How To Survive The Moral Revolution: What You Should Know

Australia is changing. From same sex marriage, to euthanasia; from gender fluidity to eroding religious freedoms:  we’re experiencing seismic shifts in public morality and worldview. The Australia of today is not the same as the Australia of even five years ago.

This raises a variety of challenges for Christians and churches. Challenges that we must face if we’re to survive – let alone thrive – as God’s people in modern Australia.

Photo courtesy Canva.com

And so, here are 8 things I’ve thought about that Christians should grapple with, if we’re to meet these challenges. This list is not exhaustive – much more could be said – but these are issues I’ve reflected on in recent months.

1)  Christians Need to Develop a Biblically-Based Political Theology

We should not adopt or assume secular political worldviews.

I noticed some confusion among many Christians over how to respond to the recent same-sex marriage survey. Mature Christians were saying things like: ‘we live in a secular country, and so Christians shouldn’t force our views on others.

It’s a popular view. But it’s undergirded by an unbiblical view of the relationship between politics and religion. It’s based on a ‘map’ of politics and  religion given to us by the secular Enlightenment of the 18th century. Namely, that the public square is for politics, whilst the private domains of church and home are for religion (even if we maintain the boundary between them is porous).

But such a view is nonsense.

This so-called secular division between politics and religion is an ideological ploy. The public square is nothing more or less than a battleground of gods. And the church is a political institution inhabited by citizens of heaven who bear a distinctly political message: Jesus is King.[1]

And so, Christians need a political theology shaped by the Bible, not by secular ideologies.

(You can read more of the implications of such at a political view here.)

2)  Christians Should Develop  a Confident Voice in an Increasingly Hostile Public Square

Silence is not always golden.

The temptation to shut-up and not preach the culturally jarring parts of God’s word have increased, and will continue increasing. (Especially if the current Dean Smith bill on SSM is passed.)

Churches will be tempted to ‘shut-up’ for fear of coming across as ‘unreasonable’ or falling afoul of ramped up hate-speech laws.

But we must not be cowed into silence – either by the state, or by our culture.

As Christian scholar Luke Bretherton explains:

The state oversteps its proper limits when it seeks to determine when, where, and in what voice the church may speak. Conversely, the church falsely limits itself when it only acts and speaks within the conditions set for itself externally.’[2]

The church must speak the gospel to a dying culture, whether they want to hear it or not (cf. 2 Tim 4:2). And Christians must be prepared to speak up for justice, for the good of our neighbour, especially the most vulnerable – even if we’re legally pressured not to.

 

3) Christians Should Learn How To Live As an Increasingly Despised Minority  On The Margins Of Australian Public Life

Being on the fringe brings certain pressures.

We’re increasingly a despised minority. Mainstream culture has officially left us and our (so-called) ‘bigoted’ views behind. And so, we need to learn how to live as a despised minority.

Among other things, we’ll need to get used to being seen as weird, unreasonable, even dangerous (especially when it comes to our views on sexuality).

It will mean losing many of privileges, and at times even our human rights. Campus Christian groups, Churches meeting in public school halls, and perhaps even funding for Christian school & charities will come under increasing pressure.

And when these things happen to us, will we live as a grace-filled minority, like the original readers of 1 Peter? Will we be gracious to those who attack us? Instead of retaliating, will we follow in the footsteps of Christ, who ‘did not revile in return [and] did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly’ (1 Peter 2:23)?

Are we going to live open and honest Christian lives, even though we come under pressure: knowing that God often uses our controversial lives to bring others to Himself? (cf. 1 Peter 2:12)

Or will we grow discouraged? Will we give in and go with the flow?

 

 

4) We Should Joyfully Grab Hold of the New Opportunities that Come With Being a Despised Minority

Yes, there are pressures. But there are also opportunities.

Minority status doesn’t just bring new pressures: it also brings new opportunities. For one, we stand out a lot more when we faithfully live the gospel. People take notice – in a way they might not have noticed when mainstream culture had similar views and ethics (cf. 1 Peter 2:12).

It also forces us to trust in God in ways we might not have otherwise. After all, if identifying yourself as Christian risks bringing suspicion upon you at work, then you’ll need to depend on God a lot more. This will be wonderful for our godliness – even if our social standing suffers.

And it will help us better identify with – and support – God’s marginalised churches overseas who often have it much worse than us.

 

5) Our Churches Should be Ready To Welcome Refugees From the Sexual Revolution

It’s encouraging to see many churches growing in their ability to welcome and minister to people who are same sex attracted, transgender, and otherwise struggling with their sexuality. Sadly, this hasn’t always been the case.

But as mainstream culture adopts a radically different view of gender and sexuality (based on a different understanding of personhood), there’ll be much fallout. People will get hurt.  They’ll struggle in ways they might not have otherwise. And so churches need to be ready to welcome these refugees from the sexual revolution. We must be prepared to share our lives and the gospel with them – pointing them to the hope and satisfaction found only in Christ Jesus.

 

6) We Need to Understand the Relationship Between ‘Social Action’ and Gospel Proclamation

They are distinct but inseparable activities.

I’ve heard Christians says that we  shouldn’t concern ourselves with what goes on in wider society – instead, we should just get on with preaching the gospel. According to this line of thinking, we shouldn’t get too interested in questions over politics and public policy: it’s just like rearranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.

While our primary calling as Christians is to share the gospel and make disciples (e.g. Matt 28:19), it’s not our only calling. We’re also commanded to love our neighbours, and do good to them – be they Christians or non-Christians (Gal 6:10). This involves practical acts of service (e.g. Jas 1:27, 2:14-17).

And as people living in a democracy with political responsibility, it also means engaging with public policy, even if it’s only occasionally.

Yes, gospel preaching and social action are different activities. Yes, gospel proclamation takes priority. (I think my tribe of reformed evangelicals understand that well.) But they’re both inseparable to those who would live out the fruit of the gospel.

So, on the one hand, we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking social and political action is the same as gospel preaching (it’s not). But nor should we think that disengaging ourselves from society and its needs is a godly way of living.

We need to do both – even as we prioritise gospel proclamation.

 

7) We Need to Remember This World Is Not Our Home

So let’s stop treating it like it is.

Recent political events can leave us feeling discouraged. We might wonder what’s happening to our world. We might fear for the future – especially for our kids and grandkids.

Yes, we might be concerned. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

As author Paul Tripp puts it:

The heaven that we all long for is yet to come. We live in the uncomfortable moment between the glories of our justification and the glory of our final union with Christ for eternity.

He continues:

And where do we live in-between? We live in a world that has been, and continues to be, devastated by sin.’[3]

And so it’s foolish to depend on this world for our hopes, dreams, joys. It’s going to disappoint – sometimes badly. We shouldn’t live for the Australian Dream, but for the Kingdom that cannot be shaken. 

The sooner we realise this, the better off we’ll be.

 

8)   We Need to Get Better at Dialoguing Across Differences

American author Rosaria Butterfield points out  that that since SSM was legalised in America, the vitriol in public discourse has increased – not just from advocates of SSM, but also from many Christians. When attacked with vitriol, these Christians responded in kind.

But is attacking our attackers a God-honouring response?

Not at all.

There is a better way – a ‘most excellent way’ – and it involves seeking first to understand, and only then to be understood. It means being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

Sure, not all our opponents will want to engage and discuss. But some will. And  by sitting across from those who think differently – breaking bread with them, hearing their point of view – we will often gain opportunities to share our worldview. Sharing our hope. Sharing our lives. And sharing the gospel (1 Peter 3:15).

 

Jesus: the One Who Rules Even Over Opposition

We don’t know what the future holds. But we know that increasing cultural and even legal opposition is likely.

And yet, we mustn’t get discouraged. Christ Jesus is still Lord. And we’re still His rescued people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Jonathan Leeman Political Church – The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule (Downer Grove, IL: IVP, 2016), 14.

[2] Luke Bretherton, Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness (Maldan, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 54. Quoted in Leeman, Political Church, 16.

[3] Paul Tripp, Lost in the Middle – Midlife and the Grace of God (Wapwallopen, PA:Shepherd Press, 2004), 61.

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10 thoughts on “How To Survive The Moral Revolution: What You Should Know

  1. Hi Akos. Consider adding these:

    9) We Need To Learn To Live With The Consequences Of Our Actions And To Justify Them To Those Who Do Not Assume The Existence Of God-Given Moral Absolutes.

    10) We Need To Make Sense To Those Who Do Not Define Right And Wrong In Terms Of What Pleases Or Displeases God.

    11) We Need To Abandon Self-Indulgent Victim Mentality Combined With Presumptuous Claims To Exclusive Grace.

    • Point 10 – We should probably be mindful that people do not generally understand right and wrong in terms of what pleases/displeases God – and correct their mistake. Right and wrong are defined by God – presuming to define it apart from God is the essense of the sin of Adam – it’s what the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was all about – the idea that human beings can decide what is right and wrong rather than deferring to God is sin. Christian preaching should seek to correct that error in non-christian thinking.

      Point 11 – I’m not sure what you mean by “presumptuous claims to exclusive grace”, but if by it you mean that Christians understand that the Christian way is the only way to God, and that the only way to access grace is via Jesus, then actually I think we need to emphasise that even more than we have in the past. We should emphasise all the ways that Christianity is _not_ like our existing secular order. The secular order needs to bow to Christ or it will come under judgement when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.

      We should also articulate the boundaries of secular authority more clearly. Secular authority has some authority – but only that which is granted by Jesus.

      We should also put our hope fully in Jesus who will vindicate us on the last day if the secular authorities seek to use their power ( illegitimately ) to punish us for speaking the truth. By bearing unjust punishment while holding fast to the truth, we become like Jesus and will be who vindicated by ressurection just like he was

    • Martin, re: 11). We do have exclusive Grace through Christ. Christ is the ONLY Way to the Father, the Bible makes that clear. Otherwise, what would have been the point of His Life and Death and His Ascent?

      Or have I misunderstood what you have written?

    • I am sorry to disagree with the current wide spread evangelical belief that the great commission means to christianize the world systems to make them a line with Gods degrees and laws. And in particular the focus on political reform, where oh where is that ever a priority in scripture The focus of scripture in both the Old and New revelation is on individual obedience through faith in Christ Jesus proclaimed in the gospel message. The mega amount of resources and finances thrown at and wasted on a world system that will never be redeemed that could be used within the family of God with far greater impact for the kingdom and progress of the gospel, is criminal at best and as filthy rags before him at worst.
      The loving of the brethren by the brethren is “How They will know” and by the good deeds each of the redeemed, performs on an individual basis to and before their neighbours, and not, on a political/social engagement platform to right all wrongs in the name of Jesus, within the structure of a God denying, corrupt, and humanly rebellious system.

      • Tim, it may be ‘the current wide spread evangelical belief’ as you claim, but it is also the historic majority position of Protestant evangelicalism at least since the time of the Reformation.

        Christ is King. He is King of all creation, not just of the church. Nations are to be taught that Christ is King, as is clear from the Great Commission.

        The prophets of the Old Testament called for political and religious reform. The two cannot be easily separated.

        The world has been redeemed by Christ who is the rightful King. As Isaac Watts wrote in his famous hymn Joy to the World, ‘He (Christ) comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.’ Salvation is comprehensive and is revealed as the new heavens and the new earth.

        Government is ordained by God and those who govern and rule are accountable directly to God (Ps 82). Insofar that governments are ‘God denying, corrupt and humanly rebellious (and they are largely so today in Australia), they will be judged in God’s time and ultimately made new. Remember, Christ is King!

  2. I think number 11 in Martin’s comment is especially important. Christians ARE NOT A MINORITY, they still make up 52% of the Australian population. The next highest group is those that profess no-religion, but no religion is a mix of various groups whose only connection is that they do not ascribe to a particular religious group. Christians are not victims, and they still enjoy widespread privileges in Australian society.

    Re. No.7 i think this type of thinking is detrimental to both religious and non-religious people. it leads to thought like if this is not my home why do i care if i mess it up for everyone else but those i like.

    Also non-religious/secular people do not despise Christians (or members of other religions). They do not like the religious ideas which oppress them but they do not despise the people in general.

  3. Another excellent article. Thank you Akos. It’s a call to stay connected, stand our ground, ‘fight’ graciously etc.

  4. Hi Akos,
    I came across your article on Facebook ” How to survive the moral revolution & the 8 points we should know.” I have made a few comments on this article as I find your summing up of the situation profoundly accurate and appropriate for our times in contrast to the churches relative silence on the knitty gritty of all this. My concern right now is even more so about the silence of church leaders; where is their support? Only one friend of mine a retired clergy in the Anglican Church in Tasmania has responded. I feel very motivated to make some comments to call upon the church hierarchy, the Primates, the Arch Bishops, the Bishops and whatever you call them ……” Where is your response and support to all this” . But I would like your advice as to how to go about it without offending, but…boy oh boy…to give them a shake up as I believe is our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ. For too long we have lived with the attitude that Tolerance is a virtue……tolerance of evil can never be anything else but sin to our God, who remains the same yesterday, today and forever. I am a Anglican for no other reason than that we need to belong somewhere and I relate well to the thoughts and principals of AFCON. Other than that I prefer to just call myself a Christian.
    Looking forward to your response.

    Yours in Christ,

    Jim van Ommen.

    • Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your comment, and for the encouragement. I enjoy thinking aloud about these issues, for anyone that cares to listen. 🙂

      I understand your concern about the need for church leaders to speak up.

      However, I think it has been happening. Many church leaders have been vocal over the same sex marriage issue, and about the recent need for religious freedom protections in the SSM legislation.

      See for example: https://www.coalitionformarriage.com.au/keep_your_promise_to_people_of_faith

      I hope that alleviates some of your concern…thanks again for your comment!

      In Christ,

      Akos