5. The laws our government enacts and the decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court impact the culture of our nation.
Not always, but often, a change in the law results in a change in culture. When the Supreme Court approves topless bars, the nation becomes more accepting of topless bars. After all, as they become more common, and we drive past so many, we become desensitized.
6. The Bible does not call on the church to change the culture of unbelievers. In fact, it seems to say the exact opposite.
Consider this very familiar passage —
(Rom 1:28-32 ESV) And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
This section of Rom goes back at least to v. 18, but this should be enough of Paul’s argument to make the point.
Speaking primarily of the Gentiles pre-Pentecost, Paul says that they failed to acknowledge God even though —
(Rom 1:19-20 ESV) 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
As a result of rejecting God’s will revealed in the Creation itself, God has given the Gentiles up to a host of sins. But not just any sins — sins that themselves point to God and his will.
In addition to addressing homosexuality in verses 26-27, Paul adds disobedience to parents, because every society understands that children should be obedient to their parents. He adds gossip and slander because you don’t need the Torah to know that these things are wrong.
In short, these are the sorts of sin that (a) are obviously wrong even to those who’ve never received a special revelation from God and (b) a fallen, broken society indulges in, even celebrates. And the fact that society takes obviously wrong things and pretends that they are healthy, good things (in their minds) demonstrates that there surely is a God and that he is not happy with how things are going.
But Paul’s remedy is not an advertising campaign, a change in the public school curriculum, or even campaigning for laws banning these practices. His solution is the gospel — salvation by faith leading to receipt of the Holy Spirit.
Not only that, but Paul declares that God “gave them up” to these sins. God wants a God-less society to act in God-less ways so that the need to return to God is obvious.
The “therefore” at the beginning of this verse shows that God’s “handing over” of human beings is his response to their culpable rejection of the knowledge of himself that he has made generally available (vv. 21–23). Paul’s use of the verb “hand over” to describe this retribution has its roots in the OT, where it is regularly used in the stereotyped formula according to which God “hands over” Israel’s enemies so that they may be defeated in battle. And, in an ironic role reversal, the same formula is used when God hands his own people over to another nation as punishment for their sins.
Somewhat similarly, Paul here alleges that God has “handed over” people to “uncleanness.” What does Paul mean by this? Clearly he cannot be saying that God impelled people to sin. Not only would this contradict the biblical depiction of God (cf. Jas. 1:13), but the phrase that qualifies this “handing over to uncleanness,” “in the passions of their hearts,” shows that those who were handed over were already immersed in sin. Paul’s purpose in this verse is to highlight the divine side of the cycle of sin; but it must be balanced with the human side, presented in Eph. 4:19, where Paul says that Gentiles “gave themselves up” to licentiousness, leading to all kinds of “uncleanness.”
… Chrysostom interprets this handing over in a passive sense: by withdrawing his influence over these disobedient idolaters, God permits them to continue in, and indeed to plunge more deeply into, the sin they had already chosen. As Godet puts it: “He [God] ceased to hold the boat as it was dragged by the current of the river.”
Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 110–111.
In short, when a people rejects God, God will first implore them to repent, as he implored the Israelites of the OT. But there comes a time when, just as God did with Israel, God gives up and lets the sinners sin. Indeed, he let’s them become the evidence for the sinfulness of sin, of the inhumanity of leaving God. He lets them sin so blatantly that the justness of his coming wrath will be plain to all.
Paul repeats ‘God gave them up’ (verses 24 and 26; it comes again in verse 28). When God gives human beings responsibility he means it. The choices we make, not only individually but as a species, are choices whose consequences God, alarmingly, allows us to explore. He will warn us; he will give us opportunities to repent and change course; but if we choose idolatry we must expect our humanness, bit by bit, to dissolve. When you worship the God in whose image you are made, you reflect that image more brightly, and become more fully and truly human. When you (and by ‘you’ I mean the human race as a whole, not simply individuals) worship something other than the living God, something that is itself merely another created object, and hence subject to decay and death, you diminish that image-bearingness, that essential humanness.
Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1: Chapters 1-8, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 23.
If we take Paul quite seriously, then we can hardly argue that it’s the church’s role to impose godly living on unbelievers through a change in culture. If the church encourages a culture in which people live like Christians without in fact being Christians, what good has the church actually done? Rather, it appears that God will leave those who reject him to become what godlessness turns us into — not just sinners (we all sin), but sadly corrupted, broken people who live lives so misshaped that the necessity for change, for a return to God, becomes obvious.
By this logic, one of the worst mistakes the church could make would be to rescue the unbelieving world from the consequences of their unbelief.