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.
I often express the incredible shifts that are happening in our culture as a moral tsunami. It is reflected in the media and is being enshrined in the law.
Ethics and morals among Christians ought to be different than the surrounding culture. This difference is reflective of a different ethic, that is lived by a different people, that is lived by a different power: the Holy Spirit applies the completed work of Christ in our lives which creates a new person that becomes a part of a new community that lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ which reflects the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). Nominalism occurs either when those who profess faith in Christ live no differently from those who do not profess Christ or when they live different enough while still engaging in sins of the flesh in the ways of the world.
One of the key ways this is happening among Evangelicals today is in the sexual realm. Recently Kenny Luck, founder of Every Man Ministries and the men’s pastor at Saddleback Church, addressed this vital ethical matter which he identifies as a “spiritual malaise.” He notes that the number of single Christians are willing to compromise when it comes to sex before marriage. Luck note the following:
[They] are prone to compartmentalize their faith away from their sexual life. While Christian singles report praying and church attendance are highly desirable qualities in the dating matrix, a troubling and confusing dichotomy arises when the issue of sex before marriage presents itself. Specifically, single Christians enter a sexual fog. That fog clouds and hides the reality that an identity rooted in Christ should manifest itself in intelligent and hope-filled sexual restraint based on God's promises and instead replaces it with fear and pride-filled choices based on some other promise they believe more.
As he presses this further, he states that (emphasis his)
it is equally honest to say that nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists. In other words, God has nothing to say to them on the subject of any consequence or, at least, anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct. . . . There is disconnect between identity and activity. . . . our life in God and for our God reflects our real view of God.
Paul warned this would happen. When (not if!) it does (not if!), don’t be surprised or shocked. Instead, recommit to the ministry of the gospel, i.e. “fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). Luck calls us to engage in this gospel ministry knowing we are in a spiritual battle.
We must do our work in the midst of this attack on the body of Christ and fulfill our ministries in the midst of this spiritual battle. We must faithfully and directly speak into the relevant spiritual and practical themes that are at the root of the issue instead of wasting our time bemoaning the symptoms these statistics represent.
We must graciously but prophetically call out the shortsightedness of Christians who are borrowing trouble sexually and sinning against God and others in the process through our messaging and ministries. We must confront ourselves and our brothers and sisters with the veracity, authority and loving transparency of Scripture, which reflects God's love and wisdom in life-saving and marriage-saving ways. That is, we must point out the truth that if I am undisciplined sexually before marriage and willing to compromise my convictions before marriage, a wedding ring will not make me disciplined after marriage. But most importantly and practically, we must avail ourselves of the ministries, tools and resources that are speaking into this clearly massive hole of spiritual life and practice among our single brothers and sisters.
What this means is that the foundational basis for ethics/morals and behavior, particularly in the sexual realm, is more culturally and personally determined than biblically or spiritually. It reflects a low (or no) view of God and His Word and a high view of self and self-fulfillment. What does this mean? Luck concludes:
Practical sexual atheism among Christians says God can speak into some things but not sex. This ultimate expression of self-deception and loss of mind goes all the way back to the garden, when a certain character asked Adam and Eve: "Did God really say that?" They took the bait and, apparently, so are the majority of single Christians in the garden of love, sex and dating. They are listening to the voice that says, "Eat and have your eyes opened." Like the first couple, God's single men and women are letting fear win over faith and curiosity win over Christ with inevitable and untold prices to pay.
Is this your sense? How do you address it? The easier course is to do so morally, “Don’t do it!,” which is partially right. But it must be centered in the gospel.
What other sins have become respectable, and thus acceptable, among Evangelicals?
Judgment begins in the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17), which means so should repentance.