From time to time we hear some telling us that evangelical Christianity must retool our sexual ethic if we’re ever going to reach the next generation. Some say that Millennials, particularly, are leaving the church because of our “obsession” with sexual morality. The next generation needs a more flexible ethic, they say, on premarital sex, homosexuality, and so on. We’ll either adapt, the line goes, or we’ll die.
This argument is hardly new. In the early 20th century, this was precisely the rhetoric used by liberal Protestant Harry Emerson Fosdick and his co-laborers. Fosdick was concerned, he said, for the future of Christianity, and if the church was to have a future we would have to get over our obsession with virginity. By that, Fosdick didn’t mean the virginity of single Christians but the virginity of our Lord’s mother.
The younger generation wanted to be Christian, the progressives told their contemporaries, but they couldn’t accept outmoded ideas of the miraculous, such as the virgin birth of Christ. What the liberals missed is that such miracles didn’t become hard to believe with the onset of the modern age. They always had been hard to believe from the beginning.
Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s announcement of her pregnancy, after all, wasn’t, “Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” He assumed that she had been sexually unfaithful. Why? Because he and his contemporaries knew how people get pregnant.
But the Christian message isn’t burdened down by the miraculous. It’s inextricably linked to it. A virgin woman conceives. The lame walk. The blind see. A dead man is resurrected, ascends to heaven, and sends the Spirit. The universe’s ruler is on his way to judge the living and the dead. Those who do away with such things are left with what J. Gresham Machen rightly identified as a different religion, a religion as disconnected from global Christianity as the made-up religion of Wicca is from the actual Druids of old.
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Russell D. Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.