Salt losing its savor...

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This is Dad's column from the June 1963 issue of Eternity magazine. Dad chose the title when the column was first published.

Men have long been claiming to hold to Gospel-centrality while running in terror from any declaration of God's holiness and authority. But now, instead of procaliming God's moral absolutes, Inter-Varsity staff workers here on the campus of Indiana University promote homosexual perversion. (TB)

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This year, speaking to college students (as an Inter-Varsity staff member)—especially in dormitory and fraternity discussions—I’ve been asked once question again and again. It almost always takes this form: “Why is premarital intercourse wrong?”

Often there are explanatory or qualifying clauses: “—with the girl you’re going to marry some day;” “—when it seems to work out well in parts of Europe where it’s pretty commonly accepted;” “—if neither of you sees anything wrong with it;” “—since he may be shipped overseas any minute;” “—when it seems, like the psych professor says, to be merely a normal response to a human appetite.”

Those clauses reveal the more basic question, one that is foundational to the Christian religion: Are there such things as moral absolutes, or is everything relative, subject to the conditions of time and place and opinion? The latter view, probably held (consciously or unconsciously) by a majority on today’s academic scene, was expressed by the scientist Sir Julian Huxley in a recent issue of Nature...


In adapting our old educational system to our new vision, much cargo will have to be jettisoned—once-noble but now moldering myths, shiny but useless aphorisms, Utopian but unfounded speculations, nasty projections of our prejudices and repression. . .Children are not born with a load of original sin derived from a “Fall”. . .There are no Absolutes of Truth or Virtue.

Now I believe in academic freedom of expression, but I find it hard to understand why a scientific magazine should lend itself to an attack upon the Judeo-Christian religion. Even harder for me to understand is the silence of qualified and respected scientists who are Christians, in the face of such an attack. Why, in scientific publications or in classrooms, is there so seldom a rebuttal of such opinions? The failure of Christians in Academe to avail themselves of the prerogatives of academic freedom may go far toward explaining why the historic Christian faith is no longer a live option to the educated person. “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."

But the general silence among Christians about moral absolutes today, both in and out of the university community, is disturbing—like the small lump, alarming out of proportion to its size, to one who fears a malignant tumor. This vague disturbance was expressed several years ago by an editorialist in Christianity and Crisis:

 For about a generation now there has been a growing tendency among Christian intellectuals to eschew and condemn moralism. ..One of the things which attracted the ancient Romans to Christianity was the rigorous Christian morality, especially regarding sex, and the self-discipline of the Christian home.

Doubtless many of the intellectuals of the Roman world branded these simple Christians as being too simple and too moralistic. I suspect that if Jesus, or Paul, or one of the early Church fathers were to preach in America today, many Christian intellectuals would accuse them of the same. I do not know for sure. That is what disturbs me. But at the risk of being a superficial moralist I raise these questions: Have Christians sold too many hostages to the modern vogue of relativism? And where do we take our stand, particularly on the matters of sex and the preservation of the Christian home?

Where do we take our stand?

On the ground of moral absolutes: as a convinced Christian I have no other answer. Jesus Christ and Paul and Moses and Elijah have determined our position. When the Christian Church yields to relativism, the salt loses its savor, the world loses its light.

Our temptation, especially with the unconverted, is to bypass the absolute demands of a Holy God, ineffably pure, and “just preach the gospel.” For we know that men cannot achieve moral purity and legal justification before coming to Christ.

But there’s a difference between saying, “Come to Jesus just as you are. Don’t wait until you’re better;” and saying, “It doesn’t matter what God is like, what His standards are.”

God dealt with His people, in the childhood of the race, by revealing absolute moral law. Jesus Christ began His ministry of introducing the Kingdom by confirming the law and defining God’s ultimate standards. St. Paul said that in his personal experience, sin, by the commandments of the law, became exceedingly sinful.

Should we deal with our generation otherwise? Is not the present uncertainty about moral absolutes (including premarital intercourse) one result of introducing boys and girls, men and women, to grace without prior exposure to law? We hedge on the demands of absolute law at the risk of undermining absolute grace; when we lighten law we cheapen grace.

In a fraternity lounge or on the sand at Fort Lauderdale, we must not bypass the moral absolutes that include our hearers under the judgment of God. To do so is not merely to cast our pearls before swine; it is to gain an audience and lose our mission.