Although many Americans are familiar with the term pluralism, it was not a word used in colonial times. I checked. Noah Webster gave it no mention in his dictionary published in 1828.
A study of colonial history reveals a society that was established on and undergirded by Christian ethics. The ethics of Scripture formed the foundation for our legal system. Our Constitution contains numerous checks and balances because our forefathers knew something of man’s sinfulness and the need for watchfulness and accountability toward one another.
Today we are taught that the Christian ethical system is but one among many ethical structures. We are told that each is equally valid and thus equal in importance. However, I cannot help but wonder if those teaching this equality do not believe anti-Christian ethical systems to be “more equal” than the Christian view of ethics (Ps. 2). Thus, Christians do not have any right to speak out and seek to have their ethical system be pre-eminent in society. We are to accept a pluralistic society. We are to be comfortable with a society that views a multitude of ethical systems as being equal. I am most dismayed at Christians who support this false idea.
Denial of Christ’s Lordship
Pluralism strikes at a fundamental tenet of Christianity— the Lordship of Christ. Is Christ Lord over all of life or not? Scripture clearly teaches that Christ is Lord of all. In the Great Commission, Christ stated, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). The disciples were then commanded to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations... teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you...” (v. 19a). Throughout Scripture we read of the fail of civil governments that did not honor God. Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:12ff) quickly come to mind as does the whole human race (Gen. 6:5ff). In the New Testament, Paul wrote the Christians at Rome and told them of the imminent fail of their civil rulers (Rom. 16:20). Thus, there is no Scriptural evidence to support the view that God looks favorably on religions and ethical systems derived by man, not by Him.
The Impossibility of Neutrality
While we are seeing many within the church speak out against Christian ethics forming the basis of our legal system. I believe this is but the fruit of what has been occurring within churches for some time.
Let me explain. For too long, many within the church have redefined Christ’s Lordship. Certain areas of life have been declared neutral. Long ago people failed to see any need of relating God-centeredness to various academic subjects (with the exception of science). In recent years education itself has been defined as a neutral area that has no place for and no need for Christianity. People readily forgot or ignored the fact that God created all facts and to understand any subject, its relationship to other subjects, and its meaning in life one had to see the relationship of God to that subject. Christ has authority over all things and all things exist by Him (Col. 1:17).
The Christian Legal Society recently reported that one out of every six women who have an abortion state that they are evangelicals. Of the abortions, the large majority did not involve a situation in which the mother’s life was in danger, or even a case of conception resulting from a rape (reported in Intercessors for America newsletter, February, 1995, P.O. Box 4477 Leesburg, VA 22075, p. 4). In cases in which a pastor learns that a member has recently had an abortion or is planning to have one, does the pastor confront the family or the individual and explain what abortion is in Scriptural terms, or is the incident silenced to prevent disruption in the church or dissension among family members?
The National and International Religion Report recently pointed out that Protestants give on the average 2.5 percent of their income to charities (p. 4). What would happen if all Christians tithed, giving ten percent of their income to the local church? What advances could be made with the Gospel if giving was increased by 400 percent (2.5% x 4 = 108).
Sadly, many pastors are careful not to preach on controversial, yet Biblical, subjects. In many churches it would be strange to hear a sermon on infant baptism, predestination, or abortion. Such messages, although grounded in Scripture, would be upsetting to some within the congregation. They might leave the church. The ensuing controversy might be such that the pastor would be asked to resign. In such situations it is easy to live as if man is lord of our lives, not God.
Finally, we could mention the use of the Lord’s Day. My purpose is not to say how it should or should not be used. Clearly, God commands one day in seven to be set apart for worship, rest, and deeds of necessity and mercy. An examination of the practice of many Christians is that the Lord’s Day has been redefined to the Lord’s Two Hours or the Lord’s One Hour. If one has gone to church for services that day, then the rest of the day can be used as one desires. It is little wonder that we seldom hear the term Lord’s Day; Sunday has replaced it in general use.
Pluralism in the Church
While Christians are dismayed at plurality in society, we should be even more dismayed by its acceptance within churches. We must not only say that we believe in Christ’s Lordship; we must also practice it. Before we see a society how under the Lordship of Christ, we must see the church do it as a witness to society. This means individuals within the Church must he desirous of acknowledging and practicing Christ’s Lordship.
To do this requires accountability to one another and a humble spirit. We must be willing to help others when correction, teaching and rebuke are needed. We must also be willing to receive such help. How such would aid our sanctification and also influence society! Thus, while we continue to work against pluralism in society, let’s not forget that we must work against it in our churches, our families, and in our personal lives. By working in these most local of realms we are laying the groundwork for that day when pluralism will no longer be acceptable in society as a whole.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.