To those clamouring for the whole Church to suddenly conform to all socially accepted ethics, beliefs and values, I say this:
It is generally those outside the Church who ask for us to do this and they often do so not so that they can feel comfortable in joining the Church, but instead to broaden and extend the influence of their views everywhere in society. As has been pointed out, if people are not going to be won over by Christianity’s message of redemption, salvation, true freedom and forgiveness, they’re certainly not going to be converted by the Church abruptly having a radical change of mind on sin or whichever issue happens to be. I often hear people say to me, ‘If only the Church would accept X, loads of people would suddenly flood through the gates of our church’. Church attendance statistics show this to be a nonsense on a national scale. In fact, churches allied to “Reform” (group against the ordination of women) are often much larger and experience much more growth than liberal churches. This has also been shown in Canadian studies here and here too. Even if it were true, this should be highly worrying to all of us in the Church. Why? Because people would be being won over not by the person, work, life, death and resurrection of Christ, as they should be, but instead because “The Church” now accepts universalism or whatever issue it is.
If we were to surrender to the secularists’ demands, they would then see no need to join the Church as they would have already very successfully changed its views from outside. The plan is to just add on the end of the Christian message: “and doing X” is fine, despite the fact that there are no theological grounds for X and despite the fact that X doesn’t itself fit into the main theological framework and is just being loosely and lazily added on at the end as a belated end note/postscript.
We, as Christians, must boldly and proudly declare the uniqueness and Lordship of our only Saviour, Jesus Christ and must also thus proclaim the uniqueness of His Bride, the Church. To cease to be distinct is to cease to be Church altogether. Why bother even trying to attract someone to Church in the first place if we never offer anything unique and if everything we do offer has already been and still is being offered by other worldviews and religions?
Now, don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that the Church should automatically or by default be opposed to all change. No, it should instead consider each issue very carefully and individually on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes moral, societal and ethical changes in attitudes and views are presented to us as if we either have to accept them all on a simplistic, binary basis, or we have to reject them all. There is a via media, a third and middle way. We should debate these changes to find out whether or not they are theologically acceptable, not out of fear of what may or may not happen if we do not accept them.
In short then, we must choose to either surrender to our secular society or to surrender to Christ. Too often the wrong surrender has been chosen and it has been forgotten that only the latter surrender to Christ can give us hope, freedom, truth and security.
By Ben Somervell