The following is an excerpt written by Guy Hammond for the soon-to-be-released Illumination Publishers book by Daren Overstreet; “Wildfire: How Progressive Theology is Impacting the Church"
Though born into obscurity in the mid-1700s on the tiny Caribbean Island of Nevis, Alexander Hamilton, through heroism on the battlefield during the American Revolutionary War, rose in stature to eventually become one of America’s most influential founding fathers. Not up on your American history? That’s all right. While you may have dozed your way through sixth-grade history when the teacher taught of his exploits, you’ve no doubt heard of the American patriot due to the blockbuster Broadway play Hamilton: An American Musical that sings and raps the tale of his rise to American hero.
During a debate over the U.S. Constitution in the 1790s, Hamilton argued for the necessity of the “electoral college,” a uniquely American political mechanism used during a presidential election that helps ensure equal representation. Still in use today, it serves as an alternative to what the rest of the Western world does on election day; choosing their leader by popular vote.
At the climax of his speech, to hammer his point home, Hamilton uttered three words that have since been used time and time again in any number of contexts: “Masses are asses.” In other words, because the majority, with a herdlike mentality, will choose to follow what everyone else is doing rather than think for themselves and come to their own conclusions, the masses cannot be trusted with such a significant decision.
Was Hamilton’s declaration correct? I suppose it depends on the circumstances. If we rely on the masses to speak to the popularity of a particular movie, a series on Netflix, what singer should win The Voice, or what team one should cheer for in the Super Bowl, I suppose the consequences of joining in with the crowd are relatively insignificant.
If, however, Christians rely on the popular wisdom of the majority rather than Scripture to determine their morals and ethics, we should all recognize how perilous this is, as mobs are dodgy judges that cannot be trusted. Or, as Alexander Hamilton stated so bluntly, masses are asses.
How is this herd mentality affecting the church? Regrettably, it is becoming commonplace for many Jesus followers to take their position on ethics about as seriously as they do voting for their favorite singer on a reality television show. There is no place where this is more evident than in the context of sexual ethics.
Indeed, one of the most significant challenges facing the Lord’s church today is how many are readily prepared to alter their position on sexual ethics based on emotion, experience, or stories they’ve seen on social media rather than Scripture.
This current reality should not have caught serious Christians off guard. Indeed, the postmodern movement that arose in Western civilization in the mid-20th century successfully wove into the fabric of mainstream Christian denominationalism extreme postmodern mantras like, “Anything goes as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone,” “Love alone legitimizes a relationship,” and the ultimate postmodernist anthem, “All truth is relative.” While this was occurring, orthodox Christians disdainfully watched from the sidelines, naively assuming that this dangerous acclimatization would blow over or be limited to the unorthodox. But what we are experiencing today in Jesus’ church proves how wrong they were to watch from the sidelines and assume the best.
Nineteenth-century English author, philosopher, and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The special mark of the modern world is not that it is skeptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it.” Chesterton’s statement fits our postmodern, post-truth cultural moment especially well. People have become increasingly dogmatic about postmodern sexual ethics, enshrining them as a religion of sorts, the dogma of which can’t be questioned.
At the same time, the special mark of many modern Christians is not that they are dogmatic of biblical doctrine but that they have become skeptical without knowing it. Skeptical of the biblical translators we have relied upon for the last 2,000 years to provide an accurate text. Suspicious of traditional biblical theologians and scholars who have taught solid hermeneutics. Christians are even going as far as to challenge the inspiration of Scripture itself by charging that the apostle Paul was a chauvinist and bigot, making roughly half the entire New Testament suspect. So much for “All scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I concede that this eroding of reverence for Scripture and historic, biblical orthodoxy has yet to become an unstoppable tsunami. Yet the trajectory and mounting force of this wave does not bode well for the future of the church. Unless we are intentional in refusing to allow modern culture to dictate the terms, the Bible-believing churches to which we belong could soon become as insipid as much of the mainstream denominational world has become; in other words, the masses will have taken over.
I am not indifferent to the pull we all feel to join the crowd. The desire for acceptance is a basic human instinct. I feel it too. I’m a typical Canadian. I like to be liked. It’s in my DNA to avoid conflict. It’s certainly not my goal to offend anyone. Yet as I’ve traveled the world teaching classes that articulate the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic, and as I live by that standard in my private life (one that is completely opposed to what the masses value), I’ve faced my fair share of opposition. It’s an uncomfortable, and even at times distressing, place to be. I know firsthand how much courage it takes to go against the flow. Yet one Scripture echoes insistently in my mind:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
I am dead. Christ is alive. He is my identity. Period. Jesus and his message were countercultural when he walked the dusty paths, and he remains so today, and most will oppose you for this.
To help ensure that they fit in and avoid opposition or criticism, many people present different editions of themselves based on their environment. They are one person at home, another at work or school, and another when with their church family. This duplicity does not work well for the follower of Christ. Refuse to sandpaper yourself down to fit others’ expectations.
2 Corinthians 5 tells us that we are each an ambassador for Christ. Ambassadors do not take it on themselves to meddle in the politics of the country they are visiting. Their sole purpose is to be a representative of the one who sent them. From the Christian perspective, being an ambassador of Christ’s kingdom will make us stand out and live on the periphery. Does that surprise you? What on earth did you think you were getting yourself into when you said that “Jesus is Lord” at conversion? Our leader was so countercultural that they killed him for it!
So many live Christianity like a football player who is afraid to get hit. Imagine an NFL running back who spends the whole game avoiding physical contact. No one wants that guy on their team. He chose the wrong sport! He should have gone into curling or ping pong, but not football!
Christian, you’ve joined a “sport” that comes with tremendous victories and mountain-peak experiences. Indeed, if you remain faithful to Jesus, then by the time the game of life is completed, you will be a champion, carried off the field as a hero. But like any serious athlete, before the final whistle is blown, it will take living with exceptional determination and singular focus. It will mean that you will have to live an uncommon life.
So let the multitudes influence your favorite music genre, movie, or fashion choice, the consequences of which will be mostly inconsequential. But never entrust anyone with the authority to modify your commitment to Christ and reverence for the inerrant word of God. Repercussions of such a choice would be life-altering, both for you as an individual, and for the Lord’s church at large. For Alexander Hamilton had it right: the masses cannot be trusted. But God can.