I was listening to the radio on the drive out to church on Sunday morning, and they had an interesting story on the Greens and the factional tension between the ‘left’ and ‘right’ of the party (the use of these terms was hugely offensive to the ones labeled as being on the ‘right’ – which I think is very funny).
The way that some were presenting this factional infighting was that you had one group wanting to stick to their policy positions, and one group that wanted to change this stance a little in order to gain more traction and influence in parliament.
As I was listening to this, it brought to mind some of the debates that Christians have in churches (or between churches). Whether we should alter our position on different matters in order to be more appealing to non-Christians. At different times people have proposed changing the church’s position on issues like homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, divorce, same sex marriage, and other social issues.
There are two main problems with this approach. The first is theological, and the second is practical.
Theologically, it makes the mistake of assuming (or concluding) that Christian teaching (what we call doctrine) does not come to us from God. Christian positions are worked out from what God has revealed to his people, which we have recorded in the Bible. Contrary to what some people seem to think, the Christian teaching on these things stood out as remarkable different to what the culture of the time in the Roman world thought was acceptable.
Many people seem to think that Christian teaching has always aligned with culture up until the last 40 years or so, and so now needs to change as society changes. But Christian teaching, always and everywhere, runs counter to societies and cultures. There may be some things which are co-incidental at times, but the overall story is one of Jesus being a challenge to everyone. And the church has grown despite not fitting into the surrounding culture.
Practically, the movement to make Christianity more like the culture makes no sense because it is trying to offer a product with as little differentiation as possible. If you want to convince people to follow Jesus, why would they want to do that if what following Jesus means changes to follow broader social changes? What are you actually offering someone that the local Lions or Apex club isn’t offering them?
Following Jesus is all about changing your whole world-view. It entails understanding that God created all things, that all people have rejected God and so are under God’s judgement, and that the only way of escaping that judgement is to trust that Jesus (God become human) took the judgement we deserved in our place when he died on the cross. This leads to forgiveness, a changed life, and an eternal life. There are many different paths of enquiry that will lead you to this point, but popularity and fitting in to society don’t feature on those paths.