Are We Hiding Behind Pulpits?

from May 02, 2015 Category: Articles

Imagine, if you would, there was a small group of men caught up in a bizarre and hungry ideology. Imagine they were committed to doing whatever it takes to enjoy the blessings of power and influence. Their stratagems ranged from sophisticated propaganda to political machinations to raw violence to quell those who stood in their way. Imagine that they had infiltrated the schools of the nation, and were about the business of indoctrinating the children in their ideology. Finally, imagine that this fringe group was so consumed with hatred toward the religious people of their land who once had wielded influence that they wanted them silenced or destroyed. What should, in this context the church do?

Before we answer we have to confess that the ideology is not a direct assault on any of our most ancient creeds. Our Lord never spoke specifically against the peculiar sin that animated this small group. There may be a few obscure texts in the Bible that, indirectly it would seem, touch on the sin. But truth be told, one could preach through the whole Bible without ever having to actually name the twisted doctrine of this group.

Some would argue that if we don’t preach where the battle is, we are not preaching at all. The late Francis Schaeffer, in his book The Great Evangelical Disaster, quotes Martin Luther as saying:

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

Others, however, insist that the church should never be held hostage by the issues of the day, that our message transcends petty political squabbles. We are, after all, called to preach the Word, to make disciples of the nations. When we take sides on political issues we lose our audience and damage our witness. Isn’t it better that we should seek to win the ideologically confused by our love for them? Wasn’t Jesus despised precisely because of His willingness to invest in the sinners of His day? Should we not do the same?

Would it make a difference, which perspective we ought to take, if we were talking not about homosexuality as that ideology, but were instead talking of the Nazis? My description above fits both movements well. When Hitler came to power in Germany the church there faced the same challenge we are just beginning to face. The vast majority of churches in Germany rolled over, determined to keep their mouths shut on the Nazis, that they might maintain their position and their influence. All they salvaged, of course, was their shame. A very few, the Confessing Church, took the better position. Many of them, including the courageous Dietrich Bonhoeffer were rewarded for their fidelity with the honor of martyrdom. The church at large, however, when the cries of souls crammed into cattle cars on their way to death camps disturbed their worship, simply chose to sing louder, to drown out those cries.

Some would argue that the comparison is unfair. I might have so argued not long ago. When, however, private citizens can be fined, and go through forced “re-education” for the crime of not embracing gay “marriage,” we ought to at least begin to see the handwriting on the wall. “Homo-fascism” isn’t incendiary rhetoric. “You will be forced to care” isn’t a humorous exaggeration. These are instead the beginning of a new world and a new challenge. The question is, will the church preach the gospel at the point of attack, or will we merely sing louder?

R.C. Sproul Jr. is rector and chair of philosophy and theology at Reformation Bible College. Originally published at RCSproulJr.com.