines are creating confusion in the church. They have emasculated our men and made barren our women hard. They have robbed us of the blessings of marriage and have destroyed the growing strength of the church. This is the Trinitarian controversy of our day. It must be fought and we must find the courage to fight it. We’re going to continue to see our ostensible comrades defect. Men who formerly were stalwart evangelicals, we're going to watch lose their nerve, and then capitulate. Meanwhile, those of us who stand are going to be derided. We’re going to be mocked. We’ll be humiliated. We may lose all our worldly goods and see our reputations destroyed.

Isn’t this what we’re really afraid of? Losing our stuff and prestige? If this is what silences us, Jim Elliot would call us fools. 

So where does the courage to fight against such an enemy come from?

It comes from faith. It comes from believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He sits at the right hand of the Father Who is making a footstool of all of His enemies. Do you believe that? Do you believe that, through Jesus Christ, God the Father spoke the world into existence? Do you believe the Word of God provides sufficient instruction for you to know how to obey and please God? Do you believe when you fail you have an Intercessor at God's right hand? That He forgives you? That you are being chastised and disciplined because you are sons? If God is for us, who can be against us? Do you really believe that the absolute worst that can happen to you is that they kill your body, but then you will be resurrected with the living Son of God? Do you really believe eternal victory rests with our God? If so, having enough courage should be an afterthought.

As has been stated in the theme of our conference, we understand Tolkien’s very poignant exchange between Frodo and Gandalf…

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

“So do I," said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Take heart, men of the Church. In God’s providence, this is the time that has been given to us. Evidently we’re the ones selected to do the fighting. You are the chosen warriors. Your blood should be up. You have been given the keys to the kingdom. You have the Son of God going forth to war in front you. Repent, turn from your flight, seek His wisdom, take joy in his strength, shout with his horn of war, and follow Him to victory. 

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!