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Posts Tagged ‘morality’

When you hear the term “moralism” and it is used as a negative thing, what is your reaction? After all, what can be wrong with morals? Isn’t a lot of the problem with our culture due to a catastrophic slide in morality?

There is, of course, nothing wrong with good morals and, yes, we have witnessed a tragic decline in morality in America. A culture which fights for the “right” of a boy who thinks he is a girl to use the girls’ restroom and tells the offended girls that they need to learn to deal with it is a culture which has lost almost all sense of morality, not to mention common sense.

People are rightly concerned about the abysmally low level of morality in America. The problem, though, occurs when a concern for morality is confused with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Moralism is a belief system when emphasizes the overarching importance of morality. Being a good person, emphasizing morality, being with like-minded people, and seeking to convert others to your view of morality are all characteristic of moralism. In truth, moralism is another gospel, and that should be a cause for great concern.

Moralism is what characterizes most churches in America today, and we Baptists are no exception. All moralists do not hold to the same set of moral values, but they all see morality, at least their conception of morality, as fundamental. When someone tells you, “We don’t need to get hung up on doctrine. We just need to be good people and have great relationships,” you are listening to a moralist, and that’s not a good thing.

The great danger of moralism is that it replaces the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, moralism is the antithesis of the gospel because the moralist essentially believes that he is right with God because he is a moral person, though he may deny that and invoke his need for Jesus. The gospel, however, reveals that our efforts at self-reformation and our seeking to be righteous are fraught with sin (Isaiah 64:6). Our being accepted by God is due solely to God’s counting us righteous through faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ (see Romans 4 and 5; also 2 Corinthians 5:21).

In a September 11, 2012, blog post entitled “Christian Values Cannot Save Anyone,” Al Mohler writes: “Parents who raise their children with nothing more than Christian values should not be surprised when their children abandon those values. If the child or young person does not have a firm commitment to Christ and to the truth of the Christian faith, values will have no binding authority, and we should not expect that they would. Most of our neighbors have some commitment to Christian values, but what they desperately need is salvation from their sins. This does not come by Christian values, no matter how fervently held. Salvation comes only by the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Dr. Mohler goes on to explain: “Human beings are natural-born moralists, and moralism is the most potent of all the false gospels. The language of ‘values’ is the language of moralism and cultural Protestantism . . . . This is the religion that produces cultural Christians, and cultural Christianity soon dissipates into atheism, agnosticism, and other forms of non-belief. Cultural Christianity is the great denomination of moralism, and far too many church folk fail to recognize that their own religion is only cultural Christianity — not the genuine Christian faith.”

“Christian moralists” will attend worship services, get involved in Bible studies, go on Christian social trips, and do short term missions. There is enough “Jesus-talk” to make it all seem Christian, but it’s not biblical Christianity. It is moralism. And it is eternally deadly: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

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The sin of not judging

That times have changed is a given. Consider the moral landscape of America in 2012. If you oppose abortion on demand, you are against women’s health. If you believe that only a man and woman can be united in marriage, you are opposed to basic human rights. If you go even further and pronounce that homosexuality is sinful, you are a danger to society.

What was unthinkable a few decades ago is being pushed as a human right in the twenty-first century. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced in October 2011: “We need marriage equality in every state in this nation. Otherwise, no state really has marriage equality, and we will not rest until it is a reality.”

Our neighbor to the north gives us a good idea of where we are headed. From Canada comes this bit of “enlightened” thinking: “Under Alberta’s new Education Act, homeschoolers and faith-based schools will not be permitted to teach that homosexual acts are sinful as part of their academic program, says the spokesperson for Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk. ‘Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,’ Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday evening. ‘You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,’ she added.”

Many professing Christians have unwittingly bought into our culture’s relativistic approach to morality. “Jesus said to ‘judge not,’ so who am I to call homosexuality wrong? We don’t know why a woman would want an abortion, so we shouldn’t judge.” And the thinking knows no limit. “He left his wife? Well, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. We shouldn’t judge.” “They are living together? Who are we to judge? Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” And on and on it goes.

In his Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus did teach: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). The judging prohibited is that judging which arises out of a heart of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. It is right to judge sin as sin. The doing of sin is wrong and should be judged as such. What is wrong is looking at the offender from a position of moral superiority. “Well, I would never do that!”

Proper judging denounces the wrong because of God’s standard, not because we ourselves are morally superior to the person who committed the act. Proper judging acknowledges that the act would be wrong if we ourselves committed it. Proper judging acknowledges that we ourselves are capable of committing the same sin were God to remove protecting grace from us.

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul laments a situation in the church in which a man who had taken his father’s mother, evidently the younger man’s stepmother, into an immoral relationship. Paul writes, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing” (5:3). Paul judged the offender as having committed a heinous sin: “sexual immorality . . . of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans” (5:1). Paul writes, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (5:2). The “removing,” though, was not a meting out of punishment to “get rid of” the offender: “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (5:5). Paul condemned the church because it had refused to judge.

The Jesus who said “Judge not” is the same Jesus who said “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

We live in a culture that prohibits judging, though the very ones prohibiting judging judge all the time. They judge that what has traditionally been deemed immoral is now moral. They judge that those of us who hold to traditional morality are out of step with the times, that we are trying to “shove your religion down our throats.”

And yet we must not cower behind our sanctuary walls and refuse to confront the sins of our culture. While confronting those sins, however, we must not fail to confront our own. The standard is not our morality. The standard is the Word of God.

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Gene Robinson, homosexual activist and Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, has been tapped to offer a prayer at a Lincoln Memorial inauguration event for president-elect Barack Obama. According to the Associated Press, Robinson said that he would not be using the Bible or offering a Christian prayer.

Concerning the Bible, Robinson said, “While that is a holy and sacred text to me, it is not for many Americans.” It seems that the “holiness” and “sacredness” of the text of the Scriptures excludes the stark warnings in both the Old Testament and New Testament which roundly condemn the practice of homosexuality.

Not surprisingly, Robinson will be offering a generic prayer: “I will be careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer. This is a prayer for the whole nation.”

Such a position initially strikes me as sheer nonsense. You would think that a professing Christian who prays would be offering his prayer to the God whom Christians worship.

Then again, perhaps it makes perfect sense for Robinson to be offering a generic prayer to a generic god. Only a Christian would be offering a prayer to the triune God of the Bible. And whatever Gene Robinson is, for all his theological degrees and ecclesiastical position, the one thing he is not is a Christian.

While none of us is without sin, one cannot explicitly condone that which the Scriptures explicitly condemn and be a true follower of the God of that sacred writing. To sin and then confess that one is wrong and seek forgiveness is one thing. To practice an activity which the Bible condemns and yet claim that that practice is not a sin but is an activity blessed by God is certainly another. Words from Lord Jesus himself should cause all of us to examine our lives: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23 [ESV]).

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