This is the text of the speech that Rev. Engelsma delivered at the RFPA Annual Meeting on September 29, 2016.
We are presently living in the midst of a sexual revolution of monumental scope and unheard-of influence. Our society shamelessly bows before the goddess Sex and has committed herself wholeheartedly to the promotion of her worship.1
Wherever the Reformed Christian turns, the evidence of this revolution stares him in the face. He sees it when he turns on the TV. He sees it when he opens the web browser. He sees it on billboards as he drives down the highway. He sees it in the magazine rack as he stands in line at the grocery store. He sees it when he goes shopping at the mall. He sees evidence of it amongst his coworkers in the office and on the jobsite. He sees evidence of it amongst his fellow students on the university campus. He may even see evidence of it in his own family.
It is almost impossible to over-estimate the significance of this issue for Reformed believers today. The sexual revolution is one of the most important practical issues facing the church of Christ. The pressure being placed on her is massive. The subject is serious and sobering.
How do we respond? What can we do and say as an Association?
We are guided in part by what we read in Acts 4. The apostles had been imprisoned and threatened by the leaders of the Jews for preaching the gospel. They were released with the warning not to continue preaching. When the church heard this, they gathered together and prayed, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (v. 29).
This is what the church today needs as well. We need boldness that can only come from God Himself to continue to proclaim the truth of His Word, even when threatened by others in the world and in the broader church world. Our prayer as an Association must be: “Lord, grant boldness! That thy servants may speak—and write—Thy Word in the face of this sexual revolution!”
Where We Are
In order to give a knowledgeable witness, it is important that we know something about the sexual revolution that we are witnessing in society.
The world is unashamed of its sexual promiscuity, fornicating before marriage and outside of marriage. There is the multi-billion-dollar pornography business, which catches many in the embrace of strange women (and men).2 There is the glorification of sex in music and movies and TV shows.3 There is the use of sex in advertising; as the adage goes, sex sells. There is the culture of frivolous and easy divorce, and the almost inevitable remarriage that follows. There is the idolizing of Hollywood and sports celebrities who jump from one bed to another.
But in recent years we have seen the sexual revolution expanding on two fronts. In the first place, we are witnessing a development in the promotion of homosexuality and lesbianism. It is striking how rapidly this development came. Four or five years ago very few were talking about the issue of homosexuality, and now suddenly it is a major issue and topic of frequent conversation. It is promoted on movies and TV shows and advertisements. This celebrity and that sports figure announce that they are gay. And all the others stand behind them in support. And now, just a year ago, we had the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case, where the United States Supreme Court redefined marriage so that it includes homosexual unions.
The second development is the promotion of transgenderism, of which there are many examples in the media: the former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner undergoing a sex change to be reborn as Kaitlyn Jenner, now honored with all kinds of awards for bravery; a famous celebrity couple (now apparently in the throes of a bitter divorce) encouraging their young daughter to identify as “John”; major retailer Target announcing that transgendered people may choose whatever bathroom they desire; a case coming from a Virginia school board to the Supreme Court having to do with transgendered students and bathrooms.4
Instead of a person’s gender being governed by one’s anatomy at birth, the sexual revolutionaries say that gender is a social construct. A person’s gender is determined by how he/she feels and what he/she wants to be. One may choose to identify as whatever he/she wants.
It is amazing how quickly this has become the major issue today. Just over a year ago we were talking about homosexual marriage, and immediately after that was decided the issue became transgenderism. This is no accident; this is part of the plan of the sexual revolution. Not only are they undermining the institution of marriage, but they are also undermining gender and the body.
Where We’ve Been
What is important to understand is that these developments, although frightening, are not at all surprising.
The road has been paved for these developments for years. Such things as evolutionism, feminism, and postmodernism all have played a role. In addition, there has been a conscious, concerted effort to promote these things. This has not been done haphazardly, but follows a specific playbook.
This playbook was put in place several years ago. In 1987, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen wrote an essay called “The Overhauling of Straight America.”5 They expanded this into a book entitled After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s. The work of these two men was extremely influential and spelled out the playbook that would be followed in the following decades.
The authors recommended that the way to start would be to desensitize the public to homosexuality. Do not try to make them accept it, just have them respond to the issue with a shrug of the shoulders and view it as a matter of personal preference. In order to get there, they laid out six stages. First, talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible. Second, present gays as victims in need of sympathy and help rather than aggressive challengers. Third, give protectors a just cause so that, rather than supporting homosexuals, they think they are supporting freedom of speech and the like. Fourth, portray homosexuals as outstanding pillars of society. Fifth, make opponents look bad by vilifying them and portraying them all as “bigoted Southern ministers drooling with hysterical hatred to a degree that looks both comical and deranged.” Sixth, solicit funds to launch a massive advertising campaign. The authors then go on to lay out in great detail how this campaign could be carried out through TV, movies, and advertising.
The plan these two men mapped out in the 1980s is eerily similar to what has actually taken place.
In addition to these concerted efforts on the part of the world, the broadly Christian church has also played a part in these developments.6
One way in which that was done was through the acceptance of divorce.7 To a previous generation, the idea of divorce was inconceivable. Even if you were in a bad, unhappy marriage, divorce was hardly an option. This changed at the beginning of the twentieth century when people began admitting fault in order to get a divorce. And then in the 1960s came the legalization of no-fault divorce. Instead of having people stand trial, give painful testimony, and admit guilt, it was thought to be more humane to allow no-fault divorce. This means that now divorce is something that is easy to obtain. All you have to do is claim some irreconcilable differences and your marriage vanishes. This was an important step in the sexual revolution because it made every marriage provisional. It was a mere contract that could be broken at any time.
A second way in which the road was paved for these developments was through the development and acceptance of abortion and birth control, particularly the birth control pill.8 Birth control is certainly not something new to this century, but it has developed in our modern, technological age. In decades past, there was a certain outward check on sexual immorality because of the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. But then in the early 1900s, and especially in the 1960s, there was the development of the birth control pill. Then came was the Roe v. Wade case in 1973, which made abortion legal. Without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy, or at least the means to kill the consequences, these things have unleashed a tidal wave of sexual promiscuity. And what this also did was to redefine sex as something without any connection to children, which has a major impact on homosexuality.
A third way in which the road was paved for these developments was through the acceptance of fornication and “cohabitation.”9 In previous generations it was considered sin to engage in sexual activity prior to marriage and to live together although not married. But now the thought of saving oneself sexually for marriage is thought to be repressive and irrational. You cannot expect young adults to contain their God-given sexual natures and desires, they say. Now the expectation is that if you are going to date a person and get to know them, you must have sex with them. In colleges and high schools one finds the culture of hooking up. Teenage girls are encouraged to go on the birth control pill so that they are free to engage in sexual activity with their boyfriends without fear of getting pregnant. Now the expectation is that men and women live together even though they are not married. The big step they take in their relationship is not to get married but to move in together. Marriage is pushed off until they are much older and more financially secure. For many, cohabitation has replaced marriage altogether. The effect of this is that it undermines the institution of marriage and replaces it with people merely living together.
All of these things have contributed to preparing the way for the ready acceptance in our society of homosexuality and transgenderism.
Where We’re Going
Briefly, what does the future hold?
Obviously, we are unable to predict exactly what will happen in the future, but we can be sure that there will be further development in sexual sin. The sexual revolutionaries will continue to press their agenda. Some have suggested that the present developments open the door to polygamy, bestiality, pedophilia, and incest.10 Marriage can now be defined however people want, whether that be man with man, woman with woman, man with beast, or parent with child. The only criterion that they yet seek to maintain is consent; the union has to be willing on the part of both parties. Otherwise, everything is approved.11 It is hard to imagine what will stop our society from doing away with marriage altogether as an outdated, useless institution.
This will mean increased persecution for the church. More and more freedom of speech and religious liberty are being limited and denied for the sake of this new world order. The church is ordered to be quiet and get in line, or else risk trouble. And when the church refuses to do so, she can expect not only mockery and being ostracized, but being persecuted with arrest and punishment at the hands of the authorities. Dark storm clouds are building on the horizon.
How must we respond?
…to be continued.
1 David J. Engelsma, “The Sexual Revolution,” in The Reformed Worldview: The Word of God for Our Generation (British Reformed Fellowship, 2012), 79-102.
2 As I was preparing for this speech, a brother sent me a link to a disturbing article that suggested a connection between pornography use and sexual abuse. The premise was that teenage boys who view pornography think this perverse sexuality is normal and demand these things of young women, often leading to sexual abuse and even rape.
3 I was informed by another brother that research indicates that there is even one TV show that is so explicit that it causes traffic on pornography sites to decrease while it is airing.
4 Cf. Ken Ham, “Transgender Restroom Case Headed to the Supreme Court,” https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/kenham/2016/07/27/transgender-restroom-case-headed-supremecourt/? (accessed September 29, 2016); and R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Supreme Court to rule in transgender bathroom case that could fundamentally reshape society,” http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/10/31/briefing-10-31-16/ (accessed November 16, 2016).
5 http://library.gayhomeland.org/0018/EN/EN_Overhauling_Straight.htm (accessed November 17, 2016).
6 Cf. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015), 17-32.
7 Lewis Smedes, “Like the Wideness of the Sea,” Perspectives 14, no. 5 (May 1999): 8-12.
8 For help in understanding the issue of birth control, cf. Cory and Lael Griess, “Children: Calling and Blessing,” Standard Bearer 92 no. 14 (April 15, 2016): 333-6.
9 Cf. Clay Spronk, “A Modern-Day Jezebel,” Standard Bearer 88 no. 12 (March 15, 2012): 273-6.
10 On the matter of incest, cf. Kiley Crossland, “Mother, Adult Son Fight for Right to Incestuous Relationship,” http://theaquilareport.com/mother-adult-son-fight-for-right-to-incestuousrelationship/ (accessed November 17, 2016).
11 Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent, 96-7.