A fantastic contrast is displayed in Isaiah 46: the difference between carrying around man-made gods or realizing that God Himself carries mankind through history. God’s people realize that God alone is Lord and that we are dependent wholly upon Him. He cares for us, and He carries us. He bears our burdens. He begins the good work in us, and He brings it to its eternal completion in Christ.
Conversely, those who refuse or reject God end up making gods for themselves. Expedient as this idolatry is in the beginning, it becomes quite burdensome over time. It’s one thing to make an idol; it’s quite another to keep it. As reality bears down, the idol becomes harder and harder to keep alive. In the end, one must either admit that we are created and sustained by God, or we must believe against mounting evidence that truth is what we demand it to be —a god of our own making.
The pressure is mounting in America. There was once room for the Bible’s God in civil discourse and common morality. Since the sexual revolution, however, the god of sexual freedom has demanded no boundaries. Even the common sense notion that marriage includes a husband and a wife is an unbearable burden. The God of the Bible seems too demanding now for most Americans. Consider a few recent examples.
A couple of years ago, I noted how the Democratic National Convention separated itself from Christianity preceding their election-year rally in Charlotte. For some reason, the DNC shunned welcome baskets from a group of Christian churches welcoming them to town (the Charlotte 714 project). Have Republicans now rejected biblical morality, too? One must wonder whether the recent non-vote by the U.S. House of Representatives wasn’t a similar signal being broadcast by the Republican party—that Christian views of life and marriage really are now out of bounds in a sexually boundless America.
In his visceral rejection of the Republican-led House of Representatives’ inaction, Russell Moore hurled,
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice. If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?”
Beyond the question of what the Republicans might get done, my question is what does this inaction mean for Christianity in America? It’s painfully obvious that one ought not hurt a helpless baby in the womb. If we can no longer appeal to Congress for moral action on behalf of innocent babies, then for what can we as Christians appeal?
Will we dare speak up for marriage? Family? Chastity? Recently, a fire chief in Atlanta was suspended without pay simply for believing that some forms of sexual expression are “perversions” of the heterosexual (and biblical) norm. Even more ominously, judges in my home state of California have decided—as a code of ethics—that it would be improper for a sitting judge to be affiliated with an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. From the Los Angeles Times,
California’s judicial code of ethics bars judges from holding “membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
Presently, this new code of ethics reaches to private organizations like the Boy Scouts—but not yet to churches. Churches are the only exemption left, but for how long will churches be exempt? Denny Burk offers this sober assessment:
In other words, the Court knows that it has a standard that churches and other religious organizations violate. That is why they grant them an exception. But on what basis would they continue such an exception? If they really view churches as discriminatory without rational basis, there would be no reason for the exception to stand. That would effectively preclude Christians and other people of faith from serving as state judges in California.
So Christians may not be able to be judges in California, big deal! Why does that matter? It matters because such an exclusion would mean no Christian interpretation of the law—thus no biblical morality—in California. Despite what folks say, all legislation is ultimately moral legislation. Morality is the only thing laws can legislate. And the direction of California is toward legislating a morality without a Christian component. (See Romans 3:10-18 for a picture of such a “morality”).
Two recent, excellent articles point in this same direction and attempt to wrestle with the consequences of godless morality for Christians in America. Rod Dreher has an insightful piece recently published in The American Conservative titled “The End of American Civic Christianity.”
In this piece, Dreher contends that the division within the Roman Catholic Church has reached a crisis point. It is no longer clear whether one can be both Christian and American. Here is the article’s conclusion:
He found that the older people around the table — those 50 and older, say … still seemed to believe that the public order could be saved, despite the direness of the moment. Those younger people — including Catholic scholars — had a more radical view of what could be saved, and what could not. To put it more bluntly than it probably should be, if the question is, “Can you be both a good Christian, and a good American?”, the answer is increasingly looking like no, you cannot.
The unified view, as I recall, was that we are no longer living in normal times for American Christians, and they (we) had better wake up and understand which way the wind is blowing, and adjust.
The wind is obviously blowing against the Biblical view of morality. A similar article was recently posted by Dr. Mark Coppenger in the Canon and Culture series from the ERLC. In this article, Dr. Coppenger argues that “Therapeutic Nihilism” rules the day. Feelings in general (and sexual feelings in particular) rule the day rather than the more open Judeo-Christian philosophy of days gone by. Coppenger argues for an unashamed return to the “discursive” Judeo-Christian philosophy of American history. His case is compelling.
Nevertheless, I fear the first article gets it exactly right. The sexual revolution is more radical than any of us realize, and the appetite of foreign gods is never satisfied. Pagan gods must be fed continually and propped up incessantly. Because they are not real, they must coerce complete adherence. No dissension is allowed—especially if those dissenting voices echo the one, true God of days gone by.
What does this mean for Christians? It means we ought to accept the reality that we are no longer a “moral majority.” We are the minority sub-culture of American morality. Thus, we must first get our own houses in order. The first priority of American Christianity ought to be ecclesiology. We must have healthy churches. Our culture desperately needs a viable alternative to offer those over-burdened by propping up the foreign god of the sexual libertines. The family of God has to be a refreshing alternative to the dysfunctional families decimated by the god of this age.
Second, Christians must genuinely live mundane lives as salt and light. Our king is still on His throne. We need not fear the future—even if it means we shall suffer the wrath of those devoted to a false god. Our Christ will never be unseated from His throne. We must lovingly point others to His majesty. We must speak of the true freedom found in Christ. We must always shine the light of our good works and good words into the darkness of a lost people so they may continue to have hope.
Finally, we must realize that neither the gospel nor our Lord Jesus has failed. Christ will build his church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. One person at a time, Christ will build His church. One brick at a time, the new temple in Christ’s kingdom is still being built through sinners believing in Jesus. One letter at a time, a new history is being written as Christ brings today and tomorrow toward its ultimate goal of a new heaven and a new earth converging around Him.
So what are Christians to do? Obey Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Or, to use the phrase of a famous hymn: Be Still My Soul,
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
In the end, if the Bible is true (and it is), and if Isaiah 46 is right (as it most certainly is), then the false gods of sexual liberation will prove to be too much of a burden to bear. When that happens, Christians and their God—and their God-glorifying communities—will be a remedy of welcomed relief for those who are weary and heavy-laden, for those who wish to find rest for their souls and learn from Jesus the way to abundant life.