We’re All Anabaptists Now, Part Two

BATHROOM WARS AND THE THEOLOGY OF PIOUS RETREAT

(For part one of this article, go here.)

First of all, we should get this straight: Acquiescing to the demands of the LGBT lobby, particularly when those demands involve collectively pretending that reality is flexible, isn’t loving or dignified. It’s giving deluded people enough rope with which to hang themselves.

Proverbs 24:11 speaks of rescuing those “who are being led away to death,” and holding back those “who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Gibson and others beating a pious retreat conflate love for sinners with affirming and enabling self-deception and destruction. If it makes transgender folks happy, they reason, it must be loving! It isn’t our job to tell them otherwise, or refuse their demands that society play along with their delusions.

We might as well insist it isn’t our job to tell Rachel Dolezal that she isn’t black—to break it to a 40-year-old man that he can’t attend kindergarten—to withhold diet pills from an anorexic—or to give “Nano” the hard news that she isn’t a cat. If it isn’t our job, whose job is it? And if anyone thinks these examples are unfair or extreme, recall that we are talking about individuals who believe that happiness depends on having their bodies chemically altered and surgically mutilated.

No one is demanding non-Christians act like Christians. We’re refusing to buy into the lie that reality is a social construct. No one is denying the value of every human being, homosexual, transgender, or trans-species. We’re insisting they value themselves for who they are, not who a surgeon’s knife or pharmacists’ shop can make them.

The Anabaptist impulse misses this because it ignores Natural Law. Christians broadly agree that morality isn’t just for the Church. Paul expresses this in Romans 1-2, in which he writes that all people have access to moral truth, both through the revelation of God’s power and nature in creation, and the light of conscience. The requirements of the Law, writes the Apostle, are “written on their hearts.” He also hints that certain sins (especially bending and blending the sexes) are red flags of a civilization going off the rails. Endorsing those reality-bending experiments isn’t just unloving to the individuals in drag taking sex hormones. It’s cultural suicide.

Gibson eagerly reminds us that in a fallen world, non-believers don’t act like believers. Target isn’t a Christian company, he announces, and America isn’t a Christian nation. And it never will be. We can grant him all of these, yet his conclusion—that we ought to leave the world to mind its own business and just preach the Gospel—doesn’t follow.

This is where the Anabaptist impulse departs so profoundly from historic evangelical theology. For Lutherans, Anglicans, and Reformed, the Law of God (the Ten Commandments and all their implications) has three uses. It serves not only as a “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” by showing our sin (as Paul writes in Galatians 3), but as a guide for human society and laws (“thou shalt not murder” and “thou shalt not steal” are still pretty popular), and lastly, as a revelation of God’s moral will, toward which we strive.

The second use is particularly important here. But belief in a moral law that binds everyone—believer and unbeliever alike—goes beyond legislation. It’s the force behind every public moral plea, from charity drives and community service, to animal welfare and marches for racial equality. Liberals and conservatives alike engage in these causes, and expect others to do the same, on the basis of a shared moral sensibility. We perform such acts because “it’s the right thing to do.” But as C. S. Lewis might ask, what’s the point in jawing about “right and wrong” unless we believe those terms mean something objective?

Ask a millennial social justice warrior about climate change. Equal distribution of income. Non-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. Electric Cars. Kony 2012. You’ll hear all the moral thunder of a revival preacher. The same folks who insist most stridently on not legislating morality are very keen on legislating morality.

The simple fact is that there are no consistent Anabaptists. No one can follow the impulse through to its logical conclusion, because no one is willing to entirely relinquish their claim on public truth. Everybody believes in imposing their views of right and wrong on society. The question is simply, “Whose right and wrong?”

As Christians—once the conscience of society—give more and more ground, it becomes more and more obvious that the alphabet-soupers aren’t interested in a neutral public square, but one purged of all references to the old, universal morality. It may come as a shock to many hip young pastors and their wives, but indulging our culture’s fantasies won’t earn us any points. “If only we Christians would act more like Jesus,” we hear so often, “then the world would love us.”

Yes, just like it loved Jesus.

Writing at Touchstone, Anthony Esolen diagnosed the theology of pious retreat for what it is: a few tattered fragments of the Sermon on the Mount and the Pericope Adulterae, pitted against the balance of the New Testament. “The new odium Christi,” he argues, “is a hatred of the moral teaching of Jesus, hatred preached in the name of Jesus himself. . . .” When we preach this Jesus to a lost world through our inaction and silence, “We give [them] the Anti-Christ, who thanked Satan for the offer but said that he was really only interested in a one-hour worship service every week, for people who like that sort of thing. Otherwise the Prince could rule the rest according to the Prince’s best lights.”

The Anabaptist impulse isn’t a viable option for Christians, especially in a democracy, where “we, the people” ostensibly govern ourselves. Surrendering the public square to someone else’s morality doesn’t preserve a bracing Christian witness against the backdrop of a dark world. It only leaves that world still darker.

(Further reading from Michael Horton on the Two Kingdoms versus established religion and Anabaptist theology can be found here.)

Image courtesy of Melnotte at Thinkstock by Getty Images.

G. Shane Morris is assistant editor of BreakPoint Radio.


Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.