Wilberforce Academy Director, Dr Joe Boot, argues that the Church has progressively stepped away from its legacy of cultural apologetics, and – in line with the changing culture – has begun preaching only a gospel message of personal salvation. This has opened the door to a charge of progressivism against Christian values, which only a reformation in the Church can turn around.
Over the last ten years or so, I have become increasingly accustomed to an unofficial evangelical embargo; a degree of kindly ostracism, a sort of smiling marginalisation from various Christian leaders in Canada – the evangelical establishment. If there is an evangelical version of ‘no-platforming’ then, looking back, I experienced it as a quiet drying up of invitations to speak at certain places, conferences and events where I had been previously sought after for years. At one point, I was so busy in the work of popular Christian apologetics in North America that I needed to keep a bag half-packed in my wardrobe. But after some time, I began to notice that my travel toothpaste was lasting much longer than before!
The narrowing of the gospel message
Competent Christian communicators who are willing to stick to an ostensibly ‘gospel-centred’ evangelical message of personal salvation in Christ, or limit their defence of the faith to God’s existence, the uniqueness of Jesus among religious founders and the reliability of the Bible (especially from an evidentialist or rationalistic perspective) will continue to find a ready audience in popular evangelicalism. These issues are intuitively regarded as a ‘safe zone’ of personal and private faith in a secularised culture.
There is a fairly narrow set of ‘faith’ questions that many believers regard as pertaining to a ‘religious sphere’ of life grounded in individual conviction and personal piety. Even though the traditional questions of Christian apologetics are rarely heard on actual university campuses these days, in this line of thinking, apologetics is regarded as a useful tool in aiding personal evangelism (the importance of which should not be neglected) and bringing people to personal salvation.
However, dare stray into the rich Christian legacy of cultural apologetics – which articulates and defends a total Christian philosophy of life in terms of the Scriptures; a worldview that touches every area of life and thought – and you are asking for trouble. Go to the religious root of the idolatry afflicting our culture and point to its key branches in various social, cultural, legal, political or educational aspects of society, and you will find that cultural prophecy is as unpopular amongst God’s people today as it was in the days of Amos or Jonah. Speak about the full implications of Christ’s Lordship and kingdom declared in the gospel – as well as the need to defend them in the public space – and you will witness the steady whittling away of those people who are willing to be seen with you in public!
I recall well that once I began speaking of the importance of Christ’s Lordship in recovering a decaying education, politics, law, arts and cultural life, suddenly I was ‘hysterical’, ‘extreme’, a ‘dominionist’, and dangerous to invite to speak lest something be said about human identity, sexuality, education, or some other contemporary cultural issue that offends someone!
These questions of life are supposedly a matter of doubt, subject to mere opinion (i.e. not ‘gospel’ issues) touching on the so-called secular space where we, whose kingdom is not of this world (a radically misused statement of Jesus), dare not tread! And so, a ‘don’t-rock-the-boat’ mentality declaring ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace, maintains remarkable appeal.
The silent Church
Yet it is difficult to see how the ‘evangellyfish’ silence regarding scriptural reality and the claims of Christ can continue to hold in the face of the massive cultural change all around us. Consider just a few recent examples:
Last month, something very shocking happened in England – one amongst many incidents of this nature in the last couple of years. A Catholic journalist was interrogated by police at her house after she ‘misgendered’ the child of a transgender campaigner she appeared with on TV. She had the audacity to identify the child based on its biological sex.
In recent weeks in Canada, a Christian activist has been fined by a tribunal an astonishing $55,000 for the ‘hateful’ act of misgendering an adult male claiming to be a woman, running in local elections.
In an utterly terrifying decision made by the Supreme Court of British Columbia in just the last couple of weeks, a father has been accused of ‘family violence’ because he engaged in ‘expressions of rejection’ of his 14-year old daughter’s professed gender identity. According to The Federalist she had been undergoing testosterone injections without parental consent.
In another startling incident of a growing number, a school worker in the UK was dismissed from her job after she shared two Facebook posts that raised concerns about relationships and sex education at another school in the same village – her own child’s Church of England Primary School.
The charge of progressivism
George Orwell is commonly credited with writing the line that “in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” The spirit of the age – characterised by constant change, man’s self-worship and a lack of any abiding standard – sheds light on our social moment where every basic assumption about creation order in the West is being challenged in terms of neo-Marxist cultural thought, popularly labelled progressivism.
Marx well understood that you cannot have social revolution without a sexual revolution. Since he thought of social conditions as determining people’s thinking, his concern was to change those conditions, and the Christian concept of marriage and family was, for him, at the root of oppression and exploitation. Moreover, it was at the root of the religious opiate of the people – the myth of God. He wrote, “once the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be theoretically criticised and radically changed in practice.”
The contemporary mantra, following Marx, continues to divide the world into oppressors and oppressed, and the newly-expanded categories of people said to be victims of oppression are not simply Marx’s so-called wage-labourers, but all those ‘victimised’ by the Christian morality and social order of the past – such as male and female made in God’s image, Christian marriage, monogamy etc. In addition, since the origins of ‘Christendom’ are conceived of as European and white, every other people group and religion are likewise characterised as victims of the oppressive white Christian man and his middle-class family (white privilege). All Western history must now be interpreted through this illusory grid, and immediate revolutionary action taken to implement the social changes necessary to either convert or oppress the oppressor, casting them into the immanent hell, first of social and cultural ostracism, and then, if necessary, of criminal sanction, including fines and even prison.
For Marxism in any form, “justice being social, guilt must be also,” so the individual character and behaviour of the oppressors is irrelevant; they belong to a condemned Christian class that has a secret history and intention not revealed by their actual words and convictions. This is because the modern spirit,
“…views culture in terms of unending historical development, rejecting all the constant, creational structures that make this development possible.… As a result, it has no reliable standard for distinguishing reactionary and progressive tendencies in historical development. It faces the problems of the “new age” without principles, without criteria.”
As such, the popular slogans about freedom, democracy, rights, inclusion and tolerance have no reliable or lasting value. These positive-sounding words have been press-ganged into the service of revolutionaries. They seek to overturn all existing order in the hope that, after demolishing all previous security, a radical and autonomous freedom will emerge where man is no longer troubled by conflict or a deep sense of alienation. Normative human sexuality, marriage, and family are the primary targets, and individuals and organisations supporting them are being viciously targeted in the courts and drumhead trials of today’s human rights tribunals.
The need for reformation
When I began warning people about the emergence and direction of these things in the churches over a decade ago and urged people to respond by pursuing Christian education and defending the truth openly – the pulpit leading the way – I was largely dismissed with the hand-waving of apathetic leaders who claimed a collapse of freedom would never happen here. Now the jackboots can be heard in the halls of power and a complicit media largely pretends these cases don’t exist. We are facing political and judicial imperialism of an increasingly totalitarian kind and instead of waking up, much of the church is now talking about getting ‘woke’ whilst the cultural prophets are stoned as scaremongers. Only a reformation in the church can turn the tide.
- See this article: Mother drops action against woman who said she ‘mutilated’ trans daughter
- See these two articles: Fined $55,000 for Calling a Male a Male and Canadian tribunal fines Bill Whatcott $55,000 for expressing Christian views on “transgenderism
- See the article here: Father Gagged, Found Guilty Of ‘Family Violence’ For Calling His Trans Daughter A ‘She’
- See an article about this incident here: Christian fired for raising RSE concerns/
- Friedrich Engels, Fourth Thesis on Feuerbach, ‘Das Buch der Offenbarung’, in Marx-Engels Werke(Berlin, 1959), III, p. 6.
- Herman Dooyeweerd, John Kraay, Mark Vander Vennen, Bernard Zylstra, and D. F. M. Strauss,Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options (Grand Rapids: Paideia Press, 2012), 67.