Creation, Sex, Worship: Critical Issues for the Twenty-first Century Church

From almost the very beginning of creation, men and devils have rebelled against God. Of course, none of this sedition has taken God by surprise—He has sovereignly ordained everything that comes to pass. Indeed, even the wrath of man shall praise Him (Psalm 76). But the fact of divine sovereignty over all events is no excuse for wickedness and lawlessness. Each of us is personally responsible for his or her own actions. And more than that, we are responsible to be aware of the malevolent motifs swirling about us, in order to do our part to maintain the honor of God, and to protect His church from Satan’s destructive devices.

As we think about the church today, we can think about many attacks upon her. The battle rages on all fronts. Among the issues where the war is being fought are the nature of Scripture; the doctrine of God; the degradation and dehumanizing of man; the ability of the church to live peaceably without fear of persecution as she bears witness to Christ. Even within the Reformed church, the foundational doctrine of justification has been questioned, so that there has been the undermining of the Protestant understanding of justification by faith alone in Christ alone based upon His imputed blood and righteousness alone. But there are perhaps three basic battlegrounds today that are crucial in this never-ending war: creation, sexual matters, and worship.

I. Creation

When one thinks of controversy regarding creation, the first topic that comes to mind is biological evolution. All of us are aware of Charles Darwin, the naturalist whose global journey on board the HMS Beagle was the catalyst for his evolutionary theories, including the notion of natural selection—an idea which is encapsulated in the phrase “survival of the fittest.” For more than 150 years—that is, beginning fairly quickly after the publication of his Origin of Species in 1859—Darwinism has been the reigning scientific theory for the variety of life we see around us, including the existence of man. More than that, evolutionary thought permeates not only the biological sciences, but virtually all other disciplines. Social Darwinism adopted the “survival of the fittest”—or perhaps we could say the “dog-eat-dog, red-tooth-and-claw, law-of-the- jungle” approach—to society and economics. International relations were informed by Social Darwinism, with one major component of nineteenth-century imperialism being that of racism: while it is possible to justify a type of colonialism on altruistic as well as economic principles, nevertheless, in point of fact, the call to “take up the white man’s burden” was grounded in Darwin’s racist views of Africans and others being not only inherently but irredeemably inferior. Civil law has been affected: we hear of how the U.S. Constitution is a “living document,” which is a biological—indeed, an evolutionary—concept, a concept which posits that the Constitution can “evolve” with the times and change its meaning, without having to be amended. (Of course, the thought that a legal document’s meaning can magically be modified without the words being modified does raise interesting questions about the very meaning of language and the ability to rely upon written propositions. We wonder how many law professors who promote such an idea would appreciate if a bank were able to change the meaning of their mortgage statements.) There has been a profound impact on even religion and religious studies. Not only was the plain meaning of Genesis 1-2 reinterpreted to fit the alleged scientific conclusions, but, more fundamentally, a mindset developed in the academy that assumed that the variety of religious expression in the world is evidence of a process of evolution, in which all the religions evolved from primitive beliefs. The conclusion is that all religions, having the same origin, are pretty much the same, with none being able justly to claim a superior position.

Given the widespread acceptance of Darwinism in Western society and culture, one can readily understand the challenge that this concept was to the church. How should the church react? Remember, not only was the Victorian age a time of celebration of science, but, historically, the church was enamored with science. The church viewed science as the handmaid of theology: not only were scientific discoveries useful for demonstrating the existence of God, but, scientific discoveries would reveal more of the wonders of creation and therefore increasingly glorify God and His creative power. As a result, most churchmen would almost automatically defer to scientists’ findings and conclusions.[1]

As a result of this deferential perspective, many, if not most, Protestant churchmen, including evangelicals, tried to adapt the Bible to the latest scientific creed. The result was what became known as theistic evolution—the concept that God directed the evolution of new species from less-advanced ones, and that all of life sprang from a common ancestry.

In practice, theistic evolution often was really deistic evolution—that is, the idea that God set certain natural processes in motion, which, through natural selection and survival of the fittest, resulted in the animals (including man) we have today. God’s superintendence was often viewed as a distant one, with the emphasis on the natural rather than the supernatural—a deistic deity rather than one engaged in direct intervention. On the other hand, there were staunch Calvinists, such as Princeton Seminary professor B. B. Warfield, who embraced an evolutionary methodology for creation while at the same time affirming God’s providential actions at every step of the way.

Starting in the 1960s, among evangelicals, and particularly among conservative Calvinists, the acceptance of evolution waned. However, over the past decade, there has been a renewed emphasis among evangelicals and among those who identify as Calvinistic on accommodating Scripture to evolution.

One organization that has been very influential in this regard is BioLogos. Founded through the efforts of a world-renowned biologist, Dr. Francis Collins, BioLogos attempts to ground its beliefs on both the Word of God and the natural world as co-equal sources of revelation.

BioLogos very much rejects the suggestion that evolution implies atheism. The organization notes the distinction between evolutionism (or naturalism), which is an atheistic worldview based on evolutionary thinking, on the one hand; and evolution as a scientific process, on the other. The group’s website declares belief in Providence. As a matter of fact, there is much in its statement of belief with which all evangelicals would identify. BioLogos professes belief in the Bible as the “inspired and authoritative word of God.” It believes “that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created, which displays his glory, eternal power, and divine nature”; and also states: “Properly interpreted, Scripture and nature are complementary and faithful witnesses to their common Author.” It confesses belief in the “historical incarnation of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man,” and in the “historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which we are saved and reconciled to God.” The organization states that “God is directly involved in the lives of people today through acts of redemption, personal transformation, and answers to prayer.” While stating that “God typically sustains the world using faithful, consistent processes that humans describe as ‘natural laws,’” BioLogos also affirms that “God works outside of natural law in supernatural events, including the miracles described in Scripture. In both natural and supernatural ways, God continues to be directly involved in creation and in human history.” The group rejects “ideologies such as Materialism and Scientism that claim science is the sole source of knowledge and truth, that science has debunked God and religion, or that the physical world constitutes the whole of reality”; while at the same time acknowledging that “the methods of science are an important and reliable means to investigate and describe the world God has made”—a position reflecting “a long tradition of Christians for whom Christian faith and science are mutually hospitable.” Its members affirm that “God continues to sustain the existence and functioning of the natural world, and the cosmos continues to declare the glory of God.” Accordingly, they reject “ideologies such as Deism that claim that the universe is self-sustaining, that God is no longer active in the natural world, or that God is not active in human history,”

But at the same time, BioLogos states: “We believe that God created the universe, the earth, and all life over billions of years.” And it continues: “We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes. Therefore, we reject ideologies that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God.” In accordance with these evolutionary views, BioLogos says: “We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order.”

Did you know that rat poison is 95% good food? If it were not, the rat would never eat it. And so it is with heresy. While we can identify with the good things and the true things which BioLogos believes, the fact that it maintains certain truths can make us more accepting of teachings which might seem reasonable—and certainly intellectual—but in fact are poisonous and deadly.

BioLogos’ evolutionary model cannot be reconciled with the direct teaching of Genesis, which unambiguously states that God created all things “after their own kind.” Biblically speaking, there is no common ancestry for all the plants and animals. Furthermore, did you catch the ambiguity in the statements with regard to the creation of mankind? BioLogos speaks of God establishing “a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order.” But that theory denies the fact that man was not simply endowed by God sometime after man was created, but was at the moment of his creation made in God’s image.

In contradiction to the Bible, an article on the BioLogos website argues that “It’s impossible for the human race to trace back to a single pair of parents” and mocks the notion of “a talking snake and God creating Adam out of the dirt and Eve from his rib.” That same article suggests that perhaps Adam and Eve exist “as first among Homo sapiens, specially chosen by God as representatives for a relationship with him.” The author, Daniel Harrell, acknowledges that “this view would require a reinterpretation of words like ‘formed’ and ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7 KJV). Can we use ‘formed’ and ‘breathed’ to mean created through the long and continuous history of biological evolution (as were the other living creatures in Genesis 1)? If so, then perhaps ‘the Lord God formed the man’ could be read emphasizing the novelty and uniqueness which humans inhabit.”

The BioLogos website also contains an article that denies the fact of a universal flood. By denying the historicity of the event, the organization is trying to argue that what is important is not that this event took place in history, but rather the lessons that it teaches. But, of course, that approach is not far from the classic liberal position that would deny the actual, physical, bodily resurrection of Christ, but celebrate its “spiritual” meaning.

But the crucial issue has to do with the relationship between special revelation and general revelation. Protestantism has always affirmed that both the Bible and nature are revelatory—that is, they reveal something of God and convey information regarding Him. Protestant scientist Francis Lord Bacon (1561-1626) famously spoke of the two “books” of revelation—Scripture and creation. But maintaining that both Scripture and creation are revelatory does not resolve the question of the relationship between these two types of revelation. The historic Protestant position of sola scriptura is one of the keys in coming to the correct conclusion. If “only the scriptures” is a true statement, then nothing outside Holy Writ may influence how to interpret Scripture. Once allow science, history, archaeology, psychology, biology, astronomy, and so forth, to bear upon the Word of God, and in essence, you have abandoned commitment to the Bible as the Word of God. Special revelation and natural revelation cannot be equally ultimate—one or the other will dominate and prevail.

In this matter, we are reminded of the original temptation to Adam and Eve. When beguiled by the serpent, Eve had sought to acquire knowledge via standard scientific methodology, by examining the fruit, and thereupon concluding that the tree was a good thing—it was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. Or, we could say that the fruit was one which not only reflected God’s glory and beauty in creation, but was clearly for the benefit of mankind. In other words, the natural revelation was trumping special revelation, and enabling the devil to weasel his way in with his cunning question, “Yea, hath God said?” Maybe Adam had misinterpreted what God had said, but now, we have a fuller revelation by means of our scientific knowledge.

No, the correct response to the devilish insinuation to Eve, is that God has spoken, and we must therefore depend totally and absolutely upon His word for our theology and for our ethics and particularly we must not allow natural revelation to impinge upon our understanding of the message of the Word of God. Our attitude should be that of the psalmist in Psalm 36, who wrote, “In Thy light we see light.”

Why spend so much time speaking of an organization of which you may not have heard? Because it is a very powerful and influential organization. It is currently headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city which historically has had institutions committed to the Reformed faith, including publishers (Eerdmans, Baker, and Zondervan) and Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary as well as Kuyper University. BioLogos’ widespread influence is manifest by the number of professors at Christian, even purportedly evangelical, colleges and seminaries who promote its views. More than that, celebrity ministers have also championed the BioLogos perspective, perhaps most notably Dr. Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in downtown Manhattan. As a “star” in the evangelical and Reformed world, who was the progenitor of a significant ministry in New York City, Dr. Keller has had a significant impact on countless ministers, particularly young and impressionable ones. He has been a sought-out conference speaker, and has been widely heralded in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Plus, the organization is well-funded. As documented in its 2017 report, between 2015 and 2020, it is slated to rake in more than $3.1 million from The Templeton Religious Trust and The John Templeton Foundation. More than $217,000 is to go for A Christian Guide for High School Biology, showing that young people are being targeted.

Moreover, BioLogos is not the only evolutionary influence on the church, even the evangelical church. Numerous institutions, including colleges and seminaries, have for years been promoting the rejection of the clear teaching of Genesis 1. And so, the doctrine of creation is a crucial issue for the twenty-first century church.

II. Sex

Now secondly, we consider sex.

There are, of course, numerous facets of this topic, including the rise of feminism, which challenged the roles of husband and wife as well as the nature of the family; easy divorce, which began to be expressed by changes in practice as well as modifications to the confessional standards of, for instance, the Presbyterian Church; and fornication, especially as we are witnessing the loss of shame among professing Christians when couples live together apart from marriage, and the failure of the church to discipline such deviation from the Biblical norm. In many ways, the reason why we are facing problems with respect to sexual matters, is because the church has failed in its teaching, in its practice, and in its discipline. We can easily point fingers at the world’s sexual perversity and the harm being done by means of the redefinition of marriage and even the questioning of the fixed nature of man’s sexuality. But we must first acknowledge that the church has not protected the institution of marriage and has rather excused conduct that a century ago would have been subject to church discipline. In every divorce, at least one of the parties has sinned, and the elders of the church are responsible to turn the keys of the kingdom so as to exclude from church membership those who are unrepentant in this regard.

Having said that, however, we must go on and point out the immediate threats to the church, viz. the related but distinct issues of homosexuality and transgenderism.

The homosexual issue has many tentacles. Obviously, it is an attack on God’s creation, in that God created man as a binary creature in which men and women complement each other in every respect, including anatomically, psychologically, and vocationally (most foundationally, in terms of different roles within marriage and the family). A Christian cannot accept the practice of homosexuality not only because such violates direct divine command, but also because it violates the very nature of man qua man. Homosexuality is an attack on the honor of God and an attack on the dignity of man. Homosexuality is an expression of unnatural acts.

Homosexuality also is an attack on the institution of marriage. This is true, fundamentally, in that marriage is a conjugal and covenant relationship between a man and woman. But it is also the case that so-called same-sex marriage now poses a direct threat to every Christian’s marriage, in the same way that mass circulation of counterfeit money is a threat to real money. So-called same-sex marriage cheapens every marriage and eats away at the foundation of the institution.

Accordingly, homosexuality is an attack on the family, which, normally, is based on the marriage of one man and one woman. This is not to denigrate those in situations in which, say, a spouse has died, and the surviving spouse is continuing to care for the family. But that type of situation is not the norm. And the plain fact is that a homosexual relationship cannot be made the basis for a legitimate family.

And homosexuality represents an attack on the church, both corporately and in terms of individual members thereof. The institutional church is threatened with loss of recognition by the civil government, and ultimately persecution, for maintaining the Biblical position. And Christians in society, in the workplace, and in academia, are threatened with marginalization, with loss of employment, with loss of prestige and position, for refusing to approve of practices which are inherently sinful and wicked.

Sexual deviancy goes back millennia. Certainly we can think of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in the book of Genesis. Other examples include ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Mankind’s propensity for perversion often has been manifest by those who do not profess belief in the God of the Bible. But even among those who professed belief in Yahweh, such as the ancient Hebrews, homosexuality was one of those sins into which they could fall. What is important to note is that those involved in homosexual practice were not necessarily non-religious or irreligious. No, in many cases, they are very religious, but not followers of the religion of the Bible.

This phenomenon of religious homosexuals came to expression in mainline Protestant denominations about fifty years ago. As reported in the New York Times, a Presbyterian church in Brooklyn Heights in November 1968 conducted a “two-hour worship service and symposium on the subject of homosexuality,” featuring excerpts from a pro-homosexual off-Broadway play. The minister argued that “we must look at one another with love and compassion,” and maintained that “variations of sex are not sin.” In 1978, the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America defeated a recommendation from its task force studying homosexuality to approve practicing homosexuals for ordination. But the UPCUSA allowed for the ordination of “celibate” homosexuals, and also encouraged homosexuals and lesbians to join the denomination.[2]

Well, of course, what the UPCUSA adopted in 1978 is self-contradictory. Either homosexuality is sinful or it is not. If it is sinful, then how can the church welcome into its bosom those who continue deliberately to sin? (We doubt that the UPCUSA would have welcomed unrepentant Neo-Nazis into membership.) But if homosexuals and lesbians are to be church members in good standing, then on what basis can they be denied ordination?

The ultimate outcome was predictable. After a more than three-decade battle, in 2011, the mainline Presbyterian denomination opened ordained office to homosexuals and lesbians.

The experience within leftist Presbyterianism mirrors that of other similar denominations. The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Disciples of Christ, and the United Church of Christ have all succumbed to the homosexual agenda. Of course, one can perhaps easily dismiss such positions, as these religious organizations have long since abandoned belief in the Bible as the word of God, inerrant, infallible, and inspired. But what about groups that do affirm Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration? Surely no such group of professing Christians would be open to what should be obvious, viz., that the Bible condemns any sexual intimacy apart from marriage, with marriage defined as being between one man and one woman! But in point of fact, there are branches of the church where many members are holding to such views, while also professing to hold to the Bible.

In support of this observation, consider the findings by Pew Research from 2014 that acceptance of homosexuality was gaining among all religious groups, including self-identified evangelicals. According to the polling data, 54% of all Christians said that society should accept homosexuality. Shockingly, 36% of evangelicals agreed. And perhaps most astoundingly of all, 49% of those who identify with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) also agreed, while only 40% disagreed.[3]

Now, perhaps the relatively small sample (156 people polled) skewed the figures. Nevertheless, the results are jarring.

But what cannot be contested is the existence of an organization called Revoice, whose first conference, in July 2018, was held at a PCA congregation, Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. Revoice professes belief adherence to traditional Christian morality, including traditional marriage, and prohibition of sex apart from marriage. At the same time, the organization uses terminology that has caused alarm, such as “gay Christian” and “LGBT Christian” and “sexual minorities.” The conference also dealt with queer Christians. (The term “queer” refers to “a person whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary.”) A description of one of the seminars at the conference, “Models of Queer Theory and Literature: An Adventure,” contained these statements: “For the sexual minority seeking to submit his or her life fully to Christ and to the historic Christian sexual ethic, queer culture presents a bit of a dilemma; rather than combing through and analyzing to find which parts are to be rejected, to be redeemed, or to be received with joy (Acts 17:16-34), Christians have often discarded the virtues of queer culture along with the vices, which leaves culturally connected Christian sexual minorities torn between two cultures, two histories, and two communities. So questions that have until now been largely unanswered remain; what does queer culture (and specifically, queer literature and theory) have to offer us who follow Christ? What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time (Revelation 21:24-26)?”

Besides being hosted by a PCA congregation, the 2018 conference featured participation by faculty from the PCA’s denominational seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

There has been a significant reaction within the PCA to these developments. At least five overtures from presbyteries dealing with homosexuality have been sent up to the PCA General Assembly, being held in Dallas in June 2019. Among the conclusions drawn by James River Presbytery are these:

That “sexual orientation” is a modern invention describing men and women as being on a spectrum of sexual attraction or desire, and is not a Biblical category.
That the use of terms such as “Gay Christian,” “Same Sex Attracted Christian,” “Alcoholic Christian,” “Lustful Christian,” “Greedy Christian,” or any other corrupt desire is not consistent with our union with Christ. Such descriptors of our fallenness must not be used as an identity marker but must rather be humbly submitted to Christ who provides our primary identity as Christians. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
That the pull toward same-sex lust is not morally neutral but arises from our fallen nature, and with all other temptations must be mortified by the power which Christ supplies. (Rom. 1:18-27)
That Christians will struggle all their lives with sin and that the Church should never promise healing from sin in this life but the Spirit’s strength to kill unholy desires and to grow holy desires. (Rom 8:9-11)
Another two overtures are asking that the PCA endorse the statement adopted by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America with respect to transgenderism.

The church today must fight these sexual issues, then, on two fronts—one is external (that is, as the church is contra mundum—against the world), and the other is internal (that is, within the church herself). How should the church do so?

First, she must challenge the rhetoric that is being used. The opposition not only declares that “God accepts everyone”, but also maintains that to condemn homosexuality is to hate people whom God has made with such desires. South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a current Democrat candidate for President of the United States, has attacked the views of Vice President Mike Pence (and by extension, the views of the Bible) by arguing that “if you are [religious], and you are also queer, and you have come through the other side of a period of wishing that you weren’t, then you know that that message, this idea that there is something wrong with you, is a message that puts you at war not only with yourself but with your maker. Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. If you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

But, of course, based on that argumentation, any behavior could be justified (and blamed on or attributed to God). An alcoholic or a drug addict or a kleptomaniac or someone with anorexia or anyone else with sinful innate desires could simply say, “Well, that’s the way that God made me, and therefore you must accept me as I am and more than that, you must acknowledge my orientation in this regard as a gift from God.” Talk about Scripture twisting! Talk about calling evil good, and good evil!

In combating these sentiments, we must, as counseled in the book of Proverbs, answer the fool according to his folly. We must demonstrate that the perverse perspective cannot be maintained. Take, for example, three other forms of sexual orientation—bestiality, incest, and necrophilia. Bestiality is having sex with animals—a dog, a cat, a cow, a goat, a horse (unless, of course, the horse says “Nay!”). Incest entails having sex with a close relative—a father and his daughter, a mother and her son, two brothers, a grandmother and her grandson. Necrophilia is having sex with a corpse—a dead body. Push your opponents to the logical conclusions of their position. Let them see the absurdity of their views, and their wickedness, and let them smell the stench.

This tactic will not convince everyone, for the simple reason that some people today will literally accept any sexual deviancy, including bestiality, incest, and necrophilia. But most folks will still have some limits to what is acceptable and what is not. And for those reasonable people, you can then say, “I am glad that you and I agree that not all sexual practice is acceptable—indeed, that we must discriminate (that is, make judgments) with respect to various sexual practices. Now that we’ve established that common ground, let me ask you what your standard is by which you judge which sexual practice is legitimate and which is not.”

Secondly, then, positively present the Biblical view—that sex is a beautiful gift from God, but that it is to be confined to marriage, which is a conjugal, covenant relationship between one man and one woman. And that this has always been the Biblical perspective, which the church has always proclaimed and practiced, including two thousand years ago, in a pagan world that celebrated all kinds of deviant sexuality.

Thirdly, live out the Biblical view, consistently. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t look down your nose at the sexual sins of others. Don’t think that you can credibly maintain an anti-homosexual position while at the same time engaging in fornication or being inappropriate in your marriage.

Fourthly, affirm the gospel. Affirm man’s sinfulness, as well as his only hope, which is the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness, imputed to the sinner and received by faith alone. At the end of the day, the prime issue is always the gospel.

III. Worship

The third issue which we are considering is worship.

For the past two or three decades, there has been an intense controversy over the meaning and practice of worship, resulting in the so-called “Worship Wars.” Usually, this struggle has been couched in terms of pitting “traditional” worship against “contemporary” worship.

However, this customary pairing does not provide an adequate framing of the issue of what constitutes proper worship. Only adherence to what we call the Regulative Principle of Worship (abbreviated RPW) will suffice. In point of fact, much of what is regarded as “traditional” worship is merely characteristic of the tradition of the 1950s, an era when Protestantism had lost much of its power and much of its historic commitment to the Bible. At the same time, at least what is regarded as “traditional” worship still reflected reverence—a reverence that was rooted in an understanding of the holiness and transcendence of God. What is being manifest today in many churches, perhaps most notably in various mega-churches, is sacrilege. We might even say that much of “contemporary” worship is pagan worship dressed up in Christian drag—that is, though the terminology used might be that of Christianity, and though the message purportedly might be promotive of the gospel, the essence of the worship is pagan in nature. It involves a mindless hyper-emotionalism, in complete contrast to the sober presentation of the gospel which has always characterized the Christian church. It denigrates the seriousness of the message, which includes a declaration of God’s judgment and the reality of hell. It ridicules the historic and Biblical approach to worship. It makes a mockery of God and of His worship.

One of the chief problems with “contemporary” worship is that it is a form of entertainment, rather than of worship. The focus is on the performer, rather than on God.

But more than entertainment, the entire approach is that of sensualism—that is, an appeal to the senses rather than to the mind. And that, my friends, is deadly. In 1889, Southern Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney, reviewing John L. Girardeau’s Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of God, wrote this warning: “Blinded men are ever prone to imagine that they have religious feelings, because they have sensuous, animal feelings, in accidental juxtaposition with religious places, words, or sights. This the pernicious mistake which has sealed up millions of self-deceived souls for hell.”

Churches featuring contemporary worship rarely if ever delve into the deep doctrines of our faith, instructing the saints what to believe about God and what duty God requires of man. But more than that, whatever truth may happen to be proclaimed is drowned out by the loud rock music, and is overwhelmed by the entire sensual experience, complete with strobe lights, clown acts, video clips, liturgical dancing, and smoke, in a context of screaming people swaying back and forth. The sensualism eats away at and undermines the truth about Jesus.

Curiously enough, “contemporary” worship is nothing new. Oh, yes, the technology may be modern. But the approach is actually quite medieval. Roman Catholicism embraced sensualism in the Middle Ages, with all the colorful pageantry and emphasis on an emotional experience. The mega-church worship leaders are merely mimicking what Roman Catholic priests and monastic choirs have been doing for centuries. The appeal is the same for the masses of people—getting caught up in a religious experience without ever being confronted with their sin or the need for repentance and a full embrace of the gospel of Christ.

IV. Relationship Among These Three Facets

Perhaps at first blush, these three crucial issues may not seem to bear much relation to each other, other than as manifestations of rebellion against God. However, we would suggest that there are ways in which they are related.

Romans 1 speaks of the creation of the world which demonstrates the glory of God. However, there are those who have “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Because of that idolatry, “God gave them up” to the sins of homosexuality and lesbianism. Here we see these three themes brought together by the Apostle Paul.

A further way in which these three are connected, is that they are all examples of sensualism. We have already mentioned Robert Lewis Dabney’s concern about sensualism in worship. But what is important to note is that in 1875, he had penned The Sensualistic Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century, Considered, which was a critique of much of the science of his day—a philosophical approach based solely on the senses. While the various manifestations of sensualism cut in different ways, nonetheless, the basic critique offered by Dabney with respect to science and with respect to worship is the same. If he were alive today, we are certain that he would likewise apply the critique to the various sexual practices currently in vogue, which are all similarly sensualistic—not just because they constitute lust, but because they seek to validate various sexual expressions on the basis of the phenomena rather than on the basis of a priori principles.

A third connection has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture. “Yea, hath God said?” Whether with regard to His revelation of how He created the creatures after their own kind, or with regard to His directives with regard to man and his sexuality, or with respect to the strict prescriptions of how He is to be worshipped, yes, God has spoken! And it is not our place to question the Bible or seek to speak back to it, but rather to submit.

Finally, please note that with regard to all of these matters, one of the prime motifs is that of heterogeneity. This is the case with regard to how God created the plants and animals. There was no amalgamation; each type of plant and animal was created after its own kind. Similarly, God created man male and female. Man is a binary creature. Men and women are different. And they are designed to complement each other. That is the world which God made—a world with difference, including man, the crown of creation, who also displays difference, in that there are two sexes. Indeed, as Paul notes in I Corinthians 15, “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.” The principle of heterogeneity, therefore, applies throughout creation, from the heavenly bodies, to the distinction between water and land, to plants and animals, to man himself.

And the most fundamental difference is that between Creator and creature. God is totally holy—that is, totally other. Denying this reality leads to pantheism, in which there is no distinction between God and creation. That is precisely the picture painted in Romans 1, in which the heterogeneity between men and women is denied, as well as the heterogeneity between God and man. As Paul says, men “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

V. The Answer

So, what should we do as we confront these three critical issues in the twenty-first century?

First, be absolutely committed to the Bible as the word of God. Don’t waver from your belief not only in the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible, but also do not waver from your belief in the sufficiency of Scripture.

Secondly, gird up the loins of your mind and your heart. Think God’s thoughts after Him. Don’t succumb to the false philosophies of the world. Do continue to love God and to love Jesus, and seek to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever more.

[1] This deferential attitude led churchmen to accept the old-earth theories of Charles Lyell and other geologists in the nineteenth century, and to reinterpret the plain meaning of Genesis 1 that creation was in the space of six days. The gap theory—the idea that there is a gap of millions of years between Day 1 and Day 2 of creation week—gained popularity two hundred years ago. The other major attempt at accommodation was to interpret the “day” of Genesis 1 as being a long age of millions or billions of years.

Time—that is, having a huge amount of time—was a necessary precondition for Darwinism. Or, we could say that geological evolution was necessary for biological evolution. Darwinism, as conceived by Darwin, depends on time plus chance—eons of time plus the “lucky” process of mutations moving various species up the evolutionary chain as higher and more advanced life forms.

[2] “The Presbyterian Church and Homosexuality in the U.S.: Timeline,” available online at (

[3] Carlyle Murphy, “Most U.S. Christian groups grow more accepting of homosexuality,” Pew Research Center, December 18, 2015.