At War with the Culture Without
Dr. Voddie Baucham recently spoke in Moscow, Idaho on “The Great Errors Confronting the Church”. Opening with Ephesians 5:22 he says:
‘Wives, submit to your husbands.’ We can just stop there. We can stop right there. We’re already at war. We’re already at war with our culture. Right? I didn’t even finish the verse! And we’re already at war with our culture.
Baucham then identifies feminism, cultural Marxism, and same-sex marriage as aspects of our culture that conflict with this verse and its implications. He is correct, of course, but conservative Christians already recognize these movements as alien and hostile. When Baucham warns, in so many words, that the enemy is outside the gates, he rallies a receptive audience. It is well for him to exhort us to vigilance and standing our ground — Lord knows we need it — but I wish to raise the alarm about a far more insidious part of our culture, which is not only inside the gates but deep in our minds, embedded like a malignant tumor that degrades our ability to think clearly about moral issues.
The Culture Within
I mean the liberal idea that everyone has the right to do as he pleases, so long as all parties consent. (Or as the occultists put it: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”) What is good is defined subjectively by everyone for himself, while evil is defined objectively as “non-consensual harm.”
This idea grew out of northwestern Europe in concert with the philosophical, political, and economic developments of the last several centuries. Enlightenment humanism, with individual liberty as ultimate moral law, gradually settled at the bedrock of Western civilization thanks to its compatibility with a market-based, multicultural, democratic order that harmonizes diverse and competing interests.
In the West, and in America particularly, the ethic of individual autonomy is assumed without question across the political spectrum, from “do your own thing” and “my body, my choice” on the left, to “don’t tread on me” on the right. It has become so pervasive and omnipresent that we forget it is historically aberrant and culturally unique. In fact, social psychologists have coined the term “WEIRD” — Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic — precisely because it is so unusual.
Furthermore, in mistaking our socially conditioned moral sentiments, which belong to a particular time and place, for eternal and universal truths that hold at all times in all places, we find ourselves obligated to enlighten a darkened world. This manifests as a continual dredging up, revision, and judgment of historical transgressions, in time; and as a crusade to export democracy, make the world safe for human rights, and proclaim the social justice gospel, in space.
Liberals with Christian Sensibilities
Since liberalism abolishes all distinction and levels everyone to the same status (as “individual”) it implies a radical equality resembling that of the Church in Christ. But since God is missing from the picture, it is a counterfeit: a Christianity without Christ. Like all successful counterfeits, it has gained currency due to a superficial similarity with the genuine article.
Moreover, it can flexibly accommodate a wide range of moral tenets and imperatives. “Wives, submit to your husbands”, for instance, can be expressed within a consent-based framework by asserting that wives “sign up” to submit in the same way that military recruits voluntarily forfeit their rights during service. Likewise, abortion may be opposed by asserting the right of the unborn to life. (Although, since rights belong to persons, the debate devolves to the question of personhood and its beginning.)
Thus for a long time have liberals with Christian sensibilities been able to reconcile the two faiths. However, cultural changes sometimes force matters to a head and expose a fundamental rift, the resolution of which plays out according to an oft-observed pattern. Conservative liberals, who cling to the vestiges of pre-liberal tradition out of custom and habit, at first protest the incipient changes. But because their opposition is based on a preference for the familiar and established, they become accustomed to new norms with the passage of time. In the age of television and social media, especially, it does not take long for the initially resistant to imbibe new attitudes through repeated exposure and the impulse to conform.
The conservative-liberal is never able to mount a principled defense because, in principle, he is a liberal. Eventually, he openly embraces his true faith, shedding Christian trappings as so much excess baggage. Time and again have we seen leading figures in church and state “come out” and declare their allegiance to the liberal religion, typically in response to critical issues that reveal a great chasm fixed between it and the Scripture.
Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas and a self-identified Christian, furnishes a recent example. In May of this year, Cruz condemned an Uganda law that prescribes the death penalty for homosexual acts with minors and homosexual acts knowingly carried out with the risk of HIV infection. Cruz called the law “an abomination” and “a human rights abuse”. His sharp choice of words — “abomination” clearly referring to Leviticus 18:22 — marks an unmistakable dividing line and leaves no doubt about his loyalties. After all, individuals have the right to do as they please. Who are we to say what consenting adults may not do in the privacy of their bedrooms? Or on the street in broad daylight? Or before groups of small children?
Christians with Liberal Sensibilities
As progressive soldiers march ever onward along the path of depravity, war clouds seem to be gathering around the sexualization of children. Even now the ground is being prepared: gender ideology in schools, surgical and hormonal interventions, suggestive themes in media, graphic depictions in sex education, “family-friendly” drag and Pride events, and the creeping normalization of “minor-attracted persons” all serve to inculcate the view of children as sexual beings.
Given the additional premise that children are individuals with the power to consent, it follows that consensual sex with children is both appropriate and morally justified. Sensing the urgency and underlying logic of the situation, Joel Berry of The Babylon Bee writes:
Christians had better start researching and preparing robust defenses of the age of consent from history and scripture and they need to start yesterday.
Here we see the character of the Christian with liberal sensibilities, who retains Christian commitments while remaining within the liberal moral frame. He will, if possible, defend Christian positions within a system of autonomy and consent. But wherever this system contradicts Scripture or produces absurdities, he abandons it in favor of the deeper convictions of the heart. Unmoored from the liberal system, therefore, yet lacking anchorage in a Christian moral groundwork, the Christian with liberal sensibilities finds himself cast adrift, unable to justify the tenets of his faith except by meekly pointing to scattered passages in the Bible.
And that is if he is lucky. What if Scripture appears to be silent on some controversy? What if, for example, experts agreed and science affirmed that children as young as three can indeed consent to sex? What argumentative options would be available to him? He could, like Berry, dispute the premise: “The age of consent is greater than three!” Or he could grasp for a verse like Luke 17:2, which assumes what he wishes to prove. But in no case could he argue from an alternative framework that aligns naturally with his Christian moral intuitions.
It is bad enough that the Christian with liberal sensibilities is off-balance and tactically disadvantaged with respect to apologetics and the culture war. Worse still, his double-mindedness is psychologically corrosive and demoralizing. He is apt to feel embarrassed and ashamed, not because Scripture opposes the culture but because he opposes himself. Reflecting this pathetic state, his leaders can be heard to utter dismal encouragements:
Look, you don’t have to like what the Bible says. You don’t have to agree with it. But just accept it, okay? Submit to it and trust God.
Meanwhile even theological conservatives are instinctively drawn to positions they oppose. Mike Winger, a Calvary Chapel-affiliated pastor whose popular YouTube channel is committed to “thinking biblically,” recently took up the egalitarian vs. complementarian debate on women in ministry. While Winger affirms that Scripture is complementarian and bows to it dutifully, he admits that he “actually WANTED to become egalitarian” before studying the issue.
Is it any wonder? Winger is — like the majority of orthodox, conservative, faithful, Bible-believing American Christians today — a Christian with liberal sensibilities.
Christians with Christian Sensibilities
What would it mean for us to be Christians with Christian sensibilities, instead?
What if we could feel at home and at ease in our faith, without controversies, tensions, discomforts?
What if we could preach unvarnished and unashamed, without apologies, preambles, disclaimers?
What if Christian attitudes, opinions, and judgments came to us as second nature?
What if we were acculturated into a Christian moral framework rather than a weird, modern, liberal one?
Then our moral intuitions and reasoning would be at peace once again, and we would cease to be divided against ourselves. Therefore let us unearth and examine the cherished assumptions we have inherited from our civilization. Let us demolish every towering edifice built upon that satanic foundation, “Do as thou wilt.” Rather let us build anew, that we may stand on a solid, mutually reinforcing structure grounded firmly in divine order and purpose. Let us plant the first and greatest commandment, that our posterity may sit in the shade of what is noble, true, beautiful, and good.
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