Resourcing the resistance
As Anne Applebaum has chronicled in her book Iron Curtain – The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 (Penguin, 2013), in the years following the Second World War the ideology of Soviet communism was imposed on the countries of Eastern Europe (Greece being the sole exception). Like the communist revolution in the Soviet Union itself, this new situation in Eastern Europe caused acute problems for Christian believers. Although (except in the case of Albania) the practice of religion was never prohibited, Christian believers were expected to accept and conform to the new communist ideology in spite of the fact that this ideology was avowedly atheistic.
The question facing Christian believers in this situation was whether they should:
(a) abandon their faith and embrace communist atheism instead (b) seek to find some form of compromise position that would mean that they could remain Christian but also be good citizens of a communist state, or (c) dissent from the new ideology and pay the consequences.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it might seem that this phase of history is now over. However, this would be a simplistic assumption.
This is because, even apart from the fact that communist regimes continue to exist in China, Vietnam Laos and Cuba, the communist revolutions that took place in Eastern Europe were merely one aspect of a much bigger revolutionary movement that continues to dominate the Western world. As Carl Trueman explains in his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020) , there have been seven interrelated developments that have taken place since the eighteenth century that have revolutionised the way that people in the Western World understand the world and their own lives within it.
First , the secularisation of Western society, and the consequent loss of the sense of the world as God’s creation, means that there has been a shift in people’s views of the world from a mimetic world view which regards the world as having a given order and a given meaning to which they are called to conform, to a poietic world view which sees the world as so much raw material out of which meaning and purpose can be created by the individual.
Secondly, there has been the related loss of the idea of ‘sacred order’. In Western culture today most people no longer believe that there is fixed moral order which has been established by God and which all human beings therefore need to respect.
Thirdly, as a result Western culture lacks an agreed basis for ethics. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has argued, the basis of ethical decision-making has, by default, become mere emotivism—that is, ethics based on personal feeling and preference.
Fourthly, there has been the emergence of a ‘culture of authenticity’ which holds that each of us has a unique identity and has to find our own way of realizing that identity, as against conforming to a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or by the previous generation, or by religious or political authority.
Fifthly, there has been the development of what American Jewish philosopher Philip Rieff calls the ‘therapeutic society’—a society in which social institutions are viewed as being set up to foster the individual’s sense of psychological well-being as they live out their self-discovered authentic existence.
Sixthly, since the work of Sigmund Freud, it has now become increasingly widely accepted that from infancy onward, human beings are at core sexual beings. It is our sexual desires that are ultimately decisive for who we are.
Finally, the work of Neo-Marxist scholars such as Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse has led to the idea that the traditional view of the family (consisting of a married couple and their children) together with the traditional sexual morality linked to this, are inherently oppressive and need to be overthrown. In addition, it has more recently come to be argued that the very idea of fixed biologically based distinction between men and women is likewise oppressive and needs to be overthrown. People should be free to choose to be male, female, or one of a myriad of other genders, depending on which feels most authentic to them and best supports their sense of psychological well-being.
If we ask how communism has formed part of these developments, the answer is that communism is a particular political form of the secular Western world view that holds that each individual should be free to determine his or her own destiny. Ironically, in view of the authoritarian and conformist nature of later communist societies, Marx’s original idea was that the overthrow of capitalism in a communist revolution would lead to each person being free to live as he or she chose.
These developments have led to the current default position in Western culture in which God is left out of the picture, in which it is held that people have the right to determine the terms of their own existence as seems best to them, and in which the one thing you cannot say (and which you may get into serious trouble if you do say) is that people should adhere to traditional Christian sexual morality and are not able to change the sexuality identity given to them by God, and determined by their biology.
Like the Christians in Eastern Europe after the Second World War, Christians in the Western World today are faced with the choice of abandoning the traditional Christian worldview in favour of this new one, trying to find some sort of compromise position that enables them to remain Christian while abandoning the traditional Christian view of sexual morality and sexual identity, or being willing to continue to hold to a traditional, orthodox, Christian position and accept the consequences of so doing.
The Church of England is divided between those who support the second of these positions and those who support the third. The catalyst which will decide which position the Church of England officially takes will be what happens in response to House of Bishop’s set of resources for ‘Christian teaching and learning about identity, sexuality, relationships, and marriage’ which was published in November last year with the overall title Living in Love and Faith. The idea is that those in the Church of England will engage with these resources over the course the next few years and the result will be decisions about what position the Church of England as a whole will take.
Evangelical Christians need to engage with this process in order to try to ensure that the Church of England maintains a traditional, orthodox, position. In order to help them with this engagement, I have produced four books.
The first is Glorify God in your body (CEEC, 2019), which gives an in depth look at ‘Human identity and flourishing in marriage singleness and friendship.’
The second is A basic Christian primer on sex, marriage and family life (Latimer Trust, 2020). This is intended as a basic introduction to the topics covered in detail in Glorify God in your body.
The third is Living in love and faith – a concise introduction and review which has been published by Latimer Trust this week. As its title suggests, this book gives a concise introduction to the Living in Love and Faith resources and then provides a critical review of them from an Evangelical perspective.
The fourth and final book, which will be published in April by Dictum Press, is Living in Love and Faith – an Evangelical Response. This is the parallel volume to Glorify God in your body and gives an in-depth response to the Living in Love and Faith resources.
My hope is that together these resources will give Evangelicals, and other orthodox Christians in the Church of England, the resources they need to continue to hold on to a traditional Christian view of sexual morality and sexual identity themselves and to encourage others to do the same. To put it another way, they are my small contribution to resourcing the resistance against the godless revolution sweeping the Western world.
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