Assemblies of God Theological SeminaryNovember 2014
Dark Shadows and a Glimpse of the Future

Several under-reported events of late clearly indicate a reality we all are facing-the unbridled power wielded by government and other influential social organizations. Those erstwhile champions of tolerance are quickly revealing the limitations on their understanding of this vaunted icon of contemporary culture. Pastors in Houston have had their sermons subpoenaed by the city attorneys for evaluation around sexual identity issues as well as opposition to the openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker. While this stunning display of power abuse has been temporarily blunted by thousands of pastors bombarding the mayor's office with their sermons, I don't think we have seen the last of this kind of display of brute force against Christians in Houston or elsewhere.


The September issue of Christianity Today (CT) chronicles the journey of some Inter-Varsity campus ministry workers at Vanderbilt University. They had fallen into the current buzz saw, being applied by university leadership, demonstrating a curious version of tolerance. Tolerance now seems to mean that a campus ministry must allow any person who wishes to serve in the leadership of that ministry to do so. If a campus group will not allow this version of tolerance, it is booted off the campus. Official recognition is not an option. The CT story chronicles the gut-wrenching journey of these campus workers. They are brilliant and engaging people who are willing to live in a context of unbridled inquiry and represent Jesus Christ. They viewed themselves as moderate persons, willing to engage all comers in the context of academic inquiry. They came to the conclusion that they must be the wrong kind of Christian. They discovered that in the eyes of their university and most of the press, subscribers to Christian orthodoxy are all viewed the same. The in-house labels Christians may use to designate liberal or conservative, fundamentalist or progressive are increasingly moot. The line now being drawn between good and evil is around two issues: creeds or beliefs and sexual expression. If your religious group requires adherence to a set of revealed truths or limits sexual autonomy, it is bad. Not just wrong, but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus. Talk all you want about your passion for social justice, care for the poor, trafficking, or any other hot buttons, but a new chilling litmus test is now being made evident and clear on university campuses and by all segments of the chattering elite class. If you believe in revealed truth and actually affirm it as central to your faith journey or if those beliefs hinder or critique any form of sexual autonomy, you are going to be targeted. The recent parsing of terms, like religious freedom or freedom of worship is now considered as old school. The city of Houston now views even you're freedom of worship (in other words, what goes on in the four walls of your house of worship), to be fair game for the mayor's "thought police."


Another case, with our neighbors to the north in Canada, is revealing the challenges of the law school at Trinity Western University in British Columbia. Because the university has a stated commitment to marriage being defined as between one man and one woman, they are now viewed as discriminatory and, hence, censorable. The Law Society of the province of British Colombia has voted overwhelmingly not to view the law school faculty at Trinity Western as "validated" in British Columbia and, hence, graduates will not be able to practice law in that province. While other provinces in Canada will allow Trinity Western graduates to practice law, one wonders what the future holds. The signs are not good.


I am generally adverse to conspiracy theories. I believe that friendships with people of all faiths is a very wise tact for Christian leaders. In actuality, followers of Jesus who live among people who are antagonistic to Christian faith is the experience of most Christians in this world. In fact, where the opposition to Christian faith is most vehement, we see a most vibrant Christianity.


So, do we need to be afraid? Vigilance is probably a better posture, because the gospel has a certain inevitability to it because, according to Matthew 16:18, it cannot be thwarted by any force or opposition. However, it is clear that Christian faith, that takes the Bible seriously, is increasingly unacceptable to our society's power brokers. Make no mistake, this is not about a bit of bickering between scholars, but rather a clear indicator that our future history will be replete with narratives of opposition to followers of Jesus who serve in the most sophisticated of universities as well as the most violent settings in traditional cultures.


Could the Apostle Paul's story be a case study for us? His life as Saul of Tarsus yielded a wide swath of vengeance against the gospel that used every structure of power available to him in his cause. Before he came to faith, he was a complicit murderer with a smug attitude and a goal of defending the truth-until he got knocked off his donkey on his way to the pillaging of that group of "crazies." That aggressive wielding of power came back to haunt him when, as Paul the Apostle, he experienced opposition by the Mar's Hill intellectuals and the labor unions at Ephesus.


It may be time for us, who live in developed nations that increasingly worship in the cathedrals of secularism, to realize that we are a minority and will have to learn to live as such. This future need not be uncertain nor defeatist, it is a reality to be faced with new holy fervor that actually relies on the Spirit of God and believes that the very gates of hell itself will not prevail against the inevitably of the gospel's triumph.  


Byron D. Klaus, President
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

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