Time, it seems, is always in motion. It can never be stopped. Historically, we have measured the passing of time with various material objects: the sundial, which displays the movement of shadows across its face; the sand pouring through the hourglass; the hands moved by gears within a watch and the minute and hour hands moving around a circle of numbers. “Time marches on.” Everything in creation is subject to time. Everything in creation is mutable. Everything in creation goes through the process of generation and decay.
As time passes, so does our knowledge increase, technology advances, and perhaps most importantly, culture changes. Cultures are constantly shifting in their patterns, in their values, and in their commitments. The past hundred years have seen dramatic changes to our culture, often punctuated by historical events that stand out in all our memories. Those of my generation remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy, man’s first walk on the moon, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, and the attack on the Twin Towers.
At the same time and of more significant importance, however, were the cultural revolutions that were beginning to occur at the same time. The revolution of the ’60s spelled the end of idealism and ushered in several radical changes in our culture, including the sexual revolution and rise of recreational drug use. The sanctity of marriage came under attack. Clean, wholesome speech and entertainment in the public sphere became increasingly rare. The sanctity of life with respect to the unborn underwent attack legislatively, as abortion and moral relativism became the norm in our culture. This relativistic culture brought with it a culture of eroticism and heightened addiction to pornography, as well as a culture of drugs with the subsequent invasion of addiction and suicide.
These cultural revolutions have placed pressure on and have proven to be challenging to the church of Jesus Christ. Denominations, individual churches, and individual Christians are all faced with deciding how to interact with the cultural revolutions. The great tragedy of the church today is that many of the above have changed along with the face of the secular culture. In its dogged pursuit of relevance, the church has often become merely an echo of the secular culture in which it exists. Many of these churches have become “seeker sensitive”, and so present themselves as being “with it” and thus acceptable to the contemporary world. And so way too often the church itself has adopted the very relativism it seeks to overcome.
The decisions we must make are how do we balance the practice of Biblical Christianity against a culture which is growing increasingly distant from it? To quote Dr. R.C. Sproul: “What is demanded by times such as ours is a church that addresses the temporal while at the same time remaining tethered to the eternal—a church that speaks, comforts, and heals all things mortal and secular without itself abandoning the eternal and the holy.” This becomes ever more critical as parts of the cultural revolutions have begun to cross into areas that are clearly non-Biblical. This essay will not address specific issues but let me urge that each of us carefully and thoughtfully consider our positions regarding changing cultural standards. Some of those standards are properly matters of personal choice, or sometimes a matter of conscience. But sometimes those standards directly defy God’s standards as set forth in the Bible- then what? Our measuring standard, I submit, should always be God’s Word. James writes in James 1:17, that “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” God’s standards do not change. We should be very cautious about embracing any cultural changes that directly conflict with God’s Word as revealed in our Holy Bible.
Allow me to close with another thought from Sproul: “We need churches filled with Christians who are not enslaved by the culture, churches that seek more than anything to please God and His only begotten Son, rather than to attract the applause of dying men and women. Where is that church? That is the church Christ established. That is the church whose mission is to minister redemption to a dying world, and that is the church we are called to be. God help us and our culture if our ears become deaf to that call.”