In the contemporary church world, tolerance of sin is no longer considered kind enough or loving enough.
Immorality is being embraced by so-called Christian love. Bible-based Judeo-Christian morality is increasingly considered a non-starter. Traditional Christian doctrine is increasingly looked upon as inconsistent with nature and “human need.” Sin is being sanctioned and celebrated — homosexuality, non-marital sex, aborting babies (now part of “health”), and even pedophilia — by people who should know better. One man said to this writer that I was mischaracterizing him. He said, he was not pro-abortion, but was pro-choice. My question to him was this: how can you opt out of the moral position and claim that you are not supporting immorality? Would one say, “I think a person should have a choice about whether or not to rob a liquor store, and that does not mean I am in favor of robbing liquor stores”?
These distortions and immoral positions are rooted in a heresy in Christian theology known as antinomianism. Anne Hutchinson was expelled by the Puritan leaders of Massachusetts in the 17th century for teaching this heresy. She relocated in Long Island,where she and her children were eventually massacred by Indians. This heresy teaches that since salvation is by grace, and since Christians are no longer under the Law (of Moses), God’s grace and mercy extends to all in a way that sinful behavior is forgiven by God in Christ. Holy living, required by the Puritans, was no longer essential in Christ.
For her there was no difference between the justification (ultimate, once-forever forgiveness) of salvation provided by Christ, and the demands of daily life of the Christian. The Puritans premised their theology on the thought that holy living according to the moral law found in the Old Testament is still needed after we are saved, whereby we are sanctified to even greater purity and holiness by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Alternately, for Anne, love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pe 4:8) was taken to mean that for all practical purposes when we receive Christ as Lord and Savior there is no more sin in our daily lives. Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross covers that sin. Hopefully, we won’t repeat the sin, but if we do, Almighty God forgives us seventy times seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22) The sin of the believer is not counted as sin by Almighty God.
A logical consequence of Anne’s view — today held by many church leaders who are enjoying collecting salaries and living in well-appointed parsonages — is the apostasy that truly saved Christians have the luxury of being “above the law” (of Moses) and are able to engage in rational post-Christian secular humanism while at the same time going to church, claiming to follow Jesus Christ, and nodding sanctimoniously to each other, to their neighbors, and to their co-workers. A New Testament passage such as Colossians 3: 5-6 is ignored even though it summarizes sexual virtues insisted upon in the Old Testament. These verses read: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.”
God, they believe, has certified and allowed the liberal/leftist agenda including abortion, the sexual revolution (still one must be prudent and circumspect say the careful liberal ministers), and the homosexual agenda which is seen as a defense of “love” and “equality.” When this writer was briefly enrolled at Andover Newton Theological Seminary in 1970, at least two of the ministerial candidates were shacking up frequently with their girlfriends in the seminary dormitory.
What is the greatest offense or “sin” in today’s liberal churches? To this writer, it seems their answer would be failure to speak in a kind way to hurting people or not giving money to help the poor. Although these points have some merit, do they address the essential demands of a Holy God as expressed by the Old and New Testament?
However, in our era, the antinomian heresy whereby grace is extended without repentance is now extended even further. Christ’s death on the Cross is not vicarious atonement as traditional Christianity has claimed for more than 2000 years, but is merely an example or proof of God’s love. Self-sacrifice in demonstration of one’s love — not Christ’s divinity, not His vicarious atonement, not His miracles — is the key to understanding true Christian religion. Christ came only to love humanity as it is — not to save humanity from its sinful nature, not to point to more holy lifestyles, not to promise access to a heavenly eternity based on repentance. To the modern mind, these “promises of God” are superficial overlays of the essential Christ message — love, love, and more love.
The present view is an outgrowth of the social gospel proclaimed in the late 19th century by Walter Rauschenbusch. However, during the first fifty years of the 20th century, because of the dominant influence of classical Christianity, sexual immorality was still frowned on by Christians, homosexuality as an acceptable practice or lifestyle was a non-starter, and abortion as a woman’s right to choose was also rejected out of hand. In fact, abortion and homosexuality were illegal throughout the land as well as being non-starters in churches. Now they are the law of the land. Thus the law of the land of the U.S.A. is now totally at odds with the law of creation enacted by Almighty God.
So, antinomianism as a challenge to Biblical values by Anne Hutchinson in the modern era has morphed into a new type of “toleration” of sin. Situation ethics — introduced in 1966 by Joseph F. Fletcher — came into vogue as a way to excuse pre-marital fornication by Christians, and anything that could be considered Christian judgmentalism was muted by the liberal churches. In the name of love, increasing numbers of churches became tolerant of sin.
In the contemporary church world, tolerance of sin is no longer considered kind enough or loving enough. Now, as seen by Joel Osteen’s recent appearance at an LGBTQ event, celebration of sin is the step beyond tolerance. A “woman’s right to choose” is openly embraced by many members of the National Council of Churches. Likewise, homosexuality among the clergy is acceptable. When I began Harvard graduate school in the 1960s, one of my roommates related that during his entire life growing up, he wanted to be an Episcopal priest. When he entered seminary, homosexuality was rife. Guys were regularly goosing each other as they went down the stairs to the dining area. Seeing all this burst his life’s dream, and he left the seminary.
Anne Hutchinson was ejected from Massachusetts Bay Colony because of the heresy she taught (not because she was an uppity woman fighting against male hegemony as some have suggested). That heresy over time became the basis for increasing toleration of sin. Toleration morphed into celebration. Today, the transvaluation of values predicted by the German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, whereby good becomes bad and bad becomes good, is a social reality. Under his moral/philosophical scenario, Zarathustra, the main figure in one of his books, announces, “God is dead.” This atheistic transvaluation bodes ill for the survival of America and the planet.