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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Christians Living in a Politically Liberal World

Can we make sense of it?

I recently visited a blog (weblog) in which its proponent was rabidly anti-Christian and pro same-sex marriage. In fact he was simply anti religion, whether it was Christian, Muslim or Jewish. He called us homophobic, prejudicial, religious and racist bigots.

Based on his vitriolic outburst against Christians, I posed this question to him, "What makes your bigotry morally right while [ours] is wrong?" His answer was the same as many others in South Africa. "Very Easy! My moral bigotry is made right by our South African Constitution. So whatever your moral bigotry, you [sic] either going to apply MY bigotry in our society or you could land up in JAIL, a place where we commonly lock up CRIMINALS."

This is the same answer that so many people would offer those who may argue against some or other point in the Constitution. I am sad to say that there are Christians who think this way.

Based on the events above and others related to it, I was asked how we could make any sense of the political/religious/constitutional miasma surrounding this topic. How are we as Christians supposed to live in this country (as Christians!) while everyone around us seems to be 'enjoying' the fruit of what is at best a liberal constitution and at worst a hedonistic licence seemingly written with the sole purpose of corrupting the mores of society! How does a South African Christian make a stand when the very law of his country promotes a different value system without some form of disassociation taking place? Is there a possibility of Christians and Christianity being officially marginalized in South Africa if we continue with our "anti-constitutional" stance? How can we be the 'light and salt' to the world if we are perceived to be conservative Mother Grundies?

Now, these are all valid questions and I would like to answer it in the best possible way I can. However, this may be long, but I do not want you to stop reading because it is long. I want to look at the past of the church in relation to its cultural effectiveness, especially in the 20th century. If we do not know what affected our past, we will not know how to remedy our future!

Root Cause

Pardon me for the following roundabout, but I feel I have to lay the foundation for the lack of cultural involvement, especially on the level of politics, among Christians.

We live in a modern world with modern attitudes to everything, especially religion. Unfortunately, this attitude has crept into the church and it has had dire effects on the church.

Around the start of the 20th century the church was under heavy attack for its beliefs in a God inspired, inerrant Bible. Darwin's theory of evolution was about 50 years old, when new ideas were being published by what we would call liberal theologians. They were proposing new ways of looking at theology and the meaning of Christianity, especially in light of many so-called defeats at the hand of modern science. Basically, these new tenets included the necessity "of reconstructing traditional Christian thought in the light of modern culture, philosophy and science" and "of discovering Christianity's true essence apart from the layers of traditional dogma that were no longer relevant or even possible to believe in light of modern thought."[1] These liberals had one thought in mind..., to discredit the Bible and align Christianity with their understanding of modern science.

What was the effect of these new ideas? Well, there was a backlash from a group we know today as the Fundamentalists. Previously, Biblical orthodox churches started accepting the new "theology" in their churches and started preaching heresy. J. Gresham Machen, one of the leaders among the Fundamentalists, wrote a book called Christianity and Liberalism. In this book Machen exposed the new theology as a false gospel and not related to true Christianity.

One of the effects of the Fundamentalist backlash is that the church started withdrawing from the cultural battlefield and left "politics" to the secularists. However, this was not what was meant by the original leaders of the Fundamentalist Reformation! This cultural withdrawal occurred in South Africa too!

Another effect of this backlash was that Christians started seeing theology as a curse word instead of as the "queen of the sciences" as it was once known. Since the study of theology could "cause" one to become a liberal, the general Christian started withdrawing from the knowledge and study of theology. Of course, the study of theology could not turn one into a liberal.

However, that was the outcome. With a devalued idea of cultural involvement and a diminished knowledge of Biblical theology, Christians withdrew into their own shells. As a result, still today, pastors would revile theology from the pulpit and, naturally, that influences the thought patterns of those in the pew!

The result? A totally incomplete Biblical worldview! Since Christians no longer know the Bible (oh, they know verses and perhaps read their Bibles), they no longer have the ability to respond to our modern age from a Biblical worldview.

Further causes in South Africa

Based on Darwin's evolutionary theory, from the mid-19th century to around the middle of the 20th century, it was taught in many circles that one human population is better than another since one is more evolved than another. Naturally, the more scientifically advanced westerners saw themselves as more evolved than the natives of Africa and the aboriginal people groups of many other countries. Next came Hitler and his idea of the super race, all based on the theory of evolution. From these ideas were formed the apartheid system in South Africa. Do not think for a moment that apartheid, in reality had its roots in the Bible! Since many South Africans were Christians of some sort or another, the fathers of apartheid started their spin of the apartheid system based on an elaborate series of misinterpretations of the Bible. Somehow, good people were conned into believing this evil lie and so South Africa's apartheid system came to rule for over five decades.

To combat this, liberal theologians started using what is known as Liberation Theology. Like the Apartheid Theologians used a grossly misinterpretation of the Bible for its own purposes, so the Liberation Theologians used another gross misinterpretation to legitimise its own violent fight for freedom (which is, perhaps, not always misguided).

Apartheid Theologians saw themselves as the chosen Israel of South Africa and some even taught that they were part of the lost tribes of Israel. On the other hand, Liberation Theologians taught that the oppressed people of South Africa (mainly the blacks) were the Israel of the day in need of being liberated from the Egypt (apartheid) of the day.

While Apartheid Theologians misinterpreted the proper Biblical doctrine of election to teach a national election of the Afrikaner nation as the appropriately elected people to rule in South Africa, the Liberation Theologians misinterpreted the words of Jesus in a similar way to teach that the liberty of the oppressed in Luke 4:18 was a political liberty.

As a result of the indoctrination of the church in regards to apartheid and a misplaced loyalty to the government based on a misinterpretation of Romans 13, the "white" church did not allow people of colour into their churches for a very long time. It was simply seen as a political issue. On the other hand, Liberation Theology became very political with the end result that the South African church, especially the "white" church withdrew almost completely from all politics.

This went so far that when anybody got involved in social upliftment as a Christian, that person would inevitably be labelled as a liberation theologian, communist or of preaching a social gospel (which is a heresy in its own right). As a result, South African Christians saw involvement in politics as unnecessary at best or completely wrong at worst.

So, what we had here (and still do to a large degree) were Christians who were politically uneducated and theologically immature.

Homosexuality in the Bible

Yet, currently, there are equal "rights" based on sexual orientation. The Biblical stance is very clear on this issue and many have tried to circumvent the clear message of Scripture: homosexuality is an abomination (Lev 18:22; 20:13). Scripture never makes any excuses for calling homosexuality a sin.

What is interesting, just before the Apostle Paul gives a list of violations against God, he first goes into detail against homosexuality (Rom 1:21-32).

In both the Old and New Testaments, homosexuality is called a sin. In the Old testament it was a sin grievous enough to warrant the death penalty. In the New Testament Paul says that it is God's decree that "those who practice such things deserve to die." (Rom 1:32). Homosexuals are listed as those who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9) and who are lawless and disobedient (1 Tim 1:10).

No matter how much mental gymnastics is performed, we cannot make the Bible say homosexuality is acceptable when it does not!

I was born that way!

The search for the "gay" gene has been going on for some time now. Of all the studies that have been done, not one could so far without a shadow of a doubt claim that it has found a biological reason for homosexuality. No gene has been found as a direct cause for homosexuality!

The 3 most well known and most quoted studies that supposedly prove that homosexuality is biological can prove no such thing. These studies are by: (1) Simon LeVay, (2) Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard, and (3) Dean Hamer. These studies are all essentially meaningless since no one has been able to duplicate their research results.

LeVay did post-mortem examinations on the brains of 19 homosexual men who died from AIDS. A further sixteen presumably heterosexual men were also examined of whom six died from AIDS. According to him, his results showed that the brains of the heterosexual men consistently had more brain cells in a specific area (INAH 3). INAH 3 is believed to be involved in sexual behaviour.

According to a "gay" gene philosophy bias it is then believed that homosexuality is indeed located in the brain.

However, Christians, as well as non-Christians have noted often enough that LeVay's study does not confirm a causative link between brain activity and homosexual behaviour! The fact is, that AIDS may have confused the results and the sample size was simply too small to form any clear conclusions. Further, three of the homosexual men had no discernable difference in INAH 3 from that of the heterosexual men. The claim that INAH 3 has something to do with sexual behaviour has never been clearly established.

As a result LeVay's study can bring us no closer to a conclusion. Instead, it raises more questions than providing answers. Even if there was a connection between the size of INAH 3 and homosexuality, a further question would be, does the size of INAH 3 cause an individual's sexual orientation or is it the consequence?

I will not go into the rebuttal of each of these studies, since they all have similar problems with them and it is quite easy to see where these studies went wrong.

Whenever a new study is used to prove the "gay" gene, it is better to wait for corroborating results from studies of a similar kind. A study that cannot be duplicated by others to get the same results simply end up on the heap of "meaninglessness." It is such a shame that when the "results" of many such "scientific" research projects are published in scientific journals, the popular media (newspapers, magazines, TV) immediately trumpet these so-called "results" into the minds of an unsuspecting populace, yet they never publish the resulting peer reviews that are almost always more important than the initial research "results." So far, such peer reviews have resulted in either opposing or mixed views in all cases relating to research on "biological causes" for homosexuality.

Not even from an evolutionary perspective can homosexuality claim a biological cause for its existence. Homosexuality must be considered as biologically deviant, since it cannot procreate itself. When a species fails to reproduce itself, it will eventually self-destruct. Homosexuality, therefore, is self-defeating. Without a natural means of procreating itself, it has to be concluded that if it is indeed biological, it must by necessity be a non-beneficial mutation which would indeed be nature gone wrong! However, I do not believe in evolution.

New South African dispensation

Eventually, when the time came for the establishment of a new South African Constitution, Christians were completely lost in the process. The ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) was the only party who voted against the removal of the words "n humble submission to Almighty God" from the preamble of the new constitution. This set South Africa up as a secular humanistic state ruled by secular humanists.

Since there was no submission to Almighty God, it was no problem for the current government to implement abortion, legalise pornography, abolish the death penalty and decriminalize homosexuality.

As a result of South Africa moving its constitution away from the Law of God, "[l]aw and government no longer provide a foundation of justice and morality but have become the means of licensing moral perversions of all kinds."[2]

This is exactly what happened in South Africa. The result of turning its back on God, the government has dumped this country into an ever-speeding spiral that leads down to depravity and no regard for law.

When the current battle for Biblical marriages is considered, and one looks at what our constitution says, then it is easy to see why the government probably has no recourse but to legalise same-sex marriages. They proverbially "painted themselves into a corner" with their liberal constitution. In Chapter 2 of the constitution, the "Bill of Rights," Section 9 (3) on Equality, the constitution states that the "state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth."

Based on our constitution that gives equality to people based on sexual orientation, the Constitutional Court "instructed" parliament to amend the law that states that marriage is between a man and a woman. The big question is this: Since when can the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) give instructions to parliament, since the ConCourt exists to interpret the Constitution and make judgements based on it, while parliament can actually amend the constitution to more effectively portray the values of the people of this nation? It is putting the cart before the horse!

Response to a liberal government

Coming back to the constitution and the law, many Christians, like their non-Christian counterparts, seem to think that when the constitution or the law have something to say on a certain topic we simply have to follow it.

The fact is, that when a government destroys its own people, either through violence as in abortion or through humanistic philosophies that are detrimental to society, then that government no longer fulfils the mandate given to it by God.

When we look at Romans 13, we realize that although we have to submit to the authorities, they need to follow the God given mandate given to them!

"[3] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4] for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. [5] Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. [6] For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing." (Rom 13:3-6 ESV)

Government is appointed to:

  • Be a terror to bad conduct, not to good conduct, v3
  • Approve of those who do good, v3
  • Carry out God's wrath on the wrongdoer, v4

If they do not uphold this mandate, they themselves are in violation of God's law! When they institute laws that fly in the face of God's law, they no longer rule by the authority of God.

It is at this point that civil disobedience must be considered. Just like Peter and the apostles our answer should be "We must obey God rather than men." (Ac 5:29) "Through the ages Christians have taken the same position as did the early church in disobeying the state when it commanded what was contrary to God's Law."[3]

In the case of homosexuality (and for that matter, same-sex marriage), as Christians we cannot support the making of a civil right of anything that the Scriptures teach as morally perverse.

Naturally, many in society will balk at what some have called legislating morality. The question is: What else do we legislate? As soon as we make a law, we decide what is wrong and what is right. That falls squarely in the realm of morality!

Some will claim that mutual adult consent should be the measuring rod as to what is allowable in society. What is the big deal if two consenting adults have sex? Sure, taken to its logical conclusion, mutually consenting adults could then decide on many evils together. What if they consent to robbing a bank, killing a person or kidnapping a child? What if they both consent to committing suicide? Believing that, mutual consent falsely assumes that the individual person is the arbiter of what is right and wrong. If this were the case we would soon live in a society of utter anarchy!

As Christians, we should not allow the immorality of a weak constitution to rule our hearts and minds. When we do that we allow that which is neither objective nor eternal to rule us. We should not give the rule of our hearts over to some external arbitrary law that may change tomorrow. Neither should we need to be governed via an outside force foreign to the mind of God! We should ourselves have internal government. The personal government of our hearts, guided by the eternal law of Christ.

The further a government withdraws from God's laws and from submitting itself to Him, the more we would have to disassociate ourselves from the corrupt laws it legislates.

The fact is, that if the government continues to legislate liberal laws and maintaining a constitution devoid of God and His standards, Christians will have to stand up to it on a more regular basis, which could result in Christians being marginalized or even persecuted.

ACDP Policy

How does the ACDP view same-sex marriage? The ACDP has spoken consistently against same-sex marriage in favour of the traditional concept of marriage between one man and one woman.

The "ACDP tabled a Private Members Bill [recently] seeking to protect the common law definition of marriage as being the voluntary union of a man and a woman. ACDP Justice and Constitutional Development spokesperson, Steve Swart said: 'we are disappointed with the Civil Union Bill in that it does not protect the traditional institution of marriage. We appreciate, however, that this bill is a result of the Constitutional Court's decision in the Fourie case in 2005, which set very narrow parameters within which Parliament could legislate. The Bill allows for full same-sex marriages, which goes further than the international norm with civil unions. We clearly cannot support this.' The ACDP has consistently stated that the only way to protect the traditional view of marriage is by means of a constitutional amendment, in this case by inserting a definition of marriage in section 39 of the Constitution to read that 'a marriage is a voluntary union of a man and a woman.' 'This is the amendment we seek to achieve by means of the Private Members Bill and which we believe is supported by the majority of South Africans,' Swart said. The ACDP is also very concerned that there will be insufficient time for comprehensive public participation in the consideration of various options, including the Civil Union Bill, as well as the ACDP's constitutional amendment. This particularly so following today's spat between the Minister of Home Affairs and the state legal advisers as to the constitutionality of the Civil Union Bill, which further delays the legislation. In view of the huge public interest in this matter, consideration should be given to approaching the Constitutional Court for an extension of the one year period within which to comply with the court order."[4]

To the ACDP, this has to do with a Biblical stance and the protection of the family. It is the belief of the ACDP that

  • "The family is an institution worthy of nurturing and protecting.
  • It is the ideal setting for teaching a child about Godly authority, obedience and love which are the foundations for a strong Nation. (Deuteronomy 6 Vs 6-9)
  • Where these elements are missing, delinquency, crime and violence usually occur.
  • Apartheid institutionalised the separation of families with the most devastating results. It caused fatherless children, broken wives, abject poverty and indiscriminate crime to become the norm.
  • The ACDP strongly believes that ANYTHING, which is a threat to the family, is a threat to society.
  • Steps must be taken in maintaining the family unit as the strongest building block of society."[5]

The policies of the ACDP, such as abortion and a host of others, may be studied on its website.

The Concern of the Christian

Can we end up looking like a bunch of mother Grundies? Sure! Then again, we were never called to win a popularity contest. In the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the first question is "What is the chief and highest end of man?" The answer to this is "Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever." Our first priority should be to glorify God. This in itself will make us distinct from a culture bent on its own destruction.

The apostle Paul wrote in Gal 1:10:

"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

If our concern is first and foremost to make the world to like us, we have already lost the culture wars and we do not glorify God. Every time we try to win a popularity contest with the world, we come closer to compromise. These compromises will not make new Christians, new disciples; they will simply make people who believe in the compromises themselves! We should preach the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

What did Jesus tell us? "[38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Mat 10:38-39) Many of us are scared about what others might think of us when we speak up about our Christian convictions. That is hardly a cross to bear!

"Taking up our own cross is to show our total commitment to Christ. Modern Christians know all about being involved with Christianity. They know to give up their time to go to prayer meetings and church services. Oh, yeah! They also have to sacrifice their time for additional Bible study meetings. This involvement with the church is like the chicken that lays an egg. However, the gospel demands much more than an egg! It should be more analogous to the pig that gave himself up to become the bacon! Chicken Christians are merely involved in the church and its day to day activities. Bacon Christians are those committed Christians that are committed to the point of death. They are the ones who will give their lives for the furtherance of the gospel. These are the Biblical Christians! They understand what it means to take up their cross!"[6]

So, what does the gospel, and the church, have to do with politics? Just like a secular humanistic worldview influences a secular humanist in everything that he does and believes, including politics; so a Biblical worldview must influence a Christian in everything that he does and believes, INCLUDING politics! Christians cannot claim that they may get involved in one sphere of life while not in another. Those spheres of life that we avoid WILL be filled by the ungodly and with a secular humanist, or some other, worldview. When this happens it will not help to complain! No more should be expected when we abdicate in certain spheres of life!

"In fact, many no longer think it's even the function of Christianity to provide an interpretation of the world [and its many spheres of life]. [The great historian of religion] Marty calls this the Modern Schism (in a book by that title), and he says we are living in the first time in history [A.D.] where Christianity has been boxed into the private sphere and has largely stopped speaking to the public sphere."[7]

A Christian Response to Sinners

A Christian response to sinners should always be one of love, care AND truth! In some Christian quarters too much emphasis is placed on love and care while not delivering a message of truth. In other quarters there is an over emphasis on truth with no love and care.

Love and truth must both be present in order to deal with a sinner. Remember, no one is born a Christian. All of us were born in sin and only became Christians by the pure grace of God.

We should all be reminded that God saved us in the condition that we were in. He did not first wait for us to become better people before He lavished His love on us. His saving work preceded the change that occurred in our lives.

Why is it that we would then expect a homosexual to first stop being a homosexual, before we will allow them to attend our churches?

I am not saying that we should accept his or her sin; yet someone loved us while we were still in our sin, whatever that was. Loving a sinner does not mean that we should accept their sin. Loving someone means that exactly because of that love we should also preach the truth!

What is the truth of the gospel? God's wrath is burning against sinners, because sinners violated His law. There is nothing that anyone can do to appease the wrath of God. Man, from within his core is evil and has no means to save himself. Understanding God's anger against sin and what God is willing to do with regard to sin will give us an understanding of the dire position that we are in as sinners. We violated the very holiness of God. We spat at the perfection of God and deemed Him irrelevant in our despicable evil lives!

In the midst of all this, God sent Jesus to take our sin upon Him and to experience God's wrath in our stead, so that those who believe in Jesus Christ will be reckoned as righteous before God. Out of pure grace, God the Father sent Jesus so that He could raise up a people for Himself from among sinners.

  • Dealing with an issue like same-sex marriage, we have to realize that the issue is not about same-sex marriage per se. Rather, it is about legitimacy. Homosexuals all over the world are looking for legitimacy for depraved conduct. This is one of the reasons why we should resist same-sex marriage. It will simply constitutionalise homosexual activity and as a result validate this despicable mindset.
  • Further, there is no irrefutable research concerning the biological causes of homosexuality or of the existence of some "gay" gene!
  • Thirdly, the Bible is very clear on the issue of homosexuality and does not make any excuses for calling it an abomination in God's sight.
  • Our concern should be, not to be nice at the expense of preaching the true gospel: that only in Jesus Christ is there deliverance, forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God!
  • Fifthly, as Christians we need to acquire a Biblical Worldview in order that we can see what is happening in our world and not be caught unaware of the shifting trends of the world. Having done this, we need to get involved in every level of every sphere of life in order to have a purifying effect on our world. This will really make us the salt if the earth and the light of the world!
  • Finally, always "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), and continue "being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." (1 Pet 3:15)

"[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [5] who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls… [14] As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, [15] but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, [16] since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'"

1 Pe 1:3-9, 14-16 ESV

End Notes

1. Olson, Roger E., The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, Apollos, Leicester, England, 1999, p535.

2. Schaeffer, Francis A., A Christian Manifesto, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, Revised Edition 1982, blurp on inside of front cover.

3. Ibid., p93.

4. Swart, Steve, MP, ACDP tables bill anti same-sex marriage, http://www.acdp.org.za/press/releases.asp?show=press318.txt.

5. African Christian Democratic Party Policy Document May 2003, p4. This can be found online at http://www.acdp.org.za/policies/family.asp.

6. Dicks, William, The Cross or Life? (http://williamdicks.blogspot.com/2006/08/cross-or-life.html), The Just thinking... blog (http://williamdicks.blogspot.com/), August 2006.

7. Pearcey, Nancy, TOTAL TRUTH: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 2004, p35.

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