Andrew T. Walker

Chapter 3: The Destruction of Faith and Freedom

Written by Andrew T. Walker |
Friday, October 21, 2022
We live in an age whose moral barbarisms eclipse what Schaeffer saw in his own day. Were he alive today, Schaeffer would not be shocked in the least. Instead, watching the wreckage of the world, he might say with tears, “You should have listened to me” (cf. Acts 27:21). Contemporary society is living proof of Schaeffer’s correctness, and we should not fail to listen to him now. It should not go unsaid that Schaeffer’s chapter ends with chastising those who should have seen what was happening in their respective disciplines and did nothing. So, too, shall we ask ourselves the question Schaeffer would ask of them: Do we see the rot before us? 

The famous political philosopher Leo Strauss once answered the question regarding what is a just political order “par excellence” as “how to reconcile order which is not oppression with freedom which is not license.”[1] All nations are still trying to determine the correct formula. Strauss was not a Christian, but his statement captures the same tension and dilemma described in chapter three of Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto on “The Destruction of Faith and Freedom.”
Schaeffer’s chapter captures what political philosophers and public theologians alike refer to as the “theo-political question”: How does a society secure its future in perpetuity when varying degrees of religious, ideological, and moral diversity confront it? In other words, how much moral diversity can a society withstand before it collapses beneath the weight of relativism and moral subjectivism? What ultimate standard can serve as such a guide?
Some degree of moral consensus is necessary for a social order to persist, even if it is modest in scope. The question is how “thick” or “thin” such a consensus must be before the outer boundaries of social cohesion are stretched beyond their limits. Scripture teaches the same principle as well (Prov. 29:18). Society needs a shared moral horizon to offset the corresponding temptations of totalitarian rule by the state and autonomous rule by the subjective self. A just political order comprises neither too much liberty (license) nor too little liberty (oppression). Some Being, authority, force, order, or object must be present to shape that moral vision and measure the extremes of license and oppression. Schaeffer sees Scripture’s God as the only sustainable option given the reality of divine revelation. When God is denied, ignored, or treated as inconsequential, rival systems offering rival moralities contend for the space left vacant by God’s “absence.” The result is confusion—and one or many systems that are inimical to a rightfully-ordered society.
To make his argument, Schaeffer draws attention to three main areas where he sees the creep of secular humanism making inroads. All three areas converge at the point of making morality a product of human design, which subverts the long-term viability of moral cohesion, social order, and the principled basis of liberty.
Three Areas of Rising Secularism
First, Schaeffer identifies the legal landscape, which impacts the nature of power. Schaeffer sees law as having been emptied of anything resembling theistic natural law and having taken a turn toward “sociological law,” which rejects “higher law” (Divine Law). Whether knowingly or not, a culture that rejects the “higher law” will inexorably substitute something in its place, with the intended impact being that man-made authorities or ideologies, over time, are bent toward self-aggrandizement, thus reshuffling where the presumption of liberty resides. In a Christian worldview, the state is inherently limited. In a secular worldview, nothing inherently limits the state other than its own discretion.
Second, Schaeffer draws attention to the area of science, which impacts the existence of any sort of binding morality. An intelligent Creator has been exchanged for the blind forces of evolution and materialism. Again, because morality is collapsed into the material, nothing outside the observed world can impose any form of morality.
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The Transgender Fantasy

Written by Andrew T. Walker |
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
There are glimmers of optimism that the secular foundation upon which the transgender worldview is built is beginning to crack. There are a growing number of people, some of them quite prominent, who are not Christians, who are raising concerns about the unsustainability of the transgender worldview. 

Pastors have no shortage of issues that they are called up to address in their ministries. The pressure to be an expert on every new issue can be daunting when thinking about everything else on the pastor’s plate. Most pastors need fewer burdens, not more. But when issues of what it means to be human surface — and this is at the center of the debate over transgenderism — it’s important that pastors seek to bring the full counsel of God’s word to bear on the issue at hand.
Having written a book on transgenderism, my purpose here is to simplify for pastors what I think are the absolute essentials for them to consider when addressing their congregations and counselees on the challenge of transgenderism.
Necessity of Nature
What is a man? What is a woman? Until just a few years ago, these questions would have hardly been controversial. But now one cannot answer them without fear of offending someone who identifies as transgender. But this is where ground zero of the debate really is: whether the category of maleness and femaleness means anything concrete at all. In theological terms, we call this ontology, which is the study of being.
When a male claims to be a female, that is not only a psychological claim, but also a philosophical and biological claim about one’s being. From Genesis 1 onward, Scripture teaches that males and females are biological and embodied beings with immutable natures. We cannot change who we are. To speak of nature is to say that there exists an ideal form and function of what something ought to be. The nature of a family, for example, is to care for and raise offspring. To say that something has a nature is to insist upon the existence of concrete purposes to that thing’s being, which supplies our understanding of what the thing in question truly is.
This is where the true debate resides. Christianity views reality through the lens of Scripture, which speaks of male and female as beings defined by their anatomical and reproductive organization (Genesis 1:26–28). Hormones or surgery cannot override the underlying realities of our genetic structure. If culture tries to define male and female apart from anatomy and reproductive organization, male and female become fluid, absurd categories. Hence where we are as a culture.
The transgender worldview is an active thwarting of one’s nature. It is akin to defying limits or swimming upstream against a current: you might try, but eventually limitations and the strength of the current are going to sweep you up against your will.
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The Transgender Fantasy: What I Wish Every Pastor Knew

Pastors have no shortage of issues that they are called up to address in their ministries. The pressure to be an expert on every new issue can be daunting when thinking about everything else on the pastor’s plate. Most pastors need fewer burdens, not more. But when issues of what it means to be human surface — and this is at the center of the debate over transgenderism — it’s important that pastors seek to bring the full counsel of God’s word to bear on the issue at hand.

Having written a book on transgenderism, my purpose here is to simplify for pastors what I think are the absolute essentials for them to consider when addressing their congregations and counselees on the challenge of transgenderism.

Necessity of Nature

What is a man? What is a woman? Until just a few years ago, these questions would have hardly been controversial. But now one cannot answer them without fear of offending someone who identifies as transgender. But this is where ground zero of the debate really is: whether the category of maleness and femaleness means anything concrete at all. In theological terms, we call this ontology, which is the study of being.

When a male claims to be a female, that is not only a psychological claim, but also a philosophical and biological claim about one’s being. From Genesis 1 onward, Scripture teaches that males and females are biological and embodied beings with immutable natures. We cannot change who we are. To speak of nature is to say that there exists an ideal form and function of what something ought to be. The nature of a family, for example, is to care for and raise offspring. To say that something has a nature is to insist upon the existence of concrete purposes to that thing’s being, which supplies our understanding of what the thing in question truly is.

This is where the true debate resides. Christianity views reality through the lens of Scripture, which speaks of male and female as beings defined by their anatomical and reproductive organization (Genesis 1:26–28). Hormones or surgery cannot override the underlying realities of our genetic structure. If culture tries to define male and female apart from anatomy and reproductive organization, male and female become fluid, absurd categories. Hence where we are as a culture.

The transgender worldview is an active thwarting of one’s nature. It is akin to defying limits or swimming upstream against a current: you might try, but eventually limitations and the strength of the current are going to sweep you up against your will.

“Scripture does not allow for a dualism between the body and the ‘self.’”

This reality of nature leads to one of the most important truths: actual transgenderism does not exist. Sure, there are people who may have genuine confusion over their “gender identity” (a concept itself riddled with problems), but the idea that there are persons truly “trapped” in the wrong body is false. Scripture does not allow for such a dualism between the body and the “self.”

Reality of Flourishing

Flowing downstream from the reality of our nature as male and female is the idea that males and females should flourish in accordance with their being. Flourish is a term that describes the fullness of a thing’s being. A flourishing family is a family with no disruptions or privations undermining its operations. A thing experiences its fullness of being or excellence when it lives according to what it is and what it is designed to do.

The issue of flourishing connects to transgenderism because, from a scriptural worldview, we understand that a person can never thrive or flourish apart from living in harmony with God’s design in creation. A person might claim to flourish according to how he or she defines flourishing, but flourishing is not a term left to the eye of the beholder.

Drug addicts might see their intoxication as a form of flourishing, but this we understand as a cheapened form of flourishing that will, over time, result not in the fullness of their being but, rather, in their undoing. Defined biblically, flourishing understands and welcomes the idea of limitations and boundaries (Psalm 119:45). We are not purely autonomous beings who can create and re-create our nature and our paradigms for flourishing. Flourishing is a pathway we are called to live in line with, not against.

“True flourishing cannot come at the expense of rejecting our nature and our embodiment.”

To love our transgender-identifying neighbors is to seek their good. We cannot teach or imply that any form of transition will actually achieve what they desire: the joy of flourishing. When one reads in-depth about the scourge of depression, anxiety, and suicidality even among persons who have undergone some degree of transition, we realize something essential to this discussion: true flourishing cannot come at the expense of rejecting our nature and our embodiment. It simply cannot happen.

As time goes on, I expect to see an explosion in the number of people who experimented with transgender identities, or who even transitioned to some degree, who are living testaments to the falseness of transgender ideology. Indeed, we see these testimonies online already. Called “de-transitioners” and silenced by mainstream sources, a growing chorus of voices is warning others of the contagion-like consequences of embracing a transgender worldview.

Central to our ethics as Christians is the command to love our neighbor. This means seeking their flourishing (Matthew 7:12). Undoubtedly, activists will disagree with our motives of love. In fact, they will see our definition of love as opposite their own. To that, we must simply accept the cost of biblical conviction and do whatever we can to convey that we’re not interested in anything less than their relationship with God and their flourishing as human beings.

On one final note, I want to caution readers from thinking that every transgender-identifying person is an angry activist. That is not the case. There are activists whose identities are wrapped up in ideological warring, but there are also many people, I’m convinced, who are vulnerable and volatile persons, with deeply unresolved personal and psychological issues, who need counseling and love, not scorn or mockery.

Call for Courage

To be a Christian in our day requires courage. Whether in the form of licensure denial, a lost job, suppressed speech, or the threat of coercion, Christians are going to find themselves on the wrong side of elite culture. But take heart. Jesus has overcome the world, and to be persecuted for his sake is to be blessed (Matthew 5:10–12; John 16:33).

As of this writing, however, there are glimmers of optimism that the secular foundation upon which the transgender worldview is built is beginning to crack. There are a growing number of people, some of them quite prominent, who are not Christians, who are raising concerns about the unsustainability of the transgender worldview. From privacy issues, safety issues, and equality and fairness issues, the world may be slowly coming to grips with the truth that its commitment to transgender ideology has outpaced its commitment to reality, sound thinking, and true human flourishing.

Defining “Evangelicalism” Down

Written by Andrew T. Walker |
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
The confusion over the word “evangelicalism” and the ensuing plasticity of the label is truly tragic and leads to unhelpful categorization, theological malpractice, and no small amount of internal strife within evangelical Christianity.
 
With increasing frequency throughout many sectors of American culture, use of “evangelical” in social discourse is now an epithet. It is no longer just a foreign term to some, but a derisive label to many. Not only is its invocation used by those who wish to reject evangelical belief outright, but by those who claim the label of evangelical yet insist upon evangelicalism’s failure to embody Jesus’s teaching. For one group, evangelicalism is a smokescreen for hateful fundamentalism; for the other, a veneer for political aggrandizement.
Rarely, however, is the term defined with any theological precision. The way the conversation proceeds online assumes a common working definition of evangelical but rarely is it tendered or dwelt upon with any degree of nuance or caution. Broad denunciation is the order of the day. Sure, overtures to David Bebbington’s famous “Bebbington Quadrilateral” often abound in more evangelical outlets, but that has more or less receded into the background, especially as one zeroes out of immediately evangelical contexts. Instead, “evangelical” or “white evangelical” is used as an ethnographic political label. In other words, it is a tribal shibboleth where theology may matter on the margins of the term, but no longer at its center.
The confusion over the word “evangelicalism” and the ensuing plasticity of the label is truly tragic and leads to unhelpful categorization, theological malpractice, and no small amount of internal strife within evangelical Christianity.
Enter a recent column by political science Professor Ryan Burge in The New York Times. Burge’s column is fascinating on the one hand, maddening on the other, but ultimately serves to reinforce the problematic ways that social science has led to the diminishment of evangelicalism as a theological project. To be clear, my criticism is not aimed at Burge per se insofar as he’s speaking to statistical realities on their own terms, but the broader ecosystem that allows conversation around evangelicalism to persist as it does without greater introspection.
Drawing on recent findings from Pew, Burge’s column argues that rather than waning, evangelicalism’s numbers grew under the Trump presidency because of the ability for disparate factions to more broadly coalesce around evangelicalism as a politically integrated worldview. The growth, according to Burge, is because “evangelicalism” has become synonymous with Republican politics. Burge states in his own words, “What is drawing more people to embrace the evangelical label on surveys is more likely that evangelicalism has been bound to the Republican Party. Instead of theological affinity for Jesus Christ, millions of Americans are being drawn to the evangelical label because of its association with the G.O.P.”
He admits that “evangelical” is by no means synonymous with church attendance, so one can claim to be evangelical without membership in an actual church. That’s an important tell, one I will come back to later.
Burge goes on: “The second factor bolstering evangelicalism on surveys is that more people are embracing the label who have no attachment to Protestant Christianity. For example, the share of Catholics who also identified as evangelicals (or born again) rose to 15 percent in 2018 from 9 percent in 2008. That same pattern appears with Muslims. In fact, there’s evidence that the share of Orthodox Christians, Hindus and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who identify as evangelical is larger today than it was just a decade ago.”
If that sentence does not stand out, it should. According to polling data, not only are Mormons evangelical, but so are…Muslims and Hindus?
Burge then goes on to state: “Yet these non-Protestants are embracing the evangelical label for slightly different reasons. Protestants and non-Protestants have a strong affinity for the Republican Party and the policies of Donald Trump, but non-Protestant evangelicals are much more religiously devout. For instance, half of Muslims who attend services at a mosque more than once a week and align with the G.O.P. self-identify as evangelical. (Just 20 percent of Republican Muslims attend mosque once a year.) In essence, many Americans are coming to the understanding that to be very religiously engaged and very politically conservative means that they are evangelical, even if they don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.”
Again, pay attention: Burge tells us that one can reject the divinity of Jesus Christ and be evangelical. This, coupled with the admission that Muslims and Hindus can be evangelical as well, ought to raise suspicion about both the term itself and the contents that go into defining the term. In fact, let me state this in the plainest of terms: Any demographic research that allows the use of “evangelical” to be applied to those who consider themselves Muslim, Hindu, or reject the divinity of Jesus Christ exhibits profound theological malpractice. If “evangelical” is, at root, a mere constellation of political affinity groups wherein Jesus Christ’s kingship is dispensed, we should ask the question: How did this come about? Is it because evangelical became a catch-call term to mean people who consider themselves Christians and who are broadly conservative in their outlook, or because the ubiquity of its usage throughout American culture necessarily led to its redefinition?
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