Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, writes an excellent article about Evangelicals’ response to the present-day sexual revolution: Evangelicals Won’t Cave: Why Evangelicals Will Not Be Surrendering to the Sexual Revolution
Moore begins his article by explaining two reasons Evangelicals will not cave-in on sexual ethics: Evangelicals are catholic, i.e. they are connected to the larger (numerically) and broader (geographically) body of Christ and its 2000 years of doctrinal teaching; Evangelicals are marked by doctrine and practice.
But however confident and complacent are these helpers, they can’t change the fact that the Evangelical cave-in on sexual ethics is just not going to happen. There is no evidence for it, and no push among Evangelicals to start it. In order to understand this, one has to know two things about Evangelicals. One, Evangelical Protestants are “catholic” in their connection to the broader, global Body of Christ and to two millennia of creedal teaching; and two, Evangelicals are defined by distinctive markers of doctrine and practice. The factors that make Evangelicals the same as all other Christians, as well as the distinctive doctrines and practices that set us apart, both work against an Evangelical accommodation to the sexual revolution.
Summarizing the rest of the article, which defends this thesis, Moore points out that what will prevent an Evangelical cave-in to the sexual revolution is the Bible. We believe its authority, and it does to need to be updated to reflect and speak to any contemporary day. This is contrasted with revisionists, who often end up being false teachers, promising eternal life without repentance.
He notes that revisionists not only affirm the priesthood of all believers, but they also claim the apostleship of all believers. By this he means that they determine definitively what God says/means.
Some, he notes, conclude that the way the church responds to homosexuality is parallel with how the church responded to divorce. However, the biblical teaching and response to these two doctrinal matters are very different. Whereas there is biblical allowance for divorce and remarriage, the Bible nowhere ever allows and affirms homosexuality. A better parallel, he suggests, is the argument of evangelical feminists. But even this argument, he acknowledges, is on a different level and in a different doctrinal category than homosexuality.
It is true, Moore notes, that secularization and sexualization have put Christianity on the defensive. We no longer live in a culture heavily influenced, affected and shaped by Christianity. What this means is that while we must recognize that the Bible remains true, and the gospel is unchanging, it does change the nature of the church’s mission field, and it clarifies her witness. What was assumed in a previous generation with a culture that was marked by a Judeo-Christian influence, can no longer be, and, rather, must be articulated and defended.
The days ahead, Moore states, require us to be “robustly theological and warmly missional, both full of truth and full of grace, convictional and kind.”
Evangelicals are most faithful to the Lord and His Word and best serve others and influence culture by being Evangelical. It is faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ that is necessary and it is this gospel which is the hope of and for the world. Capitulating to or compromising with the culture not only means we have nothing to say, we are no longer Evangelical. And we can be assured, that although we have lost our voice, God’s word will be heard through other faithful voices, those who have remained truly Evangelical.
This means that Evangelicals can best serve the culture by being truly Evangelical. We are not in a “post-Christian” America, unless we define “Christian” in ways that disconnect Christianity from the Gospel. The mission of Christ never calls us to use nominal Christianity as a bridge to redemption. To the contrary, the Spirit works through the open proclamation of truth (2 Cor. 4:1–2). It is the strangeness of the Gospel that confounds the wisdom of the world, and that actually saves (1 Cor. 1:18–31). The Gospel does not need idolatry to bridge our way to it, even if that idolatry is the sort of “Christianity” that is one birth short of redemption. Our frame of reference is not happier times in the 1770s or 1950s or 1980s. We are not time travelers from the past; we are pilgrims from the future. We are not exiles because American culture is in decline. We are exiles and strangers because “the world is passing away, along with its desires” (1 Jn. 2:17).
I don’t think American Evangelicals will fold on our sexual ethic. But if we do, American Evangelicalism will have nothing distinctive to say and will end up deader than Harry Emerson Fosdick. If so, the vibrant Evangelical witness God has called together in Nigeria or Argentina or South Korea or China will be alive and well and ready to send missionaries to preach the whole Gospel. Whether from America or not, a voice will stand, crying in the wilderness, “You must be born again.”