This week, I published a piece at TIME titled “An Evangelical Defense of Traditional Marriage.” I wrote in response to a group calling itself “Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.” In it, I wrote:
A group of precocious Millennials that would rather take up foreign interpretations and incoherent social policies than defend the church’s supposedly backward teachings is inexcusable—that when Christianity’s moral teachings rub up against culture’s newfound moral bearing, it’s Christians that have to adapt. It is telling that these individuals weren’t making this argument prior to the 21st century. For Christians to tout a view of marriage that undermines its own long-held moral teaching signals that our moral compass is conditioned more by majorities than logic.
We can talk all we want about polls and data. But if Christianity means anything, it means that its teachings and values aren’t subject to the whims of changing polls or public opinion. Sure, some elements of Christianity have always wanted to fashion a form of Christianity like this into their own image (one that mirrors the prevailing attitudes of society), but a Christianity of this nature never lasts. Over time, the pull to remain decidedly Christians simply stalls, since Christianity looks no different than what can be found in other sectors of culture.
On my Facebook wall, my friend and Baylor philosopher Francis Beckwith responded, writing “The irony, of course, is that these ‘precocious millennials,’ as you call them, exhibit all the bad intellectual habits they attribute to their ‘fundamentalist’ elders.”
Beckwith is exactly right. It was the Fundamentalism resonant of the early twentieth century that evacuated the public square; a fundamentalism that sealed off the gospel’s public implications. This was an intellectually disengaged posture, one that sought to preserve the purity of its teaching within the walls of the church. This was the flaccid Christianity that birthed the thundering rebuke that would come from Carl F.H. Henry in the 1940s.
Today, a spirit similar to that of early twentieth Fundamentalism is encountering revival. It preaches “peace” in overtones of cultural withdrawal. It seeks “love” by way of “pluralism” only to adopt foreign interpretations and incoherent social policies. Love and pluralism are, of course, good things in our diverse society, but not when it leads to the abandonment of sound theology and the adoption of unloving policies. This is a gentrified fundamentalism. This fundamentalism seeks compromise in the name of social detente. This fundamentalism seeks out half-hearted measures predicated on compromise, but is really a surrender of the gospel’s public truths. As Dr. Beckwith went on to say, “They’re in the same mercy seat but at a different altar call.”