How did we get here? How did we get here so fast? And where do we go from here?
Many Christians find themselves asking these questions now that things that were once considered immoral and harmful are now openly and unquestionably celebrated by society.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,attempts to answer these questionsin his new book, We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong (Thomas Nelson). Mohler sees this “moral revolution” as an immense challenge to Christians and the church and a major threat to Christianity, but one that must be faced with a “monumental act of faithfulness.”
With the gracious permission of the publisher, we offer Chapter 1 below, which helps us better understand the origins of this revolution. —Mickey McLean
Chapter 1: In the Wake of a Revolution
The prophetic writer Flannery O’Connor rightly warned us years ago that we must “push as hard as the age that pushes against you.” This book is an attempt to do just that.
We are living in the midst of a revolution. The Christian church in the West now faces a set of challenges that exceeds anything it has experienced in the past. The revolution that has transformed most of Western Europe and much of North America is a revolution more subtle and more dangerous than revolutions faced in previous generations. This is a revolution of ideas—one that is transforming the entire moral structure of meaning and life that human beings have recognized for millennia.
This new revolution presents a particular challenge to Christianity, for a commitment to the authority of Scripture and to revealed truths runs into direct conflict with the central thrust of this revolution. Christians are not facing an isolated set of issues that cause us to be merely perplexed and, at times, at odds with the larger culture. We are instead facing a redefinition of marriage and transformation of the family. We are facing a complete transformation of the way human beings relate to one another in the most intimate contexts of life. We are facing nothing less than a comprehensive redefinition of life, love, liberty, and the very meaning of right and wrong.
This massive revolution is taking place across the entire cultural landscape, affecting virtually every dimension of life and demanding total acceptance of its claims and affirmation of its aims. Christians who are committed to faithfulness to the Bible as the Word of God and to the gospel as the only message of salvation must face this unavoidable challenge.
A Comprehensive Revolution
British theologian Theo Hobson has argued that the scale and scope of this challenge are unprecedented. According to critics of Hobson’s argument, the challenge of the sexual revolution and the normalization of homosexuality is nothing new or unusual. Churches have always shown the ability to plod their way through hard moral issues before, and so they will again with homosexuality. Hobson himself confessed that he would have agreed with this line of reasoning at one point, but not anymore. For Hobson, the issue of homosexuality presents the church with a challenge it has never faced before.
Why is this such a challenge to Christianity? Hobson has suggested that the first factor is the either-or quality of the new morality. There is no middle ground in the church’s engagement with homosexuality. Either churches will affirm the legitimacy of same-sex relationships and behaviors or they will not.
Hobson’s second factor is the new morality’s rapid rate of success. The normalization of homosexuality—something regarded as “unspeakably immoral” for centuries— as happened at breakneck speed. It has happened so fast that homosexuality is now considered as a legitimate lifestyle, and one that deserves legal protection. Moreover, as Hobson argued, the speed of the new morality’s success “has basically ousted traditionalist sexual morality from the moral high ground.”
In other words, the sexual revolution has actually turned the tables on Christianity. The Christian church has long been understood by the culture at large to be the guardian of what is right and righteous. But now the situation is fundamentally reversed. The culture generally identifies Christians as on the wrong side of morality. Those who hold to biblical teachings concerning human sexuality are now deposed from the position of high moral ground. This change is not simply “the waning of the taboo.” As Hobson explained:
The case for homosexual equality takes the form of a moral crusade. Those who want to uphold the old attitude are not just dated moralists (as is the case with those who want to uphold the old attitude to premarital sex or illegitimacy). They are accused of moral deficiency. The old taboo surrounding this practice does not disappear but “bounces back” at those who seek to uphold it. Such a sharp turn-around is, I think, without parallel in moral history.