By: David Goodwin, ACCS President
Rod Dreher recently reported in the American Conservative just how quickly American Christians are adapting to the LGBT narrative, and how Christian leader Al Mohler doubts Evangelicals have the depth to mount a serious resistance to that narrative. Evangelical Christians are the most likely to hold to a traditional view of marriage today– 61% of white evangelicals in the study Dreher cited. This, while the mainstream Christians are down around 28%. The reason is obvious for those of us who are evangelicals. Along the historical path, Evangelicals were inoculated with an idea: The Bible is literally true. But how long will our citadel of literal truth in scripture hold out? Likely, not long. And here’s why.
The Evangelical Church sprung from a fundamentalist branch of protestantism that took the Bible as God-breathed. The difficulty for mainstream Evangelicals is that we are now stuck in an airlock between old-time fundamentalist groups and the liberalized view that scripture must bend to the culture to remain relevant. So, when Paul says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1, Romans 1), or that marriage is between a man and a woman (1 Corinthians 7), must his statements be taken seriously today? Leviticus aside, we eat bacon. So shouldn’t we contextualize scripture?
What has been lost with Evangelicals is the intellectual tradition of Christianity. Evangelicals scramble to rightly contextualize God’s word because we are not intellectually equipped to do so. 50 or 100 years ago, we were convinced to broaden verses like “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female in Christ” (Galatians 3, Colossians 4) to justify our support of progressive agendas like feminism, while passing over other verses about sexual roles in the church, family, and society (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Timothy 3, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 11…). This led us down a road that converged with the Enlightenment’s view of the individual. We mis-applied Galatians 3 to embrace the idea we live in a structure and under an authority defined by ourselves, rather than by God.
But did God create male and female so they could self-identify against the nature He created? Or, against the purpose for which they were created? If so, then who is sovereign—man or God? Puzzled Evangelicals have no systematic way of resolving this conflict, so we predictably fall back to our favorite Evangelical verse: the Great Commission from Matt 29, v. 19-20, which calls us to “go into all the world.” We just need to tell others about Jesus! But, in doing so, we skip past v. 18: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
We Evangelicals have a hard time realizing who makes the rules. Feminism was the first distraction for Evangelicals. We never stopped to think “What did God intend?” The first casualty was patriarchy. The old Christian idea that fathers had a responsibility to shepherd and lead their families to serve Christ was eroded.
If we are all individuals pursuing Christ, then there is no reason why we should confine men and women to their God-ordained roles. Now, many Evangelicals readily send our daughters into the military to fight and reduce our sons to ‘sensitive’ types who must not assert themselves, lest they be accused of patriarchy. But it doesn’t stop there. If our daughters need not be feminine, why must our sons be masculine? Why can’t our sons pursue men? Should a daughter who would rather be a son be allowed to switch? The only systematic theology most Evangelicals encounter is the progressive American theology taught in the media and in public school—which stands for extreme self-determination.
For a time, Evangelicals will hold out in our crumbling biblical citadel. We will take Paul and Christ at their word. We will defend the traditional family (weakly). But if someone asks “if men and women can self-define their roles, why can’t we all self-define our gender?” There will be a pause. Evangelicals who lack a systematic truth system based in scripture will succumb to the lie offered by our culture. This is why we Evangelicals should embrace classical Christian education. In classical Christian classrooms, we remember that Jesus was given all authority in heaven AND on earth. We study every single subject as an integrated whole with theology as the queen, ruling over all knowledge. We dedicate the 16,000 hours that our children are in school to this one critical task.
In the end, Al Mohler was right. Most Evangelicals do not presently have the ability to execute the Benedict Option. But if we return to the systematic theology of our protestant forefathers (and the educational system they used to perpetuate that theology), we have the strength of the gospel on our side. It really does all hold together with the power of His Word.
“The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” –C.S. Lewis