Whenever you propose something, as I propose a return to mere Christendom, one of the natural objections people raise is the objection of trajectories — as in, “that’s all very well, but what might this lead to next?” Given this sinfulness of this world, and the genius we have for corrupting everything we touch, this is actually a reasonable question.
What is unreasonable, however, is the way the question is asked. It is posed as though the questioner were standing in a neutral zone, a place with no consequences whatsoever. But whenever we choose, there will be consequences to that choice. This applies to all the choices. If you stand at a crossroads, it would be wise to consider the consequences of going right. But you must also take into account the consequences of going left and standing still. It would be folly to pretend to yourself that only one of the options had possible ramifications that were negative. If someone opts for that folly, you may be sure that the path that they say we cannot risk will be the path of obedience, doing what God says to do.
You see, if we accept that Jesus is Lord, and that He is the final authority in our civic and public affairs, we might find ourselves, much to the consternation of fair-minded individuals, burning witches and stoning rebellious teenagers. See? We can’t risk it.
Okay. You say that we cannot risk this kind of Christian rejection of secularism, for fear that it might lead to outrages. But what happens if we stay with secularism? Well, it is just possible, for example, that we might find ourselves celebrating as true love the kind of sodomite practices that got the attention of the avenging angel of the Lord for the cities of the plain. We might find ourselves dismembering millions of unborn babies. What if something like that happens?
As Richard Weaver wonderfully put it, ideas have consequences. Moreover, all of them do. One of the most destructive ideas out there is that some ideas are privileged in this regard, and do not have any consequences at all. You have to worry about excesses of fundamentalist zeal if you give an inch to the Christians, but you never have to worry about the excesses of secularism. I can say that we think that we don’t have to worry about such excesses because hardly anybody ever does. And yet, we are living the midst of such pandemoniac excesses. Look at the news, man.
There are two other points to make. If relativism is the case (and secularism is a form of relativism), then anything goes. If relativism is the case, then anything goes, including the worst forms of absolutism. This is why, incidentally, secularism has mounted such a pitiful response to the demands of fundamentalist Islam.
That makes no sense, at least on paper. Why worry about hypothetical fundamentalist Christians who might execute a blasphemer centuries from now, and in the name of resisting this threat make common cause with radical Muslims who are executing blasphemers this very minute?
Where this does make sense is in the fact that the root of secularism is actually a rejection of the Christian faith, and the root of Islam is also a rejection of the Christian faith. Anything but Christianity, and anyone but Jesus. This is the commonality that trumps everything else. This is the hidden tie that binds.
One final point to address is this. I have often argued that Christian parents ought to accept the fact that their job is not to get their children to simply conform to the standard, but rather to get their children to love the standard. If they are failing at this, then they should lower the standard to the point where the whole family can love it together, and then progress together, growing up into a shared love of that standard.
A former student has asked me this: is there not a civil equivalent to this? Is it not the task of the Christian church to bring the outside world into a love of God’s standards for living, and not try to enforce God’s standards of law on a surly and unwilling populace? The answer to this is yes, but with an important qualification.
In the case of parents, there is a limit to how much they can lower the standard. They have the full authority to do that with “house rules,” but they do not have the authority to alter or bend God’s black letter standards. They have the authority to dispense with a 45 minute time of mandatory family worship every day. They do not have the authority to set aside God’s standards on fornication in order to let their teenage son have his girlfriend spend the night in a sleepover.
We are in a similar case. A couple generations ago, when our society acknowledged the general rightness of Christian standards, but did not love them, our task at that time was to call our people back to their love of righteousness. Our task at that time was not to fight for the retention of Sunday blue laws, for example. But now, when we are dealing with high defiance and rebellion, when the cultural center is being dominated by poofter queens, the case is different. We have to testify faithfully to a rebellious generation, and we have to testify that they are in defiance of the weightier matters of the law. This sin that has us by the throat is not a matter of missing tithes from the spice rack.
But we do this because it is effective evangelism, which is what calls people back to love. We preach the law, and we preach the gospel. When we preach the condemnation of Christ and the love of the Lord, we are doing what the early Christians did. We are calling a nation to repentance, which is the only thing that will bring them back to their first love.
We cannot get people back to a love for God by means of sentimentalist kitten hugging. We do it by declaring the wrath to come, and the staggering provision that God has made for ugly and defiant sinners against that day of wrath. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And this is why I keep going on about the absolute need for regeneration and the cross of Jesus Christ. It is only a work of the Spirit that can give us new hearts. Christian civilization is absolutely necessary, but without those new hearts, Christian standards of civilization are intolerable, as can be easily verified.