What we see in these situations is not merely the corruption of the broader culture, where emotionalism has overthrown reason; it is something much worse, emotionalism usurping the authority of revelation. I would like to suggest three stages in Christian surrender to pagan culture.
Not so long ago, a bit of internet clickbait urged me to view a slideshow of gay marriage proposals guaranteed to ‘hit you in the feels’ (or something akin to that). That such an appeal could be made at all testifies to the pagan decadence of American culture. But it underlined for me that the persuasiveness of the new sexual revolution has not been in reason or some new enlightenment, as its advocates would have us believe, but in ‘feels.’ The cultural shift of recent years represents the triumph of emotionalism over reason, of sloganeering over critical thinking, and of self-aggrandizement over wisdom. Hijacking the civil rights narrative, the advocates of change have declared themselves heroes, and prophesied that those who do not join the revolution will suffer the ire of history books to come.
Most problematic is that any number of Christians have been, to greater and lesser degrees, swept along by the emotional and aesthetic persuasive appeals of this revolution. The world has painted wickedness with a rainbow of bright color, and Christians have been moved to agree that it is beautiful. Every now and again we read that another pastor or Christian celebrity has gotten ‘woke’ and now considers a (growing) selection of sins holy. Christian institutions and denominations turn from Christ to culture. Nor is it only the mainline who fall in line; while the UCC surrendered as a matter of course (surrendered? Perhaps it would be better to say, ‘led the charge’), and few will be surprised when the CBF gives in, the Revoice Conference was held at a PCA church. What we see in these situations is not merely the corruption of the broader culture, where emotionalism has overthrown reason; it is something much worse, emotionalism usurping the authority of revelation. I would like to suggest three stages in Christian surrender to pagan culture.
The first and subtlest form of this revolution against revelation is the willingness to be guided by culture and embrace unlikely and idiosyncratic interpretations of Scripture that accommodate what one wishes to believe. Christians hear a traditional interpretation challenged by some ostensibly respectable pastor or scholar, who declares that new insight renders the passage irrelevant to the specifics of our context: ‘Paul is not talking about homosexuality as we know it,’ etc. Lacking the skills to investigate this novel interpretation, or simply because they desire it to be true, they accept it with a sense of palpable relief that Scripture did not contradict the world after all. In such cases it is still possible that careful and patient exegesis will turn the wanderer back when they see the accommodation they hoped for is not tenable; Scripture remains, at least in principle, their ultimate authority.