By Jonathon Van Maren
In 2015, R. Albert Mohler’s We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong was published. As a theologian, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and host of the daily podcast The Briefing, Mohler is one of America’s most prominent Christian conservative voices. A mere five years later, Mohler published an update: The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. A lot has happened in the past half-decade.
Mohler believes that the Secular Age we are entering will be catastrophic for our civilization, and he meticulously details the storms facing marriage, the family, gender, and the church. Interestingly, he highlights the fact that our secular age isn’t particularly secular—most people in fact hold to some sort of spirituality, but choose a belief system that allows them to fulfil their personal desires. Sociologist Christian Smith defined this trend as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” back in 2005 when it became clear that many American Christians did not actually hold to many defining orthodoxies.
Mohler notes that secularization is advancing across the West, and quotes Oliver Roy’s observation that “dechristianization never takes a step backwards.” Once it is gone, its gone. He highlights Tom Holland’s recent book Dominion, which details how the Christian framework is the skeleton of Western civilization. Our secular age is running on the fumes of Christendom, and it is sobering and somewhat chilling to consider the fact that as we abandon 2,000 years of belief, those of us living today are on the cusp of an unprecedented new era—a leap into the dark. In the West, one fears, it is a darkness in which the candlestick of the gospel is flickering.
The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor once defined the history of the West has having three intellectual epochs: pre-Enlightenment, when it was impossible not to believe in God and some form of Christianity; the post-Enlightenment, with the possibility of unbelief; and the late-modern period, with the growing impossibility of belief. Science, we are told, has discounted Creation, miracles, the Resurrection, and much of what is essential to Christianity. Without it, we inhabit a Darwinian nightmare from which the only escape is death. The Secular Age scoffs at hope.
Mohler also examines the sad state of Christianity, noting that the sea change in opinion on matters like same-sex marriage are in part a massive switch in allegiance from one orthodoxy another. Fundamentally, our society is faced with a choice: Revolution, or revelation. The sexual revolutionaries have moved from passive secularization, which emptied many pews, into active secularization, “which directly confronts the authority of the church and explicitly demands theological capitulation.” The Sexual Revolution is a total war demanding total victory.
“Explicit sexuality—stripped of the constraints of marriage—is the energy behind much of our economy, the material for our entertainment, and the best tool for advertising,” Mohler observes. “Pagans speak of holy things as if they were lowly while speaking of lowly things as if they were holy.” That, after all, is how sodomy became a sacred social value.
In just a few years, the revolutionaries took over the schools, infused gender ideology, and now usurp parental authority to ensure that children can pursue the path of “transition” that they have been introduced to. “Male and female created He them” is a heresy that leads to cultural cancellation. Again: Revolution, or revelation? We cannot have both. We must choose one.
Some Christians, Mohler writes, are trying to have it both ways. He specifically takes aim at the 2018 “Revoice Conference,” in which “LGBT Christians” promulgated a dual identity—that of “gay Christian.” This, Mohler notes, is nothing short of an abandonment of historic Christianity and a demand for the recognition of a sexual minority within the Church. Christians cannot compromise with gender ideology, queer theory, or any of the other pagan theologies. We also cannot identify with sin. I suspect that this particular debate is only just getting started.
Being on the “right side of history,” Mohler writes, is being on the side that is “in line with the trajectory of the cosmos, namely a day of judgement with Jesus Christ on the judgement seat” and the “divine verdict of eternity.” Thus, we must submit to biblical authority in all things and engage the culture with faith, hope, and love. Because God exists, everything matters. In this new Secular Age, we must cling to ancient truths. “What do we do in the face of a secular age?” Mohler writes. “We build houses and live in them. We get married and have babies and grow families and plant churches and make a difference in the world.”
In conclusion, he says, “Christians must do at least two things: preach true gospel liberty in the face of erotic liberty and stand ready to receive the refugees of the sexual revolution.” There will be many of those in the years ahead.