I was having a fruitful discussion with Benjamin
after the Agora meeting
on Tuesday night. One issue that came up was the relevancy of Christians in society. Perhaps, through my blog, I am able to articulate my views more clearly. So Benjamin and Thopro, if you guys are reading this, here are some of my thoughts. :-)
The question is, if we Christians want to be relevant, should we publicly speak out against moral issues such as casinos, homosexuality and abortions? Should Christians band together with non-Christians to address moral needs? How about movies such as Brokeback Mountain
that promotes sodomy and adultery and cartoons that satirize religions? Do we join hands with heathens and pagans to call for public ban on immoral vices?
For my position on this matter, I would be in full agreement with John MacArthur, who has delivered an excellent sermon
, The Deadly Dangers of Moralism
, which explains his view on cultural moralism.
My chief concern with cultural moralism is that it puts the cart before the horse. Sanctification is treated first before justification. The fruit of the Spirit is preached without communicating the essentials of the gospel i.e. the fundamental nature of God, the total depravity of all men, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross etc. Thus, the gospel is devalued in favor of moralism.
John MacArthur aptly puts it this way:
This cultural morality reverses the divine order. It reverses the divine order. That is, it makes morality the power for salvation. The idea is if we can get a more moral America, then more people are going to believe the gospel. If we can clean up the country, that will give greater opportunity for the gospel. That's really a reverse of the divine order. Morality is not the power for salvation. Salvation is the power for morality, right? So if we want to change the nation, what do we need to be working on? The gospel.
Lest I am misconstrued as being apathetic to social injustices and the moral needs of society, let me assure my readers that this is not the case.
So does Christians need to assume their roles to moralise society? Sure we do. However, I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only agent of change by which we are able to do so. To moralise society without preaching the gospel is to assume that morality can be achieved without the work of the Holy Spirit. That is, of course, biblically untrue. And as we all know, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in progressive sanctification. Progressive sanctification cannot be achieved on our own.
It is quite probable that some Christians, in their attempts to moralise society, hope to lure non-Christians into the church by promoting moralistic virtues. Even though their actions are well intentioned, unfortunately however, this is based on the unbiblical notion that man has the moral ability to seek God (Romans 3:10-11). Men do not come to God because of their wants for morality but through the preaching of the gospel. As ambassadors for Christ, I believe it is our duty to proclaim the message of the gospel, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict and convert the hearts of sinners to draw them to Christ. Cultural morality as a carrot undermines the call of the gospel and makes us no different from proponents of the seeker-sensitive movement who adopts various unbiblical methods to entice people into the church.
Another concern of mine is the yoking of Christians with non-Christians. It is written,
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. – 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
The trouble with these unholy alliances is that Christians become obligated to create out-of-bound markers, which discourage them from preaching the gospel to their non-Christian moral co-workers. Since Christians and non-Christians has decided to join hands together to address moral issues, any attempts to preach the gospel would create friction and discord in these already fragile alliances.
What’s more, participating in interreligious prayers and meetings
clearly runs contrary to the Scriptures. Like what the Apostle Paul wrote, what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? The apostle wrote,
The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. – 1 Corinthians 10:20
If Christians are not to publicly voice out condemnations against immoral vices, then how do we regulate spiritual morality? I believe the Word of God has clearly prescribed a biblical way to do it, and that is through the ordination of elders, the leaders of the church.
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:2-3
And as far as I can tell from the Word of God, only from within the Body of Christ are moral issues to be addressed, not outside the Body of Christ. Elders are to be shepherds of their flock, which is the sheep. If there is any public condemnation of immoral vices, it should be done with regard to the well being of the sheep, not of the goats or of the wolves.
At any rate, I dislike the politicization of moral issues in the name of Christianity. It implies that the Body of Christ is ill equipped to discipline its members on moral issues, and have to turn to the secular authorities for help. This runs contrary to the teaching found in the following passage, that judgments should be confined among the saints.
If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? – 1 Corinthians 6:1-5
In conclusion, I do believe that we Christians must be relevant to society. However, our approach to society must be based on the gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else. We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, not to moralise the world. Morality is the fruit of salvation, not its end. For any real moral change to happen, it must happen through the work of the Holy Spirit who works through our prayers and the proclamation of the gospel. Thus, the call for morality must never be divorced from the call of the gospel.