21st Century Circumcision image

21st Century Circumcision

The news that Miroslav Volf has been overtaken by a bad case of moral relativism is sad, but perhaps not surprising: we live in an age when such things pass by all too frequently. Holding firm to a consistent, biblical, ethic faces particular challenges in our day. It is very difficult to remain publicly acceptable without adopting current moral positions, especially in the area of human sexuality.

The context and issue at hand was very different, but Paul’s comments towards the end of his letter to the Galatians are pertinent:

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:12)

Who Paul was gunning for in this letter has been the source of much debate in recent years (just type ‘Galatians’ in the Think search box) but this statement about the motives of the circumcision party is telling. Conformity to a socially demanded practice is being enforced by those who want to avoid persecution as a result of their belonging to a marginal group. They don’t even particularly believe in the cause, Paul seems to suggest, but they are forcing others to adhere to it in order to save their own skins (no pun intended).

The connection to contemporary ethical disagreements is obvious. In the contemporary world – especially the academic world, with its trigger warnings, safe-spaces, and bucket loads of other oppressive, censorious nonsense – the failure to adhere to the new orthodoxy can be ruinous. We thought we were living in Athens, not Babylon, and are not well equipped for life at the margins of society. So it is unsurprising to find those that claim to be of us seeking to coerce us into 21st century equivalents of circumcision. That way respectability can be maintained and persecution avoided. I think I know how the Apostle Paul would respond: the answer is also in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 12. Pithy.


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