How Should Christians Respond to Censure?

If you found this article helpful, you might enjoy reading our article, “What to do when your boss encourages you to join the moral revolution.”


This is not the time for Christians to retreat to a hidey-hole and say, “The world’s going to hell and a handbasket and I can do nothing to stop it.” This is not the time to dispense with care for what goes on outside the wall, or outside the street, or outside the boundary of your neighborhood. The enemies of the Lord wish to squelch the church (Mark 4:4; 1 Pt. 5:8),[1] all in the name of tolerance. It’s a tolerant censure, which is as gentle as a meat-ax.

It increasingly feels like the only thoughts permitted are those prescribed by the “experts” of the ruling class. It’s more than a feeling. It’s the sad denouement of the work of Herbert Marcuse, the radical philosopher from the 1960s and 1970s. Marcuse called for intolerance toward those who wouldn’t tolerate everything. It was a new kind of tolerance—totalitarian intolerance. If that sounds like something’s been turned upside down then you understand exactly what Marcuse was aiming for, namely, the overthrow of the entire moral order of Western Civilization. Marcuse’s scheme for liberating people from the morality of Christianity was to realign intolerance as tolerance. Marcuse distinguished between two kinds of tolerance: false tolerance and liberating tolerance. In D.A. Carson’s excellent book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, he refers to this as the “old tolerance” and the “new tolerance.” The old tolerance is what undergirds free society. It presupposes that objective truth is real and we should all want to find it and believe it. Thus, society needs to be arranged so that people can freely argue that one idea is better than another.[2] The new tolerance Marcuse defines as “intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.”[3] Functionally, this means that when Christians voice opposition to the new moral order, they are automatically suppressed under the condemning label of “intolerant!”[4]

The enemy loves it when Christians are quiet. Why? For the same reason that burglars don’t like doorbell cameras and poachers don’t like game-wardens. A censor buries ideas. A censure harshly criticizes ideas. To be censored is to be prevented from saying your ideas. To be censured is to be chided after you’ve said it. Both censure and censor come from the Latin censura, which means judgment or assessment. Modern methods of censuring (and censoring) are as diverse as a Community College billboard. Sometimes it involves the state, but oftentimes it is exercised through sundry forms of economic and social pressure. Christians may be tempted to speak only in whispers to avoid antagonistic attention.

How Should the Church Respond?

The church’s duty is this: First, to have Christian convictions. Second, to live and speak those convictions publicly. In 1863 William Marsh articulated this duty in a letter to J.C. Ryle, “Controversy, with meekness and wisdom, in the present day is a bounden duty; silence would be too much like neutrality, and neutrality is treason.”

Since oppression tends to drive the wiseman into madness (Eccl. 7:7), Christians must remember at least three things as they deliberately resist the world’s censure.

First, you have to disagree with someone

You can’t please all the talking heads. You must disagree with one party or another, with one idea or another. There’s no use in trying to avoid it. It isn’t the job of Christians to stand in the middle and help good compromise with evil. Such a compromise invites incoming fire from both sides. As the saying goes, the one who attempts to please all pleases none. Somehow Christians now think it is a virtue to find praiseworthy things in false teaching. This new habit runs counter to 2 Peter 2 and Matthew 23. The biblical pattern establishes that proclaiming truth requires challenging error. The church continued this pattern throughout its history. For example, the church challenged Gnosticism in the second century, Augustine challenged Pelagius in the fourth century, and Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church and restored the Bible to its place of authority in the sixteenth century.

Besides, why would Christians want to win the applause of a world living by lies? Before the Soviets expelled Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1974, he wrote this to his countrymen, “But let us at least refuse to say what we do not think.” This is largely the situation Christians face today, where they are pressured to say things they don’t even think—that statistical inequality is evidence of injustice (socialism), that those with more melanin in their skin have elevated access to truth (critical theory), that man evolved from goo (Neo-Darwinism). We must take courage and not mindlessly repeat the ideas of government school curriculum writers. We must, as Rod Dreher exhorts, “Live not by lies.”

Second, your conduct is seen by unseen beings

The average modern person lives in an immanent frame. For them, this world is all there is. It has to be seen to be believed. In contrast, Christians inhabit a far bigger world. For them, the meta-reality is unseen. Paul tells Timothy, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). You are seen by God the Father, who you do not now see. You are seen by God the Son, who you do not now see. You are seen by angels, who you do not now see.

We must understand why Christians are swayed by the world’s censure. It’s not primarily fear, though fear can be persuasive. It is, as Jesus said, because people love the praise of man more than the praise of God (John 12:43). Why do people love the praise of man more than the praise of God? It has to do with delayed gratification. More specifically, it has to do with the difficulty in delaying gratification. When you obey the Lord, God and the angels see it. And they will praise you when you are in heaven. When you obey the zeitgeist, people see it. And they praise you now. You exchange future glory for immediate glory. You cannot be praised by men unless you are seen by men. Yet Jesus tells us that many good deeds consist in not being seen by others. Fret not, God and the angels see it (Mt. 6:3-4).

The reason the world’s judgment should be of no account is that your soul will be judged by him who made it. The Lord will not be impressed with a resume filled with the applause of wicked creatures and blind judges. You respond and say, “But the shame of the world is too great to bear. The ridicule of the Twitter mob is too much to endure.” This, however, is short-sighted. Will not the shame of God be much greater to bear? Will not the ridicule of God be too much to endure? Jesus warned, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 10:32f).

Third, you must join with the church of Jesus Christ

If you are dissatisfied with the world, if you thirst for truth and righteousness, if you wish to see the truth of the living God, then join a faithful local church. If it is a true church of Jesus Christ, then it will see the orange barricades of the secular censure and drive right through them (Col. 2:8). Only then will you receive a message from God.


J.I. Packer wrote, “Ease and luxury, such as our affluence bring us today, do not make for maturity; hardships and struggle however do.”[5] Are you fearful that if you don’t comply with the censure, you will be less successful in this world? Are you worried it will hinder promotion at your job? Or that it will limit you politically or socially? Are you anxious that becoming a citizen of another world will make you less fit to move up in this one? Do you wonder how Christians will advance if they don’t play by the world’s rules? And if they don’t advance, how will they have power enough to solve the world’s problems?

In response to this flurry of unease, we must learn that the world’s problems will never be solved by those who censure God’s truth. This world will not be bettered by those who hate God. To restore the world, you must stand with the God who made it, which means testifying to the truth of the Bible: That the world is hopelessly lost in sin (Rom. 3:23); that there is a holy (Lev. 11:44), infinite (Ps. 93:2), living (2 Cor. 3:3), Creator-God of the universe (Eph. 3:9) who patiently upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3); that he has revealed himself to the world in nature (Rom. 1:20f), in his written word (2 Pt. 1:21), and his Son, Jesus Christ the Lord (Gal. 4:4f); that salvation from the guilt of sin is found in no other name but Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; 10:43; 13:38); that this salvation is a free gift (Rom. 5:15) to be treasured (Mt. 13:44).

In today’s world it is risky to stand boldly on our Christian convictions, because, as J. Gresham Machen says, it is, “An unpopular message it is—an impractical message, … But it is the message of the Christian Church. Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life.”[6]


[2] Roger Scruton says this of the old tolerance, “The freedom to entertain and express opinions, however offensive to others, has been regarded since Locke as the sine qua non of a free society. This freedom was enshrined in the American Constitution, defended in the face of the Victorian moralists by John Stuart Mill, and upheld in our time by the dissidents under communist and fascist dictatorships. So much of a shibboleth has it become, that commentators barely distinguish free speech from democracy, and regard both as the default positions of humanity.” How to be a Conservative (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 169.


[4] For a history of political correctness, see Michael Knowles book Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds (Washington D.C.; Regnery Publishing, 2021).

[5] J.I. Packer. A Quest for Godliness: A Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1990), 22.

[6] J. Gresham Machen, What is Christianity? And Other Addresses (Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 1951), 287.

Jason Cherry is an elder at Trinity Reformed Church, as well as a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville, Alabama. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.