In his sermon, “Learning in War-Time,” C. S. Lewis stated: “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” For Christians seeking to influence our secular culture, this often entails utilizing secular arguments for spiritual ends.
For example, consider the growing movement to legalize prostitution. Oregon’s House Judiciary Committee is currently considering a bill that would decriminalize so-called “sex work.” The ACLU has come out in support of this movement. When Vice President Kamala Harris was running for president in 2019, she voiced her support as well.
Advocates claim that “criminalization of prostitution contributes to community violence, propagates crime, blocks access to public health resources, is an ineffective deterrent to participation in sex work, and is deeply harmful to sex workers.”
They add that criminalizing sex work causes workers to fear the police, making them less likely to ask for help if they face danger from a client. They say it also makes it harder for sex workers to access health care, welfare benefits, and social services.
However, supporters of decriminalizing “sex work” should acknowledge the risks for “sex workers.”
A self-described feminist writes that “prostitution is inherently abusive, and a cause and a consequence of women’s inequality.” One study of prostituted women in nine countries found that 70 to 95 percent were physically assaulted; 60 to 75 percent were raped; and 89 percent told researchers that they urgently wanted to escape prostitution.
In addition, the US Department of State warns that “where prostitution is legalized or tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery.” A study published by the Harvard Law School reported that “countries with legalized prostitution are associated with higher human trafficking inflows than countries where prostitution is prohibited.”
Children and gender transitions
Let’s consider another example of using secular arguments in a secular culture to advance a spiritual outcome.
A physical education teacher recently made national headlines when he spoke against a policy affirming gender transitions by children. He was subsequently placed on leave from his job. A court reinstated him, but the obvious threat to those who stand against this tide is clear.
Glenn T. Stanton, the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, writes in the Federalist that science is clearly on the teacher’s side. Studies show that 75 to 90 percent of children struggling with gender dysphoria (confusion over their gender identity) revert to identifying with their natural sex and gender by puberty.
However, when adults around such children “affirm” their dysphoria by cooperating with name, clothing, pronoun, and other identity changes, they can make it exceedingly difficult for the child to revert to their natural sex identity as they desire. In support of this fact, Stanton refers to numerous studies from prestigious centers and scholars in the study of sexual behavior.
He closes by citing the work of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and the current and long-time editor of the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. Dr. Zucker led the world-renowned Child, Youth, and Family Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto for decades and was selected by the American Psychiatric Association to chair the workgroup that developed the clinical criteria for gender dysphoria.
Dr. Zucker notes that the majority of young children experiencing gender dysphoria do not suffer from this condition “when followed up in adolescence or adulthood.” He therefore argues that supporting gender transition in children can often be the least attractive therapy option.
“Though I was blind, now I see”
Using evidence that will be persuasive for those we seek to persuade is a biblical strategy.
When Paul spoke to Jews in Thessalonica, he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2–3). His persuasion was effective, leading a large number of people to Christ (v. 4).
However, when the apostle spoke to Greek philosophers in Athens, he did not quote a single verse from the Bible, knowing that they would reject its authority. Instead, he quoted the Greek poets Epimenides and Aratus (Acts 17:28). Once again, his persuasion was effective, leading a member of the Areopagus (the leading intellectual group in their culture) to Christ (v. 34).
You might be thinking that you’re not the Apostle Paul or a professional cultural apologist like Glenn Stanton or myself. Here’s the good news: anyone who is willing to be used by God will be used by God.
You have spiritual gifts which equip and empower you for your kingdom calling. (For more, see my online spiritual gifts analysis here.) You have a lifetime of expertise and experience that can be used by the Spirit to declare and defend your faith.
Furthermore, we can know that God will only lead us into opportunities where he intends to use us. He is already preparing the mind and heart of the next person he intends you to engage with biblical truth. He is already preparing your mind and heart for that engagement.
And the story of your personal faith is more persuasive than you might imagine. When a man born blind was healed by Jesus and then called by the religious authorities to account for his healing, he told them, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
Has Jesus opened your spiritual eyes? With whom will you share the good news today?
NOTE: For more on God’s unique call for us, see my latest website article, “A bear on a pole and a dog herding on a farm: Finding and fulfilling our mission.” For a moving invitation to trust our Father’s unconditional love for us, see Minni Elkins’ article, “High school principal Marcus Gause sings to graduates: God’s message through music.” For ways to share our faith across cultures, see Mark Legg’s insightful article, “215 children’s bodies found at Kamloops Indian Residential School: Mourning the church’s neglect.”