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The Two Litmus Tests: Christian Orthodoxy in the Moral Realm of the Culture Wars

The Two Litmus Tests: Christian Orthodoxy in the Moral Realm of the Culture Wars

By Bruce Atkinson PhD
Special to Virtueonline
February 3, 2022

Orthodox Christianity requires holding fast to the Holy Scriptures, regarding them as the highest authority for the Church prior to the Parousia. When I use the term "orthodox" here, I am not referring to the assorted ethnic varieties of the Eastern Orthodox Church, although of course individual members of the EOC may be quite orthodox in the more general sense.

No religious tradition can rightly go against the plain teachings of Holy Writ and still be truly Christian. It is the only place where we find the words of Jesus, and Jesus Himself upheld the moral laws found in the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17-20).

The eminent Anglican teacher Dr. John R.W. Stott put it well: "We take our stand on the divine origin of the Bible because we believe the Bible itself requires us to do so. Indeed, it is a strange fact that theologians who are prepared to accept the biblical doctrine of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of man and of the church, are often not willing to accept the biblical doctrine of Scripture. But...if the Bible is authoritative and accurate when speaking about other matters, there is no reason why it should not be equally so when speaking about itself."

For example: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16)
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,'' declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:8-11)
"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit"(2 Peter 1:20-21; cf. Matthew 4:4, Matthew 24:35, Hebrews 4:12, John 6:63, 68).

Furthermore... "God's word is infallible, for what he has said is true. But no Christian individual, group or church has ever been or will ever be an infallible interpreter of God's Word. Human interpretations belong to the sphere of tradition, and an appeal may always be made against tradition to the Scripture itself which tradition claims to interpret." (John Stott, confirmed as well in the 39 Articles of Religion, VI, VII, and XX)

Although some areas of doctrine may be more flexible due to assorted interpretations of scripture by language experts and theologians, most of the doctrines and teachings are unequivocal and consistent throughout both OT and NT.

Two issues provide a clear litmus test for orthodox belief in the realm of morality and the culture wars: sexual morality and abortion. Whenever believers, especially Christian leaders, stray from these two scriptural principles into supporting the secular values of the Zeitgeist (political correctness), then we can appropriately doubt their orthodoxy. In fact, this means that to accept homosexuality or abortion is to endorse heresy.

Homosexual behavior is named as an abominable sin consistently in both Old Testament and New Testament, and abortion violates one of the Ten Commandments ("Thou shalt not murder") because the Bible clearly regards infants in the womb as human beings worthy of protection. Here is evidence of what God thinks about these things (I have shared this information elsewhere):

I. Sexual Morality and Marriage. See Genesis 1-2 (defining the image of God as male and female), Genesis 18-19 (Sodom and Gomorrah, which as Jude 1:7 indicates is primarily about homosexuality not hospitality), Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, and Deuteronomy 23:18.

And in the New Testament we have Matthew 19:4-6 (Jesus defining marriage as man and woman) and Paul's clear teaching about homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10. These scriptures condemn homosexual behavior as a sin, that without repentance and amendment of life will keep you out of heaven.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality..." (1 Corinthians 6:9; note also that the Romans 1 passage clearly includes women having sex with women in this category as well.)

Additionally, there are many more scriptures that condemn sexual sin in general, which may be defined as any sexual behavior outside of male-female marriage (this then must logically include not only adultery but also fornication and homosexual behavior). Chastity, sexual purity and sexual faithfulness in marriage are virtues valued highly throughout the Bible. Their opposite is always condemned. One of the 10 Commandments is about sexual faithfulness. Jesus even condemned lust for someone not our spouse as sin. And there is no hint in the scriptures that marriage can be other than a man and a woman.

II. The Holocaust of Abortion-on-Demand.This is a far worse evil than slavery ever was, certainly according the scriptures. Note that the killing of not-yet-born infants is the world's leading cause of death, including the leading cause of death in the USA. https://virtueonline.org/abortion-was-leading-cause-death-worldwide-2018-killing-42-million-people

Note this little blurb from LifeNews.com that should shock us, but it may also improve our sense of proportion. The number of COVID-19 and abortion deaths in 2020: Abortion-- 42,655,372, Coronavirus-- 1,830,979. That the abortion rate has fallen slightly in the U.S. in the past decade does not much lighten the seriousness of this holocaust.

Abortion breaks one of the cardinal 10 commandments because it truly is murder of the most innocent and vulnerable of all human beings. Jesus said that He identifies with the "least of these," that how we treat them is how He will regard our treatment of Himself (Matthew 25). Are you OK with killing Jesus again and again, without repentance? (1)

In many places the scriptures regard unborn children as living humans known to God and even capable of a level of consciousness (2). One of the earliest writings of the early Christian Church ("The Didache," or Teachings of the Apostles) clearly names abortion as a major sin (3), and for two thousand years, church tradition in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have followed this rule. Of course, the Reformed evangelical tradition has also condemned abortion.

It is only in the last millisecond of church history that some radically liberal churches like the Episcopal Church have embraced this murderous act. Except to save the physical life of the mother, this selfish "pro-choice" is to kill an innocent life simply for the sake of convenience. Adoption is always a better option.


(1) The Lord Jesus taught His disciples (Matthew 25): "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.. ... Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." We should get the point. Who are truly the most innocent and vulnerable ("least of these") of all human beings if not babes in the womb? From God's perspective, the pro-choicers are seeking the abortion of Jesus, because He identifies with these not yet born infants.

(2) Unborn babies are viewed as persons in the scriptures, already known to God as unique and valued individuals. For example: "Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.'" (Jeremiah 1:4-5) "My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together... your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139:15-16)

The Bible attributes self-consciousness to preborn babies, something that even modern medicine has studied and acknowledged. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnfarrell/2018/04/19/tracing-consciousness-in-the-brains-of-infants/?sh=53440b50722f

Jacob and Esau "struggled together within" their mother's womb (Gen. 25:22). The New Testament offers a similar glimpse into prenatal consciousness: "And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb" (Luke 1:41). "Struggling" and "leaping" are the result of consciousness, and most certainly of human life and worth.

No Hebrew woman would have ever thought of killing her unborn baby. In those days in Hebrew culture, having children was the most valued and worthy thing a woman could do. And to be barren was one of the worst things for a woman to endure (Gen. 17:15-16; 25:21; 30:1; 1 Sam. 1:2-10; Ps. 113:9; 127:3-5; Luke 1:7; 23:29; Gal. 4:27; Heb. 11:11). To kill an "inheritance from the Lord" would have been unthinkable, it was so taboo and obviously horrible as to be not worth mentioning.

(3) From: The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Circa 90 AD. Tim Sauder, translator.
Chapter Two: "And this is the second commandment of the teaching: you shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt children, nor practice sexual deviation; you shall not steal; nor practice calling on spiritual guides; nor use sorcery; you shall not procure an abortion, nor practice infanticide; you shall not covet your neighbor's goods." [my bold]

Dr. Bruce Atkinson is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and an M.A. in theology. He also has an M.S. in research psychology from Illinois State U. and a B.A. from Beloit College. He is a member of the Anglican Church in North America and is Moderator and frequent contributor at VirtueOnline.

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