The canaries reacted to a force that the miners did not see. The miners themselves had not yet reacted to the gas; but without the canaries' early warning, many men would have died, not even knowing how bad it was until it was too late.
The focus of many churches right now seems to be, how do we respond to the LGBTQ community? Only a few years ago, churches had to navigate their position on gay marriage; now, it is how do the churches respond to transgender people?
In the early 70's, the Catholic church maintained its unwavering stand against abortion. When Roe v. Wade hit the culture with the force of a tsunami, the Catholic church stood resolute. The mainline Protestant churches were rather silent; individuals has opinions, but Protestant protesters taking to the streets was not common as it would become later. In an interview with Andrew R. Lewis, whose book, Conservative Christian Politics: How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars, (2018) says,
It really was not until the end of the 1970s and early 1980s that conservative Christians moved decidedly in the pro-life direction. More popular groups like Baptists for Life and Christians for Life were created in the mid- to late-1970s, for example. I draw attention to Francis Schaeffer’s books and documentary films, which were popular among churches, pastors, and lay leaders. Schaeffer’s works also influenced Jerry Falwell, who helped elevate abortion activism on the national political stage. In 1980, the SBC passed an unequivocally pro-life resolution.He goes on to say,
So what has happened? Well over the past three decades the cultural influence of conservative Christianity has declined. In the process, conservative Christian politics has adapted its approach to public life. The Moral Majority is no longer. Instead, conservative Christians are a minority, and they often speak the language of pluralistic politics. This includes the language or rights and liberties with a heavy emphasis on the rights to free speech and the rights to religious freedom. In the process, the emphasis on biblical public reason has largely disappeared, replaced by a large measure of liberal, individual rights, pluralistic reasoning. [emphasis mine]Well said. The bold type is exactly my thesis. Somewhere along the way, the Bible lost the center stage as THE reason for our politics, our response to social issues and our worldview. Somewhere along the way, the Bible was seen as what, outdated? out of touch? no longer a rock to build upon?
When I was a young Christian in the 1970's, the Word was the only foundation we stood upon to face the world with and navigate the issues. We were like the man who built his house upon the rock (Matt. 7:24-27) that Jesus indicated were Him and His very words. The waters slammed into us, and we kept standing. Issues such as gay rights, abortion, pre-marital sex, drug use and living together came roaring down the cultural wash and slammed into my church, and churches everywhere. The waters drove us deeper into the Word and made evangelism all the more important, because the Lord must change the heart before we can expect any changed behavior.
I was concerned that our church wasn't handling the gay issue very well at that time, however. Standing on the Word did not replace personally reaching out to gays who walked in the door of our church. Perhaps the leadership didn't think there were any gay Christians. Overall, I think the evangelical church was not really engaged in that issue in the 1970's.
Sadly, this was an egregious error.
What I now see, after many decades of seeker-friendly churches aimed at making people comfortable, and Jesus portrayed as a cosmic Life Coach, the Bible has been reduced to a few passages and must compete with videos, stories, skits, props, rockstar pastors and a rockin' worship team.
Yup: the Bible isn't going to have much of an impact for changing lives, because it is not central to the preaching.
The Word has not been central to preaching in a long time. And it shows. How so?
Well, first off, let the Word of God define itself: "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." (Heb. 4:12)
The Word calls us out. It shows God's standard and reveals His Son. It shows where we are falling short; either out of ignorance, disobedience or both, it tells us the right path, promises the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk it and how to please the heart of God.
Without the centrality of the Word, sola scriptura, then we can go down a path that seems right, but it leads to destruction. (Prov. 14:12)
If the Bible is God's words to mankind, then it is enough to provide the only basis by which we navigate this world.
But in response to the abortion debate, the church in America became political, not more Biblically literate. Christians took a political stance, and the Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan and to some extent, George Bush, became the answer. The evangelical church was caught off guard, but seem to re-establish its footing.
But did we? Did this stance change hearts? Save babies? Show compassion to the women involved? Political involvement is always subject to change, but Jesus brings eternal results: a changed heart.
Over the decades, I have seen the number of abortions climb, the divorce rate skyrocketing and gays demanding equal rights.
Did all that earlier political involvement make a more moral country?
I do not see how it did.
After decades of de-centralizing the Bible and chasing after fads, the church was hit with gay marriage. That's when the canary keeled over and dropped dead in its cage. This issue showed us how illiterate we were in Biblical teaching.
We scrambled to come up with a position and trying to be tolerant and trying to maintain some kind of biblical position. We came across as weak and ashamed of the Bible's unyielding stance. We undermined the passages about how we are all born sinners and need a heart change; instead, we told people that they were "born that way" and need not change.
Show me a scripture that supports that and I will withdraw my thesis.
Now, the churches are hit with the demands of the transgendered community. Some pastors are standing tall; I am so glad that pastors like John MacArthur are not allowing the culture to decide identity, but standing on the Word's definition.
Abortion was not the problem. Gay marriage was not the problem. Transgendered people are not the problem. The problem is the church's failure to deeply know the Word, deeply know the One who gave it, and to build the church upon that rock.
The winds, rains and water have shown us how unwise and flimsy our stance is.
The canary in the church mine is dead because we didn't uphold and stay well-grounded in His Word. Peter puts it so well:
But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! (1 Peter 3:14-17)Being gay, having an abortion, or being confused over personal identity are not unforgivable sins and do not automatically send someone to hell.
What does? Not knowing Christ, accepting Him into your heart, and being cleansed of your sin, that is the path to hell.
God sent His Son to save us: from ourselves, from sin, from death and from deception. Let me end with this:
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Eph. 2:10)