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babelWe’re Christians on the track, running the race with a great cloud of witnesses in the stands, saints of old who are cheering us on. But there’s a fog hanging over the section of the track in front of us. We’ve not been here.

This is the situation we find ourselves in.

Technological advances and moral decay have accelerated, perhaps feeding off one another, with the ground shifting so rapidly under our feet that we’re not always sure what to do or where to go.

The ethical dilemmas we are facing would boggle the mind of my great grandparents.

  • A woman in your congregation considers it her full-time job to be a surrogate mother for women who cannot conceive. I don’t understand. Isn’t motherhood defined by carrying a child? How can one mother host another mother’s child?
  • A photographer feels uncomfortable participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony and is facing fines that lead to the dissolution of their business. I don’t understand. What is a same-sex marriage? Isn’t that like saying “square circle?”
  • A business owner feels like he would be complicit in evil if he is forced to pay for his employee’s “constitutional right” to a chemical abortion through the company’s insurance policy. I don’t understand. Where is the Constitutional right for a mother to take the life of her child?

It’s not going to get easier.

If in a mere decade, a society can overturn a pillar that has undergirded civilization for thousands of years, what kind of changes will come in the next decade or two? The unthinkable is now the possible.

The cultural pressure upon us will increase. We better be okay with standing out from the rest of the world, no matter how unpopular it makes us.

We also better get used to people saying we are filled with hate and vitriol toward neighbors we disagree with. And we should do our best to show the world so much love that those labels don’t stick.

Maybe the way God is teaching us to reach out to the maligned and marginalized is by letting us taste the same kind of social ostracism.

Maybe the less we seek the love of society, the more we’ll be free to love others in God’s image.

Maybe the cultural car is careening toward the cliff, and we’re supposed to be the people who are standing with our arms outstretched saying, “Stop! You know not what you do.”

I don’t have all the answers to the ethical issues we face today. Nor do I know what issues will soon appear on the horizon.

What I do know is this: when things get complicated, we should remember the basics.

  • This world God created is good. He has a plan for it. We’re going somewhere.
  • This world is broken. We’ve all rebelled against our good and loving Father. We’re lost.
  • God demonstrates His great love for us in that even in our sinfulness and rebellion, He sent Christ to die for us.
  • The world will be redeemed. The great story of our world will have chapters where all hope seems to be lost, but like all great stories, the happy ending is assured. And the sequel will never end.

Life is complicated. Our choices won’t be easy. If we are to live faithfully in this brave new world, we will need wisdom from above.

But some things just aren’t going to change:

  • God still loves His children. And He even loves the people who hate Him and His church. Jesus’ dying breaths exhaled forgiveness.
  • We’re called to love our neighbors. Sometimes, loving comes easily. Other times, it’s harder. And Christian love assumes the strange posture of sometimes standing against the world for the good of the world.
  • The world still needs Jesus. The gospel is still powerful. And the church is still on mission.
  • There’s a city whose foundations are unshakable. And there’s a city of man that builds its idol-tower of “progress” to the sky. Christians who are most comfortable in the city of man find it hard to represent the city of God.

Jesus saves. So love God. Love people. The basics never change.


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21 thoughts on “When Things Get Complicated, Remember the Basics”

  1. Norm says:

    Thanks for that post, Trevin. Good advice for troubled times. We must remember the message of the Book of Revelation. No matter how hard it gets – no matter how hopeless it looks for God’s people, it’s all ready a done deal. The victory has been accomplished. God and His Kingdom win in the end.

    Love God, trust His Word and His promises. He will give us the strength to face whatever we must face.

  2. In order for moral decay to accelerate, people today would have to be more sinful than people from previous generations. There is no Biblical foundation for this idea.

    If surrogate motherhood is one of the most confounding issues of our age, then we are blessed to live in fantastic times. Your great-grandparents lived in an era of segregation, World Wars, The Great Depression, and communism’s rise to power. There’s no way one can say that those were better times.

  3. Norm says:

    re: ” There’s no way one can say that those were better times.”

    I’m not sure that was Trevin’s point. We could go all the way back to the 1st century and to succeeding eras of Roman persecution of Christians where they were tortured, burned alive, and thrown to the lions.

    I think his point was primarily concerning conditions for Christians here in America, and not ALL Christians either – just those who truly stand for the teachings of Christ and attempt to live them in their daily lives.

    You only mention Trevin’s point about surrogate motherhood when comparing moral conditions today with America’s past. Of course racism, the Great Depression, World wars 1 and 2, and communism trumps just that one thing you listed from Trevin’s entire article.

    But, Vagabond, there’s no denying that tolerance for Christian values and orthodox Christian doctrine IS under severe attack in America – much more than in our previous generations.

    And, by the way, communism is on the rise around the world, as well as here in our own nation. It’s not always called “communism” – now it’s called “progressivism” or “socialism”.

    In your grandparents time, would a business owner be charged with a crime for refusing to cater to a homosexual wedding? In our neighboring Canada, ministers are charged with hate crimes if they preach traditional Biblical admonitions against homosexuality.

    In your great grandparents time, would the legal killing of unborn children even be contemplated, let alone paid for by taxpayer dollars, or forcing insurance companies to pay for it as a “woman’s right”??

    No one is saying people had it “easier” in the past. Every generation will face crisis’ and obstacles, but morally speaking and in the realm of toleration, particularly in America and Western Europe – openly speaking of the Bible, of Biblical teaching in objection to moral actions of the world at large, will get you verbal vilification or charges of “hate speech”. Christianity has never been treated that way in America. Yes, standing against racism might get you in trouble locally in some parts of our nation at one time – but, exposure of that to the rest of the country brought national condemnation of such actions because the rest of the nation believed in the Christian concepts of tolerance, equality of all people before God (no favoritism), and justice. THAT is no longer the case today.

    1. I know that it wasn’t his main point, but it’s a cliche saying that has no bearing on reality. But even your examples fail to compare. You’re worried about tolerance for Christians being under attack, but look at the method of attack. Catholics and Jewish people in our great-grandparents’ age were murdered by Protestants,and had their schools, churches, and synagogue burned to the ground… and you’re worried about having to bake a cake? That’s not moral decay; that’s evidence that things are much safer for minority religions now than they used to be.

      I would argue that Christian values were even more under attack back in our great grandparents’ day than they are now. The difference was that the attacks came from within due to racism and bigotry. Violating social norms in the past put you at risk for lynchings and assault. Violating social norms now just means people will make fun of you on Facebook.

      1. Norm says:

        Vagabond,

        Trevin’s article was regarding the increasing intolerance for Christian doctrines and values. Exactly which Christian doctrines were under attack in our great-grandparent’s days? Which Christian doctrines were Catholics and Jews standing up for that elicited lynchings and buildings burned to the ground?

        And, those “Christians” who did the lynching and the burning – which New Testament passage or teachings of Jesus called for such a thing?

        I would submit that Catholics and Jews in our grandparents (or great-grandparents time) were not advocating abortion or same-sex marriage. I would venture to say that they were not persecuted because they promoted the Bible or because they stood up for Christian values. No, they were persecuted simply because some people hated them – using the excuse, if they expressed one, that the Jews “murdered” Jesus or Catholics persecuted Protestants at one time, or the Jews controlled all the money, or some other such idiocy.

        It was also Protestants, Jews, and Catholics, black and white, who were killed, and whose buildings were burned during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. And, those Protestant groups DID stand up for equality of all people regardless of skin color – because that IS a Christian and Biblical doctrine. So, in that aspect, I would agree that contemporary Christians, in America, have not faced lynching or having their buildings burned for opposing abortion or same-sex marriage – at least not yet. However, that is going on in other countries – the Middle East in particular.

        But there are other ways of destroying people without violence. Having one’s business destroyed through lawsuits or threats of arrest and imprisonment if you refuse to cater to same sex marriage may not be death or arson, but is pretty destructive regardless. And, though I don’t know of churches being burned to the ground, I have read reports of churches being defaced for their stands against abortion or homosexuality.

        My point is that in America’s history, promoting Biblical teaching was not only tolerated, but encouraged. It was the basis for many of our ideas of justice and tolerance. Obviously that wasn’t always followed or lived out, but none the less, the Bible was respected as an authority for moral behavior in the public arena as well as in one’s personal life.

        That is no longer the case. Dr. Martin Luther King’s (a Protestant Baptist minister) ideas were based on Biblical themes as the primary authority for equality before the law for all Americans regardless of the color of one’s skin or one’ religious background. Would that Biblical authority be respected today as a basis for racial equality in the political arena? I don’t think so.

        Which comes back to Trevin’s point that Christian values and doctrines are becoming less and less tolerated in America – particularly those doctrines which go against the political correctness of our day. The courts are being used to shut up discussion and to intimidate others from standing up for their religious rights as individuals and business owners. In fact, we are being told that religious freedom only applies to an individual, not a business.

        You say “baking a cake” is no big deal compared to lynching. I agree, but that is not really the point is it Vagabond? The point is, that the law is being used to force Christians who stand for Biblical teachings to give up their religious freedom – or else. Churches are being threatened by the IRS that if they don’t stop speaking against homosexuality or abortion, that they may lose their tax exempt status – which most churches are more than willing to give up – but, that’s not the point either, is it Vagabond?

        Our grandparents were not threatened with lawsuits, fines, or imprisonment for adhering to Biblical doctrines or for teaching Biblical doctrines. Yes, they were subject to bigotry and hatred – but not because of promoting the Bible. It is ironic that those Catholics you referred to as being persecuted in the past are among those who are most opposed to abortion or same-sex marriage/homosexuality.

        Yes, Christians in America are not being lynched or having their buildings burned to the ground – but, with things going the way they are – is that really very far behind in this so “tolerant” and “enlightened” post-Christian world?

        1. What good is tolerance for Christian doctrines if people don’t live by them?

          We’re talking about an era when people said they loved their neighbor even as they held lynching parties and brought their friends and families to watch. An era when membership in the KKK rose as high as 50% in some state populations. What good is a Christian who stands against abortion if they’re willing to burn a church with families still worshipping inside it?

          The only Protestants who were targeted during that time were Black Protestants. White Protestants were the establishment, which is why conservative evangelicals long for those days. Let’s not overlook the fact that we’re talking about our great-grandparents’ time, not the Civil Rights Era.

          Ultimately you’re making an argument from privilege: the sins of the past weren’t as big of a deal as the sins of today because now you’re targeted. It’s easy for a white person to dismiss racism as a tragedy of the past, or tell Jewish people that they should feel better because some evangelicals thought Hitler was a bad guy from the beginning. Now that evangelicals find their views in the minority, they want to tell everyone that there’s a huge moral crisis, and people are looking at them and asking where they were during the first few centuries of this country’s existence. So who cares if the Bible was “respected” if no one lived by it?

          BTW, I hope you’re not saying that the only people who deserve protection from persecution are Christians who believe in the “correct doctrines”.

          1. Windy Pitts says:

            Wow, such bitterness! I suggest that persecution is persecution no matter race, religion, culture, nation, or era. It’s all sin, none is more sin than any other. We are going through a period in this country, unlike any period before in this country, where we beginning to feel uncomfortable just because of our faith. We also are noticing a rise in other countries of persecution against Christians as well as Jews. This is not new in this world, indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. And none of us is without sin.

          2. Norm says:

            So, let me see if I’m following you, Christian Vagabond:

            1. There is no real attack on Christian beliefs today, or if there is, it is inconsequential compared to the sufferings of Jews, Catholics and Blacks in the past.

            2. All, or at least the majority of White Protestant Christians in America’s past murdered Blacks, Jews, and Catholics.

            3. All, or at least the majority of White Protestant Christians in Americas past burned churches.

            4. This lynching and burning was going on everywhere in America.

            5. No White Protestants were targeted by bigots and racists.

            6. No White Protestants participated in the Civil Rights Movement.

            7. No White Protestants participated in America’s anti-slavery movement.

            8. No White Protestants participated in America’s attempt to reform child labor laws (yeah, you didn’t mention this one, but I’m sure you will).

            9. No White Protestants participated in working to give women the right to vote (you didn’t mention this one either, but I’m sure you will).

            10. The Bible or Christian beliefs deserve no respect today because no one in America or in America’s history, particularly white protestants, ever lived by it?

            11. I personally am “dismissive” of the sufferings of Jews, Catholics, and Blacks of the past because I think Biblical morality and teaching is progressively becoming considered hate speech.

            12. I am personally basing my arguments as a “privileged white guy”.

            13. If Christian teaching and the Bible is experiencing a lack of respect more-so today than in the past, well, those evangelicals had it coming anyway.

            If I am misunderstanding your points, please correct me.

            But, I ask you again:

            Even if all you claim above is true, would Protestant Blacks, would Jewish Rabbi’s, and Catholic priests of the past have advocated abortion? Euthanasia? Homosexual marriage? Federal judges/state governments forcing or threatening churches/ministers/individuals to tone down their teachings or personal beliefs or face fines and/or imprisonment?

            Such things would not have even been contemplated in the past by protestants (Black or White) or Jewish Rabbi’s or Catholic priests – even if they were experiencing personal injustice from fake Christians.

            And, I do call them fake. You may deny that, but I ask you again (since you didn’t answer this either – Where in the New Testament does Jesus or the Apostles ever promote the ideology of the KKK?? Where does the New Testament EVER promote lynchings?

            I never said that the suffering of people in the past was easy. I never said it wasn’t horrible. I cannot imagine the horror of the holocaust.

            But, again, Vagabond, as horrible as all of that is – none of the victims of those crimes EVER supported abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, or governmental intimidation of churches or synagogues regarding Biblical doctrines. They would have opposed those things then and most do still today. It’s not just those horrible evangelicals.

            And by the way, not that it pertains to our discussion, but I have two great, great, great, great grandparents who fought against slavery in the Civil War. I have an uncle who was killed in combat during World War 2. I only mention it because you tend to paint with a very, very broad brush when it comes to “white people” – particularly those “white Protestants” who, according to you, did nothing to stop racism or injustice. Well, speak for yourself, sir.

          3. I’ll start with #9 because it’ll help illustrate the point I’m making. Everyone agrees that women winning the right to vote was a great moral victory, right? A huge step forward. Except…the victory was won because of bigotry.

            The women’s suffrage movement emerged at a time when there was a large influx of Catholic immigrants. For Protestants, this was a moral crisis. They viewed Catholics as drunkards, pagans, and most important of all, Catholics followed the Pope, and mainstream Protestantism at the time taught that the Pope was the Antichrist and the Catholic Church was the Great Prostitute of Babylon. So they saw Catholics as bringing Satan himself to America’s shores. So Protestants did a few things to combat these unwelcome immigrants. First they passed laws restricting Catholic immigration, and they harassed, assaulted,and persecuted those who did come here. But they were worried that the growing number of Catholics (whose stance against birth control was viewed as a moral weakness) would allow Rome to influence American politics.

            And that’s how women’s suffrage saved the day. Protestant men realized that if their wives had the vote, they could double their voting power and help limit Catholic influence. It was a great moral victory argued for and won on immoral grounds.

            My point regarding injustices of the past is not that every white Protestant took part in it, but that for the vast majority of them these activities were viewed as upholding American and Christian values. Even if you didn’t lynch the guy down the street, odds were you had no problem with it, and you might even be glad to see someone keeping the town safe from evil influences.

            To give you a sense of how deeply ingrained bigotry was in those days, we have elected 5 presidents who were members of the KKK, and only one of them (Truman) rejected the organization after becoming president. Truman’s falling out was due to his decision to appoint Catholic men to his staff. Many of our largest companies actively funded the fascist revolutions in Europe that helped Hitler and Mussolini rise to power, and they built Nazi tanks and chemical weapons even after we entered the war. Instead of suffering a backlash for their activities, they demanded financial reparations from the US government for the losses incurred as a result of Allied forces destroying their overseas plants and machinery. The Holocaust also would not have happened without America’s help: IBM voluntarily helped the Nazis by allowing them to lease their census databases with the hope that their technology would help maximize the number of Jews the Nazis could capture.

            The point of raising all of this is to emphasize that none of these activities were scandalous or unusual during this period of American history. These companies reflected the moral norms of the time, and yes, those norms did in fact extend to abortion. Abortion was legal in America up until the 1820’s, and the only reason it was made illegal was because the concoctions women used to induce abortions were often fatal. So abortion itself wasn’t banned; the treatments used to induce it were. Abortion was viewed the same way marijuana paraphernalia is now; you could buy the supplies provided no authorities saw you using them.

            Even after that point, pills and herbs were advertised in mainstream publications that promised to induce abortion. The belief at the time was that the soul did not enter the fetus until the 4th month, so if you ended your pregnancy before that time, there was no moral dilemma because you were just killing a vegetable. Abortion was scandalous because it implied adultery, so it was kept hush-hush, but Protestants largely supported it and found the Catholic stance against it unreasonable.

            So my point is exactly what I said earlier: it’s true that there were more people who identified as Christians at that time, and it’s true that most Americans held what you would call the “correct doctrines.” But when you look at what they said they believed versus how they lived and the beliefs they lived out, it’s irrelevant how many would have answered your doctrine questions correctly.

            As for the Bible, it’s easy for us now to look at Anti-Semitism and racism and scoff at the idea that anyone could have used scripture to justify it, but for most of the church’s history it was assumed that scripture spelled out that Jewish people were evil. We can read scripture and recognize that our Savior was Jewish, but if you tried to make that argument 100 years ago, people would have driven you out of town.

  4. Patrick Peringer says:

    “There’s a city whose foundations are unshakable. And there’s a city of man that builds its idol-tower of “progress” to the sky. Christians who are most comfortable in the city of man find it hard to represent the city of God.”

    I am finishing up my PhD in music composition and this was the very subject of my dissertation work. It’s even titled “Babel.” The thread of my commentary run very similar to this sentiment. Progress, or technology has been trying to replace God since the beginning and the Babel story is the first to display this kind of rebellion. I depicted the scattering as something God as done in his grace, we rebelled, and instead of outright destruction He removed us from the idol, not only that in a similar way to God making garments for Adam and Eve, He went before us into our new places and made a way for us to make culture with him still there. Anyways, I appreciated the article!

  5. Windy Pitts says:

    Ecclesiastes 1:9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.

  6. Phil says:

    RE: “Isn’t motherhood defined by carrying a child? How can one mother host another mother’s child?”

    I highly doubt that your “great grandparents” would have struggled at all with this, as they understood and appreciated adoption (that is, if they were believers). An adoptive mother is no less a mother than the woman who “carried” the child. This whole notion contributes to the attitude that causes some people to ask adoptive parents questions like, “Wow that’s great… but did you ever want to have kids of your own?” or “I bet you’re just as proud of them [adopted kids] as your real kids.” We hear stuff like that all the time.

  7. Jeff Kennon says:

    This article reminds me that no matter how much things change in our society, some things will always remain the same. I work with college students and have observed that though they are faced with new technology along with the ethical issues that come with it, they still long for the same things as when I was a student. They are still looking for acceptance and someone to care for them. And they still need to hear the gospel.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  8. EricP says:

    I don’t like being negative, but this post combines pessimism with a lack of historical knowledge. Look at Foxe’s book of martyrs, the German church under Hitler, and the early church for much more difficult moral dilemmas.

    It’s not really getting that bad. Evangelicals are a third of America and still growing. We’ve lost some culture war battles. Southern Baptists also lost the culture war on slavery. Other Christians lost the culture war on racial integration. We also lost prohibition and we’re losing pot legalization. Maybe we need to redirect our focus from culture wars?

    “We better be okay with standing out from the rest of the world”
    I think we are too okay standing apart. Your grand parents would be surprised by how much the church has pulled away from the culture. No longer do artists sing both popular and Christian music. Christians have their own radio stations, concerts, movies and TV shows.

    “Maybe the way God is teaching us to reach out to the maligned and marginalized is by letting us taste the same kind of social ostracism.

    Maybe the less we seek the love of society, the more we’ll be free to love others in God’s image.”

    I would change “society” to “the congregation” and add that we need to look at our role in social ostracizing others.

  9. brgulker says:

    If in a mere decade, a society can overturn a pillar that has undergirded civilization for thousands of years, what kind of changes will come in the next decade or two?

    But Trevin, in what sense is this literally true? Our own Christian/Jewish faith tradition is replete with examples that are not espoused by any of the “pro-marriage” arguments of today?

    A woman in your congregation considers it her full-time job to be a surrogate mother for women who cannot conceive. I don’t understand. Isn’t motherhood defined by carrying a child? How can one mother host another mother’s child?

    Abraham and Sarah, anyone?

    A business owner feels like he would be complicit in evil if he is forced to pay for his employee’s “constitutional right” to a chemical abortion through the company’s insurance policy. I don’t understand. Where is the Constitutional right for a mother to take the life of her child?

    I pay taxes even though I have strong moral objections to our country’s foreign policy. What’s the difference morally and ethically? (Honest, not rhetorical question)

    A photographer feels uncomfortable participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony and is facing fines that lead to the dissolution of their business.

    The language here is obviously carefully chosen, but there’s a faulty assumption: how is it fair to equate being contracted to take photographs with “participation” in an event you don’t agree with? Taking pictures of any given event doesn’t mean one endorses that event; it merely means one is taking pictures of it. Full stop.

    We’re called to love our neighbors. Sometimes, loving comes easily. Other times, it’s harder. And Christian love assumes the strange posture of sometimes standing against the world for the good of the world.

    I agree wholeheartedly. What I would ask is this: How is it “for the good of the world” for Christian bakers and photographers to deny their services to gay people? What gay person has ever felt as if that kind of behavior is for their good? How many non-Christians are being persuaded that Christians are really for the good of the world when they deny services to gay people?

    I haven’t seen a single person be won over to Christ through actions like this. Have you?

    And if not, why on earth would we defend the behavior? Surely, there is a better way to show love to people than this.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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