Al Mohler wrote a very insightful article addressing the recent decision by the Anglican church to defy 2,000 years of Christian history by electing women bishops. Mohler includes a very telling and powerful quote by The Rt. Rev. William Ralph Inge, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in the early 20th Century. Dean Inge once famously remarked: “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” Mohler goes on to say, “Now, that is a word from an Anglican we all need to hear.” Yes and verily, verily.
Anglicans have long been under siege by a secular culture and the government in England to acquiesce to post-modern thinking and philosophy, and have long left the Scripture as the guide book for faith and practice. It is clear Anglicans have taken another step toward full marriage with the spirit of the age. It is only a matter of time when Anglicans will embrace gay marriage and gay bishops, even as many of their American counterparts have done.
Some people would say that the church must change its theology and approach to ministry or be seen as irrelevant and that cultural moral standards should enlighten the church if there is to be any impact. And some people say the church should lower standards and change the rules or go out of business.
What is true of moral standards is true of theological truth, which by the way cannot be separated. These post-modern thinkers require that theology be informed by the new enlightenment of the spirit of the age. Surely no one in this age would turn to an ancient book of ancient truth to determine how one should live and what one should believe.
Like the Anglicans of England, many churches in America have determined to change theology and moral standards instead of being left behind. The first step is always to question and reinterpret the Bible. Surprise! Surprise! This tactic is as old as Genesis 3. Once an infallible and inerrant Bible that is totally trustworthy for determining faith and practice is removed, anything goes. If God’s Word is not authoritative or is subject to theological gymnastics, then moral absolutes are a myth.
I think Dean Inge is right, but I personally have no desire to marry the spirit of the age. I will tie my life to the Holy Spirit and the truth delivered to the saints once for all. Faith and practice are not up for grabs. Methods may change, but truth does not. We may sing choruses rather than first, third and last verses of hymns, but truth does not change. We may shift our ways of doing church, but the message we preach and live by does not change.
So the decision about women bishops will not be determined by government, courts, or religious bodies. We, as Southern Baptists, simply go to the Word and do what it says. The same is true regarding same sex marriage or the definition of marriage—period. Indeed, the same is true no matter what the issue. We are not fundamentalists or narrow-minded bigots. We are Bible-believing and Bible-practicing people guided by the Holy Spirit. We do not hate people, believing their actions to be sin or unbiblical.
The pressures to compromise and marry the spirit of the age will always exist; they always have. Baptists are not exempt. There are people among us who would tell us to get with the program or be irrelevant. Let it be said that following the truth of Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which are never contradictory, is always relevant. Following Jesus may conflict with culture and seem antiquated, but following Him is far better because it is eternal. For me, I hope to always be about 2,000 years behind.
So what will you do? What will your church do? Will you marry the spirit of this age? If so, expect the next generation to live as spiritual widowers.