November 22, 2017

Is Our Culture Our Failure?

Wally Morris

The significant changes in attitudes and laws concerning homosexuality, polygamy, marijuana, and other issues have surprised Christians who knew these changes would come eventually but not so quickly. Second Timothy 3:1ff. describe the characteristics of the last days, so we knew our society would experience significant changes. The policy change last year, then reversal, by World Vision concerning homosexuals is yet another sign of the buckling of Christian ministries to cultural (and financial) pressure. The controversy about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act shows how intense, emotional, and irrational our culture can be. External pressure by various persons and groups can work both ways as World Vision’s and Indiana’s policy reversals indicate.

Yet some verses in the first two chapters of Judges made me wonder if what we are seeing in our culture is partially our own fault. Judges 1:28, 33, 35 record that, since the Israelites would not conquer the people living in the Promised Land, God allowed those people to coexist with them, some even serving as slaves. Judges 2:1-3 tell us that the Lord would then use these people as “thorns” in the side of Israel because of Israel’s failure.

I wonder if our failures in evangelism and perhaps other areas of ministry are at least a partial reason for the ungodly culture we now live in. Of course, evangelism is not “conquering” people, and we certainly are not making unsaved people “slaves”. But the lack of evangelistic emphasis in many Bible-believing churches has led to the growth of ungodly culture as more people have remained unevangelized. Perhaps the surprising growth of ungodliness in our culture is the result of the cumulative effect of weak evangelism and personal character failure. And now our culture is a “thorn” in our side to remind us of a certain degree of disobedience to the Lord.

Just as the Israelites did not use the tools the Lord gave them to conquer the Promised Land, I find it strange that many Christians are concerned about the shifts in American culture but do not use the tools the Lord has given us which will help with this problem: evangelism and prayer. Personal evangelism is so intimidating that many Christians, even pastors, simply just do not witness to people in any meaningful way. Organized church prayer meetings are almost unheard of today as we substitute group activities for what used to be prayer meeting. How can we be surprised at the accelerating ungodliness in our society when we are doing so very little church evangelism and praying? Instead, many Christians are trying to “engage” the culture instead of evangelize people.

What we are seeing today is partially the result of years of neglect, not by every church, but perhaps by many. Although Biblical prophecy predicts the growth of ungodliness in the last days, this certainty does not excuse our failure which may have contributed to the fulfillment of prophecy.

Our culture is a “thorn in our side” but is also an opportunity to correct our failures. We can use the downward moral spiral of our time as a gracious opportunity for evangelism as even unbelievers notice the significant changes in our culture. Yet we will have to be careful that, as our culture changes, we do not change in subtle ways in order to avoid the difficulties of living in an increasingly pagan culture. For now, we are “legally nonconforming”. How long that nonconformity will be legal is the big question. Last year I wrote that the Supreme Court might use the Bob Jones University racial dating decision as a precedent in deciding homosexual marriage. Now, in recent oral argument, some of the Court justices have raised that possibility.

Legal methods of addressing cultural pressures to conform may be more limited in the future as the laws change to reflect the changing culture. One interesting Constitutional possibility is the last sentence of Article Six. This sentence of the Constitution applies only to qualifications for public office but may apply in principle to other situations. Article Six states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Could forcing people to resign from public office for their beliefs about homosexuality because those beliefs do not conform to society’s views be a type of “religious test”?

While the Supreme Court debates homosexuality, we should remember that the Constitution is not a religious document, but the Constitution does depend on a religious people in order to the various mechanisms of the Constitution to work properly. Without a moral people, the Constitution can easily be used to justify almost any behavior if the majority of people already accept that behavior.

As our culture becomes more like the years of early Christianity, our strategy should follow the early believers. Paul used his legal rights to defend himself, but his main priority was the gospel because he knew personal transformation through Jesus Christ was the ultimate answer.

Pastor Morris is pastor of Charity Baptist Church in Huntington, IN and can be reached at ">. The church blogsite is He has also published A Time To Die: A Biblical Look At End-Of-Life Issues by Ambassador International.

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