Should Christians Change Their Ethics?

Unfortunately, the homosexuality issue is proving increasingly divisive. In that context, it is not uncommon to hear people say that the church must update its ideas if it is to remain relevant. Some fear that the church will have no mission as long as it adheres to its belief that homosexual acts are sinful.

On April 3, 2015 (Good Friday) the New York Times published an opinion piece by Frank Bruni entitled “Bigotry, The Bible and the Lessons of Indiana” in which he approvingly quoted someone else as saying that “church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.”” Of course, people have taken exception to that suggestion that Christians must be forced to abandon a biblical teaching, and many have pointed out the weaknesses of his argument.

Nevertheless, it is a recent example of the idea that the church must change.

Trevin Wax has written “Must Christianity Change Its Sexual Ethics? History may Hold The Key.” He reflects on the suggestion 100 years ago that the church must let go of its belief in miracles. That type of belief was seen as embarrassing in an age of scientific knowledge.

One hundred years later, the church is once again being rocked. This time, many Christians are calling for us to rethink the “embarrassing” parts of Christianity — specifically, our distinctive sexual ethic. After all, many of the moral guidelines we read in the New Testament were written from another cultural vantage point and are no longer authoritative or relevant today. If Christianity is to survive and thrive in the next century, many of our ancient prohibitions (sex outside of marriage, homosexual practice, the significance of gender, etc.) must be set aside.

Wax points out that it is somewhat arrogant for the declining western churches to lecture the rest of the world, which largely remains faithful to the scriptures and is seeing explosive growth in many places, on why the west alone truly understands the biblical teaching.

But history, he says, also suggests that those who do not capitulate survive and grow. The denominations that most readily agreed to abandon belief in miracles have seen rapid decline.

He asks what we are likely to see in another 100 years time and suggests:

And the lesson we learn from a century ago will probably still be true: The churches that thrived were those that offered their world something more than the echo of the times.

In other words, churches do best, not when they simply become like the world, but when they remain true to what is distinctively Christian, even when that is not popular. It shouldn’t really be any surprise that God blesses those who remain true to His word.

Peter Cheyne


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