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Treasuring Orthodoxy (Part 2)

September 19, 2016

Not every change is negative, indeed, a great many of the changes are positive. Who is not profoundly aware of the changes in healthcare, transportation safety, accessing information and so forth. Furthermore, immigration changes, which bring religious diversity, will irrevocably altar our culture. But from the positive perspective, it allows those of us who long to share our faith an opportunity that we would not have had before.

But some things must not change; indeed, we should fight with all of our heart to prevent certain changes. Jude 3 states, “Beloved, although I as very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” The use of the word “faith” as a noun indicates that what Jude has in mind is a basic corpus of Christian doctrine. That it had been once for all given indicates that it is unalterable. That we must fight for it indicates that this “once for all” corpus of Christian belief and doctrine will constantly be under attack and will require constant defense.

From this, we might say that every change in historic, biblically rooted orthodoxy is negative, even evil. That is not to say that we can’t challenge a doctrine on the basis of Scripture. The history of the reformation is just such a thing. Justification by works had become an accepted doctrine, yet was profoundly unbiblical and was a denial of the truth once delivered to the saints. Commitment to biblical faithfulness rather than accepted doctrines is the touchstone of contending for the “once for all” faith.

The fight for an unchanging Christian doctrine takes many forms. Within the last century, liberal Christianity has challenged everything from the authenticity of the New Testament documents to the idea that the Bible presents us with unity. Thankfully, a great many very able defenders of the faith have, in my mind, successfully responded. However, that battle is ongoing.

But the fight for the “once for all faith” takes new forms, and none more pressing than the need to respond to the sexual politics of our day. On September 13, Joe Carter, writing on a “Gospel Coalition” blog reported on a 306 page report produced by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The report stated that “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe on civil rights.”

The report no doubt has in mind things like hiring practices of religious organizations. But one wonders whether the same reasoning can be applied to membership at a local church. And if so, Christians will have to decide whether this will for us be a matter of orthodoxy. Given that the debate on sexual orientation and gender orientation is framed in the context of civil rights, we will look like we are violating the basic rights of people. But from our perspective, we are defending the faith once for all delivered to the saints. What is desperately needed is a reasoned defense of the historic Christian position around God’s design in gender, and what sexual morality looks like.

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