Many Christians feel trapped in an age of hostility, aggressively pushed into exile or taken captive by a culture that preaches acceptance, according to Dr. Justin Barnard, professor of philosophy.
Do we fight? Do we elect Christian leaders and pack them off in Washington? Do we retreat to communities where we can construct spiritual peace and unity? Do we retaliate with legislation? How do we respond to the feeling of cultural captivity?
Barnard addressed these questions Sunday night at First Baptist Church in a talk entitled “Babylon 2.0: Cultural Captivity as a Call for Repentance.”
He said instead of looking at what was wrong with society, Christians should reflect on what is wrong with themselves.
Barnard argued that the feeling of captivity is always a result of idolatry, and sexual disorders are a result of self-idolatry. When people worship themselves and focus on their desires, the culture will be characterized by sexual disorder. When Christians experience a feeling of captivity, we have to ask what “other gods” we and others in our culture have been pursuing.
“We need to determine the extent to which our own sinfulness has actually contributed to our alienation or captivity,” he said. “We need to reflect on to what extent we have contributed to this culture of self-idolatry, one that leads to great sexual disorder. We ought to commit and dedicate to a life of freakish faithfulness.”
To illustrate the saturation of self-idolatry in our culture, Barnard compared it to trying to show a fish the water it is swimming in.
Who we are is defined by what we desire, he said. There is a prevailing mentality that we should be free to fulfill our desires as long as we are not obviously hurting anyone. An overwhelming number of people believe that life’s most important goal is maximizing the fulfillment of our desires, preferences or wants.
“Scripture teaches that our central problem is our propensity to seek the satisfaction of our own disordered desires,” Barnard said. “We don’t grasp how freaky it is, how weird it is, how counter-cultural it is just for a father to love his wife and kids and stay faithful to doing that.”
Barnard said the digital world’s “like button” has been one of the most destructive forces in recent years because it reinforces the need to satisfy personal desires.
But Christians are called to discipline their will in conformity to God’s word, he said. Christians must discipline their desires, just as they tell the LGBT community they have to discipline theirs.
“We must seek to live in ways that sacrifice the satisfaction of our personal desires, preferences and wants for the sake of those goods to which Scripture calls us,” Barnard said.
Christians should recognize that sexual disorders are ultimately a normal consequence of the sinfulness and brokenness of this world, Barnard said. They should move forward with the hope of Christ’s return and joy-filled repentance and self-denial.
Barnard also emphasized that Christians need to stop worrying about whether sexual disorders are genetic, biological or a choice.
“I think our fear is if we discover that homosexuality has some underlying biological basis, then we’ll somehow have to accept that as normal or natural and thus we want to insist it’s a choice,” he said. “But often we do this because we want to be able to cast blame.”
According to Barnard, the biggest problem with that way of thinking is that just because something is natural does not mean that it is good. He mentioned cancer as an example as something that is biological and, in some cases, possibly genetic, but it is undeniably harmful.
“Stop arguing about whether sexual disorder is something one is ‘born with’ or a choice,” he said. “The Bible is clear—no matter where it comes from, sexual disorder is not good. Our job is not to cast blame on the person. Our job is not figure out the cause. Our focus should be Christ’s: calling people out of darkness into the marvelous light of God.”
Barnard’s talk was one in a series of lectures on culture, sexuality and the gospel.” Next week, Dr. Ben Mitchell will speak on the topic of “How To Be a Shining Lamp in a Dark Place” at First Baptist Church, located at 1627 N. Highland Ave., at 5 p.m.