By Bob Allen
Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren urged participants in a Vatican conference on marriage and the family “to never give up and to never give in” on the defense of sexual morality.
“The church cannot be salt and light in a crumbling culture if we cave in to the sexual revolution and if we fail to provide a counterculture witness,” Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said in the 28th message at the Nov. 17-19 international colloquium on “The Complementarity of Man and Woman.”
“It is a total myth that we must compromise and give up on biblical truth and marriage in order to evangelize,” Warren said. While conventional wisdom says the reason people aren’t coming to church is because Christians are out of touch when it comes to sex, Warren said, “That’s just not true.”
He said 20 years ago he wrote a book called The Purpose Driven Church, with the subtitle, “Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission.”
“I think we proved it, said Warren, who last month baptized the 40,000th adult convert at Saddleback Church. “We didn’t compromise, and we didn’t cave in.”
“In the end we have to be merciful to the fallen,” Warren said. “We have to show grace to the struggling. We have to be patient to the doubting, but when God’s word is clear, we must not, we cannot, back up, back down, back off, backslide, or just give in.”
“The church must never be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by applause, frustrated by problems, debilitated by distractions or intimidated by evil,” Warren concluded. “We must keep running the race with our eye on the goal, not on those shouting from the sideline. We must be Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused, so that we cannot be bought, we will not be compromised and we shall not quit until we finish the race.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, touched on similar themes in his address to the conference Nov. 18.
“The sexual revolution is not liberation at all, but simply the imposition of a different sort of patriarchy,” Moore contended. “The sexual revolution empowers men to pursue a Darwinian fantasy of the predatory alpha-male, rooted in the values of power, prestige and personal pleasure.”
“Does anyone really believe these things will empower women or children?” Moore asked. “We see the wreckage of sexuality as self-expression all around us, and we will see more yet.”
Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said in a Patheos blog Nov. 17 that seeing diverse religious groups rally around the notion of the “complementarity” of the sexes “warms my heart.”
“I often find that CBMW is a lonely voice promoting complementarity, the idea that the sexes fit together and become one as the fulfillment of our distinctiveness,” said Strachan, who also works as assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and its Boyce College.
Strachan celebrated a statement by Pope Francis saying “complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.”
“It is refreshing to hear such formulations expressed in public, and by such a public figure,” Strachan said.
“Evangelicals have participated in a major debate over gender roles for some time now,” Strachan said. “Complementarity has become less popular than it once was, and churches are sorely tempted to give up on this biblical doctrine.”
Strachan said “there is no Christian marriage without complementarity.”
“Marriage is defined by God and signified by nature,” he said. “We can try to redefine it, but if a union is to be a marriage, it must be complementary. Union only comes between a man and a woman; children are produced only through a man and a woman.”
Julie Anne Smith, who writes about abusive religious practices at a blog called Spiritual Sounding Board, said she doubts the pontiff is using the word in the same sense that it is used by proponents of biblical patriarchy.
“Pope Francis is in agreement with CBMW’s foundational issues of marriage: that marriage is between a man and a woman as husband and wife (as opposed to same-sex marriage families),” she observed. “He talks about the cheapening of marriage, and I think most of us can agree that we have seen lack of commitment in couples to stay married when the going gets tough.”
Smith said the CBMW goes beyond that to claim the Bible teaches male headship and wifely submission in the home, lists 83 rules for women in Wayne Grudem’s 2006 book, Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism, and in some cases discourages wives from working outside of the home.
“I’ve searched high and low and can find no indication that Pope Francis endorses the extra-biblical rules that define the word complementarity in the same way as Strachan and his friends at CBMW,” she said.