The obvious counter to the case I have been making this week is that it is all very well to say what I have said, but the world has changed and is changing, and we don’t really have the option to insulate ourselves. I agree. As the Anglicans have discovered, and as the Catholics have also discovered, the world is changing. What they still need to absorb is the nature of that change. Those who deliver this line with relish seem to be assuming that the liberal trend is going to win out, but I’m not really seeing that. The damage done in the West means that the parts of the Churches which are growing are those in the global south, and I am not seeing much there to suggest that folk there are about to abandon Biblical truth for convenience, not least since in their societies it would be most inconvenient to be a liberal – yes, this societal thing can work both ways. Across the Middle East, societies are more conservative than they were, and in Russia, a Christian revival has not been off the back of some attractive liberal options, but instead derives from Biblical truths. The bad news for the Western liberal is that change is ongoing, and what was popular and inevitable in the eyes of the 1970s, never happened in many places. I am not sure I see what is going to change that.
At the basis of our faith is a belief derived from self-knowledge – we are broken, there is something wrong with us. There is a void. We can fill it with sex and drugs and rock and roll, but it is still there. we can deny it, we can call it something else – but it is still there. Long term, only Christianity has offered us something that will relieve the pain, and we are rejecting it, and the pain increases. The need has not gone away, it is not going to go away. Christ will still be there when we get the sense to return.
If you were an African Christian looking at our society, would you say “yes, that’s what I want, marriage breakdowns, abortions, promiscuity, an atomised society, yes, that’s so good lead me to it”? What we have is attractive to the hedonist, but he or she usually tires of that, and what then?
I am far from saying that Christianity should not adapt itself, it always has, but it keeps its central message and it conveys it as it can; what it doesn’t need is to change that central message. That is what is wrong with so much of the debate within the bigger churches, it is about throwing out the baby with the bathwater to win the approval of those who will actually never approve.
Yes, we should change the way we speak to people, we’ve become a bad mannered lot, and you can call a spade a spade without f’ing and blinding. But you can’t buck the truth that there is only one name who saves, or his message that we are to repent our sins and come to Him. Not everything changes, after all.