Back and forth, from one side to the other. It seems as though the church is a giant pendulum, swinging back and forth between opposing extremes. During the first half of the 20th century there was a focus on knowing about God—sermons were educational, hymns reiterated the same theology, Bible studies brought the lesson home yet again.
Then the pendulum swung the other way. We discovered that head knowledge alone didn’t satisfy. Books were written, sermons preached, ministries created—all with the goal of helping us foster an intimate relationship with God. No complaint here; we need both: to know about God and know God.
Similarly, we’ve moved from legalism and a focus on rules to permissiveness and grace, from shunning the sinner to accepting unbiblical cultural norms.
For a while, it seemed that we forgot we’re all fallen, desperately in need of a savior. There was a hypocritical sense of self-righteousness, and those outside the church noticed. Survey after survey revealed that a majority of the general public describes Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical, old-fashioned, and too involved in politics.
Now, in an effort to undo all the bad publicity, more and more churches are leaning too far in the other direction. Respected leaders are teaching that God is too nice to send anyone to hell, and everyone will be saved. Sermons remind us that we have no business judging anyone else’s lifestyle or beliefs, and we should practice acceptance. Various groups are even editing the Bible, removing or reinterpreting verses they disagree with.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of sexuality.
I was researching some statistics on Christians living together before marriage and stumbled across OpposingViews.com. They had responded to a letter from a self-identified Christian man who wanted to live with his girlfriend (who he intended to marry someday). His parents were strongly opposed on Biblical grounds. Here’s the gist of their reply:
So let’s not get in a conversation about whether the Bible does or doesn’t proscribe … premarital sex. Like so many things that apparently God wanted Christians to bitch at each other about forever, a decent case can be made either way with quotes yanked out of context from the Bible and wielded like weapons in some epic battle in World War Stupid.
Really? The Bible doesn’t teach against premarital sex? We have to quote passages out of context?
The writer goes on to add,
If I were you, I would insist that my belief in and understanding of Jesus, God, and the Bible does not tell me that it’s a sin to live with the woman whom I fully intend to marry. … You’re reading the Bible differently than they are.
I thought this was a relatively rare perspective until I look around a bit more. Apparently I missed an article in the October 2011 issue of Relevant entitled, “Almost Everyone’s Doing It.” They discussed a survey that reported 80% of Christian singles have had premarital sex. That’s almost the same as the non-Christian statistic of 88%.
Even if the numbers are slightly inaccurate, it’s clear that plenty of (self-identified) Christian singles have decided they aren’t waiting for marriage to indulge. How do they reconcile this with Scripture?
(to be continued next week…)
The Gospel Coalition just happened to post a pertinent article today: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/03/12/f-l-e-e-a-strategy-for-pursuing-sexual-purity/