Have Christians Lost their Moral Voice?

Have Christians Lost their Moral Voice? March 28, 2018

Have Christians lost their ability to speak into things with an objective, moral voice? This question has been asked more times than I care to count since the days of Donald Trump, but I don’t believe Christians have lost their moral voice. In many ways they are losing it, but not as a result of their respective choices in the last presidential election. I couldn’t conscionably vote for Trump, but I have friends who did – and I understand many of them did not vote for him on the basis of his “Christian faith” or him leading America into a “golden epoch” for Evangelical Christians.

Some simply voted for him because they recognized he was their best shot in getting another conservative appointed as justice to SCOTUS. Others voted for him in the hopes that they would, at best, slow the liberal tide in our culture. Many voted for Trump simply because they could not stand the idea of another Clinton in the White House (as some of my liberal friends voted for her for the same, yet obverse reasons). However, what often gets thrown about is the asinine logic that Christians, Evangelicals in particular, have lost their moral voice due to voting for Donald Trump.

Hypocrisy Doesn’t Invalidate Objective Truth

The wonderful thing, which I’ve argued before, is that no amount of hypocrisy can qualitatively change the nature of truth. More clearly, truth is by nature irreducibly true. Mankind does not have the authority and power to thwart what is true. At best, man may twist, malign, or hide the truth, yet notice even in that state, truth itself is not changed. However, simply because the quality of truth does not change, we ought not to diminish the damage hypocrisy can do. It not only has a detrimental effect upon the faithful, but likewise the culture they are seeking to be witnesses within.

This is precisely at the heart of what Paul has in mind for hypocritical Jews, who though they boast in the Law, remain unrepentant and store up wrath for themselves. He quotes the prophets, saying, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:24). It was the [sic] zealous man of God incurring the wrath of God because of his serial unfaithfulness.

Interestingly, we see a similar line of thought from Peter in the midst of him speaking of false prophets in 2 Peter 2:1-3:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

While one’s hypocritical actions might not invalidate biblical truth claims, it does, however, tarnish the Christian witness. While it does not change the nature of truth as construct, it surely does misrepresent it in a falsity. This is perhaps closer to the heart of the question itself, yet the more difficult line of reasoning to pin down. Even in the midst of a collapsing culture, Christians can’t seem to find agreement on what actually compromises one’s moral voice. Keeping in line with the election motif, I don’t believe I’ve yet to see a house so divided on the issue of candidacy. Some Christians have taken the stance that any vote for Trump was a grand compromise and others have gone to the opposite extreme.

Secondly, I don’t see a consistent line of reasoning from the left that proposes any objective criteria by which one could say another has lost their “moral voice”. Surely, the charge to hypocrisy gives rhetorical flair and adds fuel to the fodder so that claims to morality can be dismissed out of hand, but it doesn’t actually deal with the question of morality. However, even if it did – we have to reconcile with the fact that even a broken clock is correct two times a day. So do I think the election of Donald Trump forfeited Christian witness to the nation? In short, no. In long-form, I believe there is a different, albeit correlated thing, which has led to concessions along the way and given room for many to blaspheme.

Christians are Losing their Moral Voice

The more I contemplate the issue, the more convinced I am that it is bound in Evangelicals placing figureheads in their stead to address moral issues. In other words, we desire to impact the culture and turn back the tide, but we would rather someone else climb the barricade as we retreat to safety. More clearly, we are losing our moral voice because we aren’t actually the ones doing the speaking in our personal circles. In much the same fashion as nearly everything in the church today, we farm it out to the experts. What is more alarming in this is that we neglect to accurately understand that often, the ones we farm it out to are those who are not Christian.

We know them to be provocateurs, for though they may speak eloquently to moral issues, they also bear no reasonable Christian witness. These are the Jordan Peterson’s, Ben Shapiro’s, Matt Walsh’s, and at one point, the Milo Yiannopoulos’s of the world. Don’t misunderstand me to be saying these men are not intellectually savvy, nor that they do not uphold some of the same virtues Christians do. I just don’t see that we have appropriate categories for a quasi-agnostic, yet conservative people that aren’t Evangelical, even though these men would candidly reveal they are not.

There is an element wherein we should recognize the truth for what it is, despite the messenger – yet I sense in the midst of this, we have neglected to recognize these “messengers” are still in need of the gospel of Christ. Ben Shapiro isn’t one yard closer to heaven than the abortion-lauding campus student whose faulty logic he artfully circumvents. These men still hold worldviews opposed to Christendom; they still hate the Lord who created them. They may uphold an ethic similar to our own in many instances, yet the worldview they operate from and espouse is still one at odds with their Creator. Their presuppositions, motivations, and goals, are not the same as our own, yet we adopt them into the fold, slap a shepherd’s crook in their hands, and follow their lead.

Within the church we find the same issue; we place men in high places who make grand, moral and theological compromises, and find ourselves shocked when they come tumbling down and hit a few plebes along the way. The injured are swept to the side and the church continues in protecting the brand. Meanwhile, the truth is maligned and the Gentiles are afforded another opportunity to blaspheme. Instead of recognizing what just transpired and perhaps shifting our priorities, we plod that same fateful course. We are mighty generous, no?

Moral Voices Beget Moral Actions

I realize there are more factors within this framework that don’t make it quite as tidy and neat as I’d like to necessarily believe it to be. Christians have long made questionable choices when it comes to various issues, such as the intersection of faith and politics, their choices in entertainment, their complacency in various issues, such as no-fault divorce, etc. Some have been faced with a conundrum simply because they legitimately do not know the right course of action. Others still walk into predicaments they never believed they would be placed into, often as a result of small capitulations which inevitably led to something much larger.

Part of this is owing to people speaking into these issues without a clear, guided voice. Surely, there are many with a platform and a pulpit that have no business teaching anyone, and while they will incur strict judgment, they still manage to pluck a few petals from the rose. However, part of this is also owing to the fact that people naturally justify poor choices and reasoning. We are gluttons for punishment, for though we know the consequences to sin and unwise decision making reap long-lasting results, we allay our conscience in favor of more expedient, albeit temporarily positive results. It is ultimately short-sighted and more often than not, driven by fear or excitement rather than wisdom.

Most people are not going to be faced with the infamous Kobayashi Maru scenario. We often like to think we have a no-win scenario on our hands, but if we were to right our course and simply rest in the indicatives of Scripture, much of the conundrums we place ourselves in would dissipate. We might not receive the best result in the short-term, but our eye ought to be on faithfulness instead. In this line of reasoning, the desire seems to be the escape of hardship and suffering, rather than embracing its purifying effect.

Again, there are other factors at play and to reduce everything down to one only seems overly simplistic. Motivations can be an interesting variable to predict and even interpret. There are those who seek to harmonize two mutually exclusive things, or simply overlook them due to pragmatic reasons -but this then returns to the statement above wherein people tend to justify the unjustifiable. While a charge to hypocrisy might be apropos, it is not always the case. However, given our natural inclinations to generally ignore the full counsel of God, it is more than likely true in many cases.

Regaining a Prophetic, Moral Voice

The implications of a mindset that adopts doing the right thing simply because it is right, is far more invasive than a simpler one which weighs political and social expediency. Truth be told, it isn’t concerned with the outcome of major elections, gaining friends in high places (even within the Evangelical world), nor retaining the “flavor” of Evangelicalism as we know it today. It certainly isn’t concerned with the ever-vacillating cultural tides of moral relativism and sexual anarchy. It comes down to a far simpler rubric: a vision of the long-haul. Simply stated, it is an eschatological outlook on all of these things that is willing to accept the teaching of Scripture. It is one that submits to the fact that what God has required of us is true and good. Secondly, it is the simple faith in the certainty that what He says will come to be, will actually come to be. Finally, it is resting in the significance of His sovereignty over all things.

The moral voice of Christians is not the popular one, nor is it beholden to a political party or any social movement. There is an element wherein we are simply outsiders, targeted by both sides, because we are able to speak into an issue with biblical clarity and faithfulness. However, the moral voice of Christians is directly tied to one’s actions. The moral voice of truth is not tied to individual actions – but a Christian’s credibility does indeed correlate to whether or not they can both “talk the talk” and “walk the walk”. In either case, no one remains justified for their unbelief or their disobedience.

Equally as important though, the Evangelical church needs to be able to stop farming out our moral, prophetic voice to those who are not in Christ. I look at Paul’s example at the Areopagus; he freely quotes pagan poets to reason back to the truth of Scripture. He doesn’t hide behind them, but instead robs them of their artistic license and inserts the beauty of objective, Biblical truth. He does so with the express purpose of calling forth the urgency of repentance and faith in Christ. It was not simply a matter of affecting the moral culture of Rome.

To conservatives, we can and should be able to mimic Paul’s approach and say, “Even your Jordan Peterson has said_____, therefore, repent and be cleansed from the guilt of your sin...” To Catholics, we ought to be able to say, “Even your Matt Walsh has said_____, therefore, repent and be justified by faith alone...” It is not simply the liberals who need Christ and surely, if we farm this out to an unbelieving conservative, they might win some to a form of social conservatism, but they surely will not win any to Christ. So much of the desire here doesn’t seem to be motivated by the gospel of Christ, but rather, sticking it to liberals. A moral voice is not about sticking it to anyone, but in reality, being able to point them to the Author of true morality who will require their life of them one fateful day in the not-so-distant future.

“Although God overlooked the ignorance of earlier times, He now commands all men everywhere to repent, for He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

"I know there has been a lot of speculation on his salary and his net ..."

Steven Furtick is the Most Dangerous ..."
"However one understands predestination, if one believes that God is omniscient, then one should believe ..."

It is Finished: Elaborate Wedding Invitation ..."
"Let me try saying it another way: no one is arguing for us to be ..."

Andy Stanley Separates God of Old ..."
"Calvin makes me laugh, because many of his arguments for how he divides up the ..."

Andy Stanley Separates God of Old ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gregory Peterson

    They voted for Trump because they are white Christians… especially “conservative” white Evangelicals who made white theology their idol starting back in the 1830’s.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Except that plenty of non-white (and non-Christian) people voted for him as well. It’s easy to paint a broad brush stroke on these types of things, but they often don’t hold up to scrutiny.

      Secondly, what is “white theology”? I only ask because I’ve heard the term often enough, but never quite get a specific definition to it that people opposed to this supposed theological system can agree on.

      • Gregory Peterson

        When 81% of a large group of people, white Evangelicals, voted for the same racist, sexist, lying and wildly unqualified candidate, they are the ones who created the broad brush.

      • Gregory Peterson

        Fred Clark of the “Slacktivist” Patheos blog has written a lot on white theology.

        https://www.google.com/search?q=fred+clark+white+theology&rlz=1C1GGRV_enUS751US752&oq=fred+clark+white+theology&aqs=chrome..69i57.6735j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

        • L E

          I’ll use your big mouth for my toilet bowl. Fairy. Don’t ever try to make me look like a fool on slacktivist again. I won’t repeat myself.

  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    At least in America, many white evangelicals have lost their moral voice. They may speak moral truths, but this does not mean that they have a moral voice. There is more to having a moral voice than merely having a voice.

    Imagine a press conference with President Trump and some of the evangelical leaders who are closest to him. One of the pastors says “We’re proud to stand with President Trump as he works to make America great again”. A journalist says to him: “You’re known as a fierce critic of American society, especially with respect to sexual morality. Did you say anything to the president about his most recent scandals?” He says: “Well, now, let’s remember, God is gracious. He used King David, even though he was caught in a scandal involving adultery”. The journalist says: “I have a follow-up question: Do you anything that you’d like to say to America?” He says: “Yes, I do. God hates sin. He hates sexual immorality. Depart from sin! Depart from sexual immorality! Turn to God, and ask Him to forgive you through Jesus Christ! There’s no hope for America without repentance and faith in Jesus!”.

    Under the circumstances, wouldn’t it be understandable if the pastor’s message to America provoked laughter from all the journalists at the press conference, and jeers from people who watched it on television?

    Why do you consider Matt Walsh not to be Christian? Because he is Catholic?

    On another subject: I suggest you proofread your articles better. Bicycles have pedals–roses have petals. We are not “glutens for punishment”–although we could be gluttons for punishment. If we were allergic to gluten, we could punish ourselves by eating excessive amounts of food which is not gluten-free–we could then be gluttons who eat gluten for punishment.

    • Gilsongraybert

      We do proof read articles prior to hitting publish; unfortunately, some times we still miss things and spell check also doesn’t catch it either. Alas, we are human and do not have an editorial team, and still hold regular lives outside of blogging.

      To your other point, I made quite a few clear points on hypocrisy, so I don’t see the need to qualify on that. Secondly, no, Matt Walsh I would not consider a Christian; not simply because he is Catholic, but because he is a faithful Catholic. We would both consider each other “outside the camp” due to the issue of justification by faith.

      • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

        Regarding hypocrisy and the ability to have a “moral voice”: I disagree that “no one remains justified for their unbelief or their disobedience”. You know the story of the The Boy Who Cried Wolf. When the boy finally told the truth when he cried wolf, and he was not believed, who was to blame: the boy, or those who did not believe him?

        People who do not believe the gospel when they hear it from an egregious hypocrite may not be fully justified for their unbelief or disobedience, but I would say that they are at least partially justified. Surely the hypocrite bears at least some of the blame. This is not to say that the unbelievers do not need to repent and believe the gospel–this is just an extension the principle of “to whom must is given, much is required”, as seen in Matthew 11:20-24.

        There are other ways in which American evangelicals have either lost or are losing their moral voice. One is by switching slogans, from “Character matters” in the 1990s to “Character doesn’t matter” in 2016. (To learn more about this, see the article “Has Trump caused white Evangelicals to change their tune on morality?”, which was posted on the Internet by Brookings in October 2016.). Another is by saying that Christians should be gracious and forgiving with respect to Trump’s immoral behavior–regardless of whether he is contrite or has repented. That is what certain prominent evangelicals are doing right now. The day may come when they are asked: “Why are you critical of what you call the ‘immorality’ of the Democratic nominee? You said in 2018 that, as a Christian, you had to extend grace and forgiveness to Donald Trump when you were asked about his extramarital affairs–why aren’t you doing the same for this Democrat?”. (In connection with this, I recommend an opinion piece entitled “Evangelicals’ support for Trump will cost them — spiritually”, by Elizabeth Breunig, which The Washington Post published last week.)

        It is my understanding that many devout Catholics believe, in accordance with Catholic doctrine, that there are Christians who are not Catholic, including Protestants, including Calvinists. As far as I know, Matt Walsh does not believe that all people who believe in justification by faith alone are not Christian–I would be surprised if he did.

  • Tianzhu

    Our enemies will call us “hypocrites” no matter what we say or do. Their hatred of evangelicals is not even grounded in reality, they hate the evil strawmen that exists in their own minds. When Billy Graham died, they piled on to Christian blogs and talked about what a “bigot” he was – despite the cold hard fact that Graham insisted that his evangelistic crusades be racially integrated.
    Live a godly life and leave the rest up to God. They hated the apostles, they will always hate His followers. Nothing new under the sun.

    • Gregory Peterson

      There is more to bigotry than opposing racial integration.

      REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND MINISTRY OF REV. BILLY GRAHAM
      ©Wendell Griffen, 2018
      Justice Is A Verb!

      http://wendelllgriffen.blogspot.com/

  • Jeffrey

    “To Catholics, we ought to be able to say, “Even your Matt Walsh has said_____, therefore, repent and be justified by faith alone…”

    Sorry heretic, but those of us who are genuine Christians – which is to say Roman Catholic – will stick with the Scriptures, and not demon-possessed vermin who blasphemed the Word of God and altered the Bible to suit their own delusions.

    “We see then that a man is justified by his works, and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24, the only place in Scripture where the phrase ‘faith alone’ can be found)

    • Gilsongraybert

      Jeffrey, I am hard-pressed to think that a legitimate explanation of James 2:24 would sway your mind, as I’m nearly certain you’ve come across one previously. However, I will simply say that if you believe you merit God’s favor through your deeds, you need to reread Paul, and repent.

      • Jeffrey

        The only legitimate interpretation of Scripture is the one given by the one and only Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself, the Holy Catholic Church. The false opinions of the various 25,000 different protestant sects are irrelevant to Chris’t sheep.
        I am curious as to why one would need to ‘reread Paul’ regarding the epistle of St. James? Do you believe they contradict one another?
        Is that why the false prophet of protestant heresy, Martin Luther, insisted that the book of James be ripped out of Scripture and renounced?
        Now, a comment section is far too narrow a field to engage in discussions of any depth (writers on this site can publish articles; I can’t), so I’ll leave you with a basic, simple introduction from another Patheos blogger.

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2015/12/justification-not-by-faith-alone-ongoing.html

        Please read this asking God for an open heart, please investigate further beyond this brief link, please ask yourself why protestant butchering of Pauline theology was unknown to anyone in the Church for over 1,500 years (Luther himself called his discovery a personal, private revelation from God – is that how Divine Truth is revealed through the ‘Bible alone’?); why your ‘proto-protestant’ (to quote R.C. Sproul) hero St. Augustine found nothing in Paul’s teachings comparable to what we now call ‘evangelical’ doctrine; and why even low church, reformed teachers can’t agree on the nature of saving faith (Lordship Salvation or no).

        • Gilsongraybert

          I’m saying Paul was about as clear as it gets on the issue of justification. I’m not advocating they are contradicting each other whatsoever, but more so appealing to the whole of Scripture rather than simply trying to speak to the passage you speak of. I happen to believe Paul and James are speaking to the same point – and it is not justification by works, but a justification that works. I also don’t agree with Luther on many things – so we’d both be free to admit his “reservations” on the book of James are unfounded.

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    What is the sound of white men talking to themselves?

    It’s when they quote Star Trek.

  • I liked some of what was written here. But one of the things really bothered me was the late acknowledgment of Christians drifting in the sea of relative morality. Weren’t many religiously conservative Christians regarding white privilege and racism in our nation. Weren’t many Christians losing their prophetic voice when they either explicitly or silent complicity supported American wars and foreign policies that supported he rule of brutal dictators in some nations or when they conflated Capitalism with Christianity? The point being that we have had other moral shortcomings way before Trump came on the scene.

    One of the other things that bothered me was the follow view:


    These men still hold worldviews opposed to Christendom

    Holding views that oppose Christendom is not the same as holding views that oppose Christianity.

  • Myles

    No religion has any connection to morality. Christianity is especially amoral and immoral, at the same time. Have you ever read your bible or watched or listened to any of your spokespeople?

  • Paperboy_73

    I suspect people would be more accepting of Christianity as a moral voice if it didn’t seem so monomaniacally directed towards sexual ethics only.

    I’m not saying that Christian morality shouldn’t say things about sexual ethics, but it seems like that is practically the only issue on which Christianity is willing to take a stand. Show us that you’re willing to take a stand on something else! Show us that you’ll picket the Supreme Court until the poor are fed. That you’ll boycott corporations not because they extend benefits to gay couples, but because their boards are greedy and rapacious. That you are willing to take a stand on sins – any sins – that aren’t to do with sex or sexuality.

    The most obvious area of gross public immorality in society today isn’t sex. It’s greed and exploitation for personal gain. Maybe the ultra-wealthy will throw an infinitesimal fraction of a percent back into charitable causes that suit them (after personal comfort, investments and the like are taken care of, naturally). But as long as they didn’t stick their genitals somewhere the church disapproves of, it’ll be complete radio silence. Take a stand on sexual ethics? Fine. As part of a balanced front which shows that you acknowledge and criticise other sins as well.

    But if you don’t take a stand on anything other than sex and sexuality, you’re not a moral voice. You’re just the sex police.

    • RustbeltRick

      Exactly. When history looks back at the 21st century, the story will be the rise of oligarchy/plutocracy and the attendant crisis of wealth inequality in society, and an evangelical church that could only cheer the appointment of an oligarchy-friendly Supreme Court justice whose seat was stolen by Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. You better believe the moral voice is lost.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I think they lost their mind. Just being honest.