Darrow Miller and Friends

Gordon College: Culture Wars Arrive on the Christian Campus

For some years now, people who hold to the Judeo-Christian faith have represented a set of ideas and ideals significantly different—diametrically opposed, in fact—from those embraced by atheistic humanists. Society has labeled this conflicting vision as the “culture wars.” It has largely been a conflict between the church and secular society.

Now the culture wars are coming to the church itself in a generational conflict between the millennials and their elders.

This clash is being manifest at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Gordon is one of the country’s leading evangelical liberal arts colleges in the country.

D_Michael_Lindsay_portraitRecently D. Michael Lindsay, the college president, was a signatory to a letter from other Christian leaders to President Barack Obama. The letter was seeking exemption for an upcoming executive order from the president barring discrimination against the LBGT community. Lindsay perceived that the order could violate the school’s freedom of religion and conscience and thus signed the letter. He grounded his argument in the “right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith.”

That’s when the generational conflict began. Many Gordon students wrote a letter of protest, denouncing Lindsay’s call for a religious exemption. They suspected the college of looking for a way to discriminate against the LGBT community. They wrote, “There is a distinction between allowing for freedom in the expression of religious beliefs and allowing the practice of discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The students contended that the letter President Lindsay signed did not “accurately reflect the diverse perspectives of the individuals affiliated with and represented by the Christian leaders who signed it.”

Go here to read more on this.

This protest came in spite of the positions clearly described (and presumably agreed to by the students) in the 2014-2015 Student Handbook. Consider the following excerpts:

As a Christian community, [Gordon College] seeks to maintain itself by fostering those ideals and standards that are consistent with a Christian worldview. These ideals and standards are broadly moral; they would be characteristic of any community that was self-consciously Christian. …

Gordon College strives to maintain its identity as a Christian academic community of students, faculty and staff. The College expects that all members of the College community:

1. Call themselves Christian by virtue of the grace of God and their personal commitment to Jesus Christ

2. Recognize the Bible to be the Word of God and, hence, fully authoritative in matters of faith and conduct …

Important to an understanding of all behavioral standards is the Christian’s obligation to separate himself from worldliness (Romans 12:2, I John 2:15). “Worldliness” is a subtle issue involving uncritical conformity to the prevailing spirit of the age. One’s disposition concerning such matters as materialism, secularism, isolationism, security, success, injustice, hedonism and moral relativism must stand in perpetual review. …

The following behavioral expectations are binding on all members of the Gordon community. 1. Those acts which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including but not limited to blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice, will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus.

Why this disconnect between the evangelical millennials and their parent’s generation (represented by the school’s leaders)?

Consider the findings of a recent survey, the “2014 State of Dating in America,” on the attitudes of Christian young people:

  • 61% would have sex before marriage
  • 56% approve of cohabitation
  • 59% said it doesn’t matter who is the primary family breadwinner
  • 34% said it’s OK to marry someone who isn’t a Christian

These attitudes reflect the impact of contemporary culture on Christian millennials. Many of them are shaped more by modern and post-modern culture than they are by the Bible, their family or their church.

Such attitudes actually play out in sexual behavior. According to a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 80% of self-identified evangelical millennials have had pre-marital sex.

I am convinced that people profess atheism for moral reasons, not metaphysical reasons. God has revealed himself through creation. Everywhere we look in the created order, we see the fingerprints of the Creator. Paul argues in Romans 1 that this is so clear that human beings are “without excuse.” The Greek word is anapologetos. We see the root of apologetics there, preceded by the negating prefix an. In other words, to deny God’s existence in the face of the evidence is to take a position that “cannot be defended.”

So how is it that anybody professes to be an atheist? Again, not for metaphysical reasons, but for moral reasons! People want to follow their animal instincts. They want license to do whatever they want without guilt. Such an arrangement is only possible in a universe without a moral order, a universe without God!

Atheists are atheists for moral reasons. They deny God for the sake of sexual freedom. Aldous Huxley, English philosopher, writer, and author of the classis Brave New World, is one of the few atheists with enough integrity to be transparent in this regard. In Confessions of a Professional Free-Thinker, he wrote

I had reasons not to want the world to have meaning, and as a result I assumed the world had no meaning, and I was readily able to find satisfactory grounds for this assumption … for me, as it undoubtedly was for most of my generation, the philosophy of meaninglessness was an instrument of liberation from a certain moral system. We were opposed to morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom [emphasis added].

Huxley is arguing that his generation wanted sexual freedom. A moral system would interfere with that license. To be free from a moral universe, they had to posit a world without meaning and thus a world without God. In short, it can be argued that atheists are atheists for moral reasons.

Which brings me back to the matter of evangelical-millennial support for the LGBT agenda. Why are they taking this position? Is it to justify their own sexual license? Does the postmodern mindset of sexual self-definition provide young evangelicals space for their own immorality? They dispute the moral standard of their own professed faith by supporting the LGBT lifestyle. Do they do this to rationalize their sin?

Whatever the case, millennial evangelicals are distancing themselves from the historic, Biblical understanding of covenantal marriage and the Bible’s breathtaking understanding of human sexuality. In doing so, the cultural wars have now come to the church.

  • Darrow Miller

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. Randy Sperger

    June 4, 2015 - 9:23 am

    Wow! In case you haven´t noticed we have been in cultural wars in the West since the Enlightenment till now! There has been much acceleration in the USA post WWI and even more post WWII. This is a war unto the death! The real death will be theirs… The humanists have produce the culture of Death. Their ultimate goal? Totally destroy Christianity and the Christian model of family. This is total war! Many in the church don´t even know there is a battle and what is it´s true nature. I was talking to one retiring pastor from the USA and he asked me: “Randy, you are always are talking about humanism this and humanism that! What is humanism?” Can you imagine? This is the ignorance of many, if not today, most of our modern clergy. A retiring pastor! and not even once understood the nature of the theological, philosophical and ideological enemy he was battling.

    • admin

      June 5, 2015 - 6:14 am


      Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comments.


  2. Bob Evans

    June 4, 2015 - 6:10 pm


    This is a very interesting discussion and poses some good and challenging questions for the modern church. In this discussion we clearly see an example of the world (current culture) disciplining at least a segment of the church. I see this happening through the ideas expressed in a recent Weekly Standard article by Joseph Epstien titled The Unassailable Virtue of Victims (http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/unassailable-virtue-victims_941011.html?page=1). Epstein opens with the following quote, which mirrors your final speculations.

    Our virtues lose themselves in selfishness
    as rivers are lost in the sea.
    —La Rochefoucauld

    One main theme of his essay is that by siding with the underdog / injured status of one (or many) of the recently minted victim categories empowers them as being virtuous.

    “Many people voted for Obama, as many women can be expected to vote for Hillary Clinton, because it made them feel virtuous to do so. The element of self-virtue—of having an elevated feeling about oneself—is perhaps insufficiently appreciated in American politics.”

    Extending non-judgmental affirming status to both the self identity and actions of the LGBT community is now seen in light of the inherent [with in modern cultural thinking in the West] virtue of victimhood. To judge their [LGBT] gender identity or even actions is to oppose an oppressed or downtrodden minority. This “oppression” is not “Christian.”

    Epstein goes on to state “Victims of an earlier time viewed themselves as supplicants, throwing themselves on the conscience if not mercy of those in power to raise them from their downtrodden condition.” Now they are the bullies ready to pounce on any real or perceived hurt, slight or wrong against they and their kind. … Fueled by their own high sense of virtue, of feeling themselves absolutely in the right, what they take to be this moral advantage allows them to overstate their case, to absolve themselves from all responsibility for their condition, to ask the impossible and demand it now, and then to demonstrate virulently, sometimes violently, when it isn’t forthcoming.”

    He then shifts the discussion to the narrow world of academia. “The contemporary university, where so many misbegotten ideas find fertile ground and ample watering, has been especially hospitable to the culture of victimhood. The two most consequential of these ideas, both catering directly to victims, are multiculturalism and its twin sister, enforced diversity. In this arena, multiculturalism means all cultures are ‘equal’ (I defer to your earlier blog on equality and equity for a deeper discussion of this tangent.) and thus diversity becomes the moral high ground, both of which lead to political correctness as the standard and measure of virtue rather than ethics or morality. “Now that so many different minority groups have become part of the contemporary university, the sensibility of their members, it became evident, must at all costs not be offended, their self-esteem in no way deflected, let alone deflated. In their putative defense, political correctness inevitably followed multiculturalism and diversity in universities as what psychologists might term a support system.”

    In this environment “Victims, even if self-appointed ones, must be protected at all costs, and political correctness was there to do the job.” To step outside these bounds is to open oneself up to criticism, censure and accusation of bigotry, and perhaps above all – lacking in virtue. Epstein states “Political correctness excludes candor, or even complexity, in discussion of public problems, questions, issues.” he gives numerous examples of words, phrases, and questions that are now verboten. The plain conclusion to each case is “To ask or to say any of these things disqualifies one instanter.”

    Through a series of examples, many involving LGBT issues, he goes on to demonstrate that “Thus has political correctness, the vigilantism of the victim, squashed discussion and in many realms of public life replaced ethics. ” He speaks of virtucrats whose taste is for real (or perceived) underdogs, for after all it is with the underdog that virtue resides. If I speak out against the state (or actions or ideas or whatever) of the underdog then, “I do not care about people” as much as the virtucrat. This then leads him to the following, well stated conclusions.

    “Yet the victims of our day make their appeal not to conscience but to guilt. An appeal to guilt is almost entirely negative; rather than awaken the best in one, it insists those who disagree with one are swine. An appeal to conscience, on the other hand, is an appeal to one’s ethical feeling, to one’s sense of fair play; it is fundamentally an appeal to act upon the best that is in one, one’s better nature.

    The brilliance of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. was their appeal to conscience, reinforced by their nonviolent means of achieving their respective ends of Indian independence and the abolishment of vile segregation laws. The victims of our day work at inducing guilt, exacting punishment where possible through boycott and disqualification, and above all capturing, as they have no doubt they do, the high ground of superior virtue.”

    Thus to answer the question you pose as to why these self professed Christian millennial’s at Gordon might take such a stance. I would say one reason is that they want to be seen and known as good people, as virtuous and moral, in short – as “nice.” Yet they have not looked at (or been taught or exposed to) the Biblical, Kingdom understanding of virtue and morality, of goodness, and of true compassion and kindness versus “niceness. Nor would they seem, in many instances to, to understand the liberating concept of following God’s “no”, out of nothing but relationship and honor to Him, even if one can’t see a reason for the “no”? (Per your blog Can We Say No? Are We Still Free?) Isn’t that after all what the first couple succumbed to and passed on to all of us?

    Thank you for your courage in addressing this topic and opening a discussion.

    Bob Evans

    • admin

      June 6, 2015 - 6:31 am


      thank you for your excellent response and encouraging words.