Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. | James 1.16-18
The final issue I want to address is the warning to Christians not to be on the wrong side of history (WSOH). The argument implies that the church has always dragged its heels when it comes to progress and every time has had to repent of its unwillingness to accept the movement of society. Slavery, women’s rights and scientific discovery are all used as examples of areas where the Bible was used to prevent the good from being realized.
The first issue here is an error in how history is viewed. Americans have grown up with timelines and have adopted the idea of social evolution: that society is continually getting better (in a straight line). In this way of viewing the past, the modern person can set themselves above the people from the past, but it also assumes that all progress is good progress. While it is true that Africa Americans and women receiving more rights are a good thing, this is not the whole of society. There are other aspects of culture that are actually not where they should be; a loss of community involvement and expanding wage gap are examples. What this means is that every person is always on both the right and wrong side of history, because history is not all good or all bad. The issue isn’t about which side of history someone is on, but is the issue in question right or wrong.
The second false idea I want to look into is the concept that the societal embrace of same-sex marriage is inevitable and by standing against it, Christians are just delaying the unavoidable. This usually fits into a narrative that says: this is what Christians always do; they are the last to get on board with any major societal shifts. The reason for this is that Christians give credence to a 2000 year old text that is definitely on the WSOH. The only problem with this is that it isn’t true. Slavery was a societal issue, not just a Christian one, and it actually took Christians reading their Bibles to move society past slavery (William Wilberforce in England, William Lloyd Garrison in America). The face of the Civil Rights movement was a pastor who found his voice in Scripture (Martin Luther King Jr). This isn’t to say Christians did not support these things or misinterpret the Bible to find Biblical justification for their sins, they did. It was also Christians finding truth in the Bible and working against the movement of society that brought many of the positive changes. The big conflict in society is NOT: the church vs. human progress; it is people vs. sin. All people, Christians and non, working against the destruction that has been caused by choosing to believe we have the answers to life’s problems rather than trusting in an eternal God.
The third false idea connected with threat of WSOH is that being on the right side at any specific point is the goal. It is like the basketball player obsessed with one play in the second quarter of the game. This play matters in the scheme of the game, but it only matters in relation to the end. In other words, a person’s concept of history is driven by where they believe history is going. If history is going nowhere, then the moment is key (YOLO). If the end of history is about progressing toward betterment, than the moment is about innovation. If history is declining toward some sort of rock bottom, than you have to fight all movement
The Christian believes that history is the plan of an eternal, unchanging God. It is the story of how God relates to His people and acts to show them their need for Him through the conviction of sin. This conviction illuminates the brokenness of the world and how God’s eternal, perfect truth is the hope for peace, love, and joy. The end of history is the return of Jesus as King to put the entire world back into submission to His perfect rule. Until then, the Christian approach to the moment is to try to live out what that future perfection will be by living according to the plan of God revealed in His Word. As broken people trying to relate to eternal perfection, Christians mess this up; these mistakes are more than just a stick-in-the-mud attempt to keep everything as it always has been. Instead, Christians are trying to align their lives with the eternal truth of God while living in a world that is in flux and does not believe in God’s authority. This is complex and we will finish up this series tomorrow by looking at some of the ways that Christians attempt to balance this.