Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism


valuesIn a response to a mother whose 16-year-old daughter has “given up believing in God,” Albert Mohler provides a marvelous critique of the mother’s initial premise: that she had tried to raise her family “under the same strong Christian values that [she] grew up with.”

Mohler’s most basic point: “Christian values” will never be enough:

Christian values are the problem. Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values. Christian values cannot save anyone and never will. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Christian value, and a comfortability with Christian values can blind sinners to their need for the gospel.

This one sentence may not accurately communicate this mother’s understanding, but it appears to be perfectly consistent with the larger context of her question and the source of the advice she sought.

Parents who raise their children with nothing more than Christian values should not be surprised when their children abandon those values. If the child or young person does not have a firm commitment to Christ and to the truth of the Christian faith, values will have no binding authority, and we should not expect that they would. Most of our neighbors have some commitment to Christian values, but what they desperately need is salvation from their sins. This does not come by Christian values, no matter how fervently held. Salvation comes only by the gospel of Jesus Christ…

… Human beings are natural-born moralists, and moralism is the most potent of all the false gospels. The language of “values” is the language of moralism and cultural Protestantism — what the Germans called Kulturprotestantismus. This is the religion that produces cultural Christians, and cultural Christianity soon dissipates into atheism, agnosticism, and other forms of non-belief. Cultural Christianity is the great denomination of moralism, and far too many church folk fail to recognize that their own religion is only cultural Christianity — not the genuine Christian faith.

This connects quite well with James Davison Hunter’s thesis in his book, The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil, albeit toward slightly broader ends.

For Hunter, focusing on sacred truths — or, in Mohler’s case, salvation through Christ — is the best approach not just for retaining belief in God, but for achieving a moral and virtuous society filled with individuals of strong character:

The social and cultural conditions that make character possible are no longer present and no amount of political rhetoric, legal maneuvering, educational policy making, or money can change that reality. Its time has passed…

This destruction occurs simultaneously with the rise of “values.” Values are truths that have been deprived of their commanding character. They are substitutes for revelation, imperatives that have dissolved into a range of possibilities. The very word “value” signifies the reduction of truth to utility, taboo to fashion, conviction to mere preference; all provisional, all exchangeable. Both values and “lifestyle”—a way of living that reflects the accumulation of one’s values—bespeak a world in which nothing is sacred. Neither word carries the weight of conviction; the commitment to truths made sacred…

…Whatever benefits such a fluid and temporary moral universe may offer, they fail to lessen our dismay when we witness random and senseless violence; our outrage when we see open displays of corruption; our indignation when we observe a flouting of basic standards of decency; and our sadness as we watch callousness when compassion and mercy cry out. But why should we be surprised? When the self is stripped of moral anchoring, there is nothing to which the will is bound to submit, nothing innate to keep it in check. There is no compelling reason to be burdened by guilt. Dostoyevsky had it about right: everything becomes possible—every violence, every deed of corruption, every mockery of justice, every act of indifference—because there are no inhibiting truths. What is more, the indigenous moral institutions of our society that have long sustained those truths are fragile at best, irreparable at worst.

The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil, James Davison HunterThe rise of “values”-speak, then, not only indicates a rise in spiritual vacancy, but also (and thus) an erosion of the very moral foundations the various “values” crowds seek to emulate or amend.

As Mohler concludes:

We should not pray for Christian morality to disappear or for Christian values to evaporate. We should not pray to live in Sodom or in Vanity Fair. But a culture marked even by Christian values is in desperate need of evangelism, and that evangelism requires the knowledge that Christian values and the gospel of Jesus Christ are not the same thing.

Read the full article here.

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  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/245930889400426497 Remnant Culture

    Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/npVHgRVf @albertmohler @jordanballor @lukemoon1 @dg_nyc

  • http://twitter.com/rjmoeller/status/245944681458958338 RJ Moeller

    Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/npVHgRVf @albertmohler @jordanballor @lukemoon1 @dg_nyc

  • http://twitter.com/moriahsunde/status/245946134412017664 Moriah Sunde

    A goodie written by my hubs// RT @RemnantCulture: Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/WtyCXBw4

  • http://twitter.com/thevitaguys/status/245946610994003968 the VitaGuys

    RT @RemnantCulture: Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/e6kcTceM

  • http://twitter.com/lukemoon1/status/245951533743763456 Luke Moon

    Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/npVHgRVf @albertmohler @jordanballor @lukemoon1 @dg_nyc

  • http://twitter.com/1980tlnelson/status/245970464600621056 trena

    RT @RemnantCulture: Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/e6kcTceM

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/246626672672141315 Joseph Sunde

    Remember, #VVS12: We need Christian values, but we need even more than that: eternal truth and salvation. http://t.co/s3ofhG0o

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/246960792677801985 Remnant Culture

    Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/npVHgRVf #VVS12

  • http://twitter.com/truettglen/status/246961498264567809 Jason Truett Glen

    “@RemnantCulture: Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/HHYadwLo #VVS12”

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/246961903870562304 Joseph Sunde

    We must strive for much, much more than "Christian values," beyond a fluid and temporary moral universe. http://t.co/N45XBSgi #VVS12

  • http://twitter.com/cmarlink/status/247690914208817152 Chris Marlink

    Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/gitDSCXi Good post from @josephsunde

  • http://twitter.com/pjwatty/status/247705631975432192 Phillip

    Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/gitDSCXi Good post from @josephsunde

  • http://twitter.com/pjwatty/status/247714641197801472 Phillip

    RT @RemnantCulture: Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/s8gvMeML

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/247729568335679489 Joseph Sunde

    Christian Values Are the Problem: Sacred Truth vs. Cultural Moralism http://t.co/gitDSCXi Good post from @josephsunde