One of the most offensive things in our time is unrelated to sexuality, politics, or business. It’s not about the latest diet, entertainer, sports star or movie.
To be truly radical, to be seen as not only unconventional but dangerous, is to assert that one thing is right and another is wrong. Not “inappropriate,” “unwise,” or “premature.” Right or wrong.
There is a certain boldness in claiming that some things are good and some things are bad, some things true and others not. Some make such assertions with bluster and loudness, discouraging disagreement or even discussion. Their authoritarian self-presentation makes any independent-minded person want to disagree simply because he doesn’t want to be told what to think.
However, because a person is obnoxious does not mean he is wrong. Moreover, one can say things in a gracious, winsome, and dialog-inducing way and still give deep offense, because what he is saying is itself an affront to its hearers.
Evangelicals believe in absolute truth, or should. This is a common assertion among serious believers, and among the born again is pretty much assumed. But it is a radical notion in most of the rest of society, threatening and evocative of witch-burning and severity and oppression.
In an era when the idea of a God Who has revealed Himself in an understandable manner is seen more as evidence of intellectual simplism than informed faith, such categories as “true” and “false,” “right” and “wrong” seem almost subversive of the social order.
Yet Christians claim to represent the One Who is “the truth.” We champion moral standards given and grounded in Scripture and affirm that they are the same yesterday, today and forever, as is Christ Himself. In a culture where rationality is seen as hurtful and the rigorous evaluation of hard but urgently important things is heralded as psychological cruelty, professing truth as fixed and inflexible is not only anachronistic, but silly and even mean.
There is not room here to discourse on the influences of moral relativism, post-modernism, secularism, narcissism, materialism, or mysticism on the American mind. It’s sufficient to note that this grotesque confection has been eaten of freely. Its effects on its partakers are found in the massive jumble of broken marriages, fatherless children, sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, and substance abuse that sit as human wreckage in the midst of our public square.
Christians need to be people who understand the truths of Scripture, apply them faithfully to their own lives and where they are applicable to public life, and proclaim their importance. To be silent as, to use Henry Clay’s phrase, the moral lights are being blown out all around us is not only to acquiesce to darkness but to encourage it.
People get angry, not infrequently; when we say what we believe is true and explain why. This is not simply a matter of presentation or tone. It is a matter of worldview, ignorance, arrogance, and spiritual rebellion.
Because they become annoyed, should we grow silent? No: We should think of ways to be persuasive,to answer their objections, to demonstrate the veracity of our truth-claims logically and in the living of life.
But we will not persuade everyone, and many will, with increasing vehemence, oppose us as we keep upholding a standard of truth that needs no qualification or nuance.
“Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs,” wrote A.W. Tozer. “Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever.”
Such dogmatism can lead to castigation, isolation, and even a cross.
Are you ready?
Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president of the Family Research Council.
Publication date: February 11, 2013