Shuffling the Deck Chairs on the Titanic. It is Time to Retire a Discredited Proverb

The secular worldview has morals, but it cannot rationally justify them or keep from them becoming relative at some point. Secularism, because of its rejection of God’s revelation in both nature and Word, has only humanity to guide it. There are no moral absolutes, and so what is morally right or wrong will eventually be modified.

This is very clear in the eagerness of the secularist to embrace medical dictatorship without critical complaint: the confinement without trial (nursing home residents), tearing families apart for months, destruction of personal incomes and the subsequent enrichment of the rule-makers and their colleagues, the banning of normal social behaviour, forcible wearing of face-coverings, and now a demand to surrender bodily autonomy are all what a few years ago would be called immoral.

Now these have become moral, and that shift came with almost no argument. People complain about the details, but went along anyway. The Christian faith provides the critical tools to examine, critique, and offer alternatives to each of these in a time of a worldwide pandemic, but cannot get a hearing. The response to the pandemic is demonstrably far worse than the disease, but the opinion that we are on the wrong track is limited only to outliers, certainly not the mainstream governmental officials, medical/scientific communities, media, and large business.

But the reason that Christians are largely ignored is because they are not there to be heard. Few are the committed Christians in any of the fields that control society: government, science, education, media, business, etc. They exist, but we have been absent for almost two centuries. It is now very difficult, but necessary, for large number of Christians who have a real Christian worldview, to enter all fields of human knowledge. I do not mean a Christian who goes to church on Sunday and operates in his/her profession on Monday as a pagan.

The reason for our long absence is the hold that dispensationalism and pietism has had and has now I the church. These views concede this world to Satan, even though the Bible does not. It relegates God to the heart, church, and in an increasing limited sense, to the family. A Christian would have to be totally asleep to fail to see that a secular mindset (which is in all-out war against the Christian worldview) is encroaching in every place humans inhabit. The willingness for the church to concede its worship, fellowship, and education to the state in these past few months is indicative of the degree to which the church has withdrawn.

It is the church that needs a Christian worldview most of all. I believe the near-death experience of Biblical Christianity in the West, which reached its peak in 2020-2021 has been long in coming. The church already had one foot out of the door and abandoned its commission to disciple the nations. And it is abandonment to reduce “disciple the nations” to “make church-goers of the nations.”

Here’s a test: if a medical doctor, a lawyer, a judge, or a parliamentarian is converted to Christ, what counsel do you give them for their profession? Do you tell them they must operate with honesty and integrity? Good. Do you tell them they must treat all cases that come to them with the same supposed objectivity and neutrality they exercised prior to their conversion? That is very bad. You are teaching them to live a lie, and are siding with secularism. You are teaching your disciple that their faith has no bearing in the “real world.” Secularists are not neutral nor objective, but their presuppositions and prejudices are expressed as though they are. There is no neutrality. Secularists pretend neutrality, and pietistic Christianity goes along with the charade.

This is how the church loses its belief in moral absolutes. When the secular world shifts, the church keeps up instead of critiquing the shift, offering alternatives, or resisting.

If your view is that to be involved in this world is just “shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic,” you need to repent of your non-Christian worldview. The world needs a Christian worldview, because no other approach will fulfill the desires God has for humanity and avoid His judgement. Of course, a secularist denies both judgement and God Himself, but that is irrelevant to the facts.

Black History Month: Charles Octavius Boothe

I would like to contribute to Black History Month by highlighting men and women of excellence, and when possible, of Christian character. I will intentionally avoid Marxists, Socialists, Liberation Theologians and those who advocate (or participated in) the murder of innocent people. Angela Davis comes to mind, a celebrated terrorist.

Today’s Christian celebration of Black History Month is the often forgotten Charles Octavius Boothe.

“Charles Octavius Boothe (1845–1924) was a reluctant teacher. To spare others his frustration with learning and teaching from books laced with dense theological rhetoric, Boothe wrote Plain Theology for Plain People.

Boothe wrote for the average sharecropper. He accommodated an unlearned audience that included pastors, teachers, and community leaders born into poverty with little access to education. While leaders and laity alike desperately needed biblical and theological truth, they had little time, energy, and resources to pursue education. “The doctrines of our holy religion need to be studied in order, according to some definite system,” he wrote, “but simplicity should prevail—simplicity of arrangement and simplicity of language.” Thus, Boothe set out to write a succinct and accessible theological handbook.


On June 13, 1845 Charles Octavius Boothe was born in Mobile County Alabama. He was the legal property of Nathaniel Howard.

As a slave he was treated relatively mildly. “I think I can say that [my master] and I really loved each other,” he wrote. Nevertheless, he was a frank critic of slavery. He indicted all white Americans for imposing barbarous conditions upon his people. Proponents of slavery argued that God used the practice to bring blacks to salvation; in contrast, Boothe contended that the gospel spread to slaves despite chains and oppression. “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:20 ESV). God takes no pleasure in the denial of his image; yet nothing prevents his will.

Nearly four million slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. Still, blacks remained captive to social and economic norms that complicated daily life. Legislation did not eradicate four hundred years of white contempt. Former slaves had few skills, resources, and institutions to support themselves. Due to these economic challenges, sharecropping—freed slaves rented and tended part of a white farmer’s land in exchange for a variable percentage of its yield—became a common practice for blacks. They still lacked the means to be truly independent.

Racial uplift was Boothe’s consuming passion. Following the Civil War (1861–1865), he worked to improve the spiritual, social, and intellectual well-being of blacks in a society that denied their humanity before God and in its Constitution. Boothe focused on education because an educated black populace contradicted the notion among whites that blacks would regress into “savagery.”

Boothe learned how to read at a young age. At the age of three he learned the alphabet from the lettering of a tin plate. His ability was nurtured by several teachers who boarded at the estate where he was enslaved.

As a teenager, Boothe worked as a clerk at a local law firm. He explored Scripture on a regular basis, because mid-nineteenth-century legal practice was rooted in biblical logic. As he became increasingly conversant with the Bible, his faith matured. From childhood he prayed and heard the Bible read, but Boothe said that “In 1865 … I reached an experience of grace which so strengthened me as to fix me on the side of God’s people.” In March of 1866 he received baptism.

For Boothe the church must play a crucial role in racial uplift. He established and pastored two churches: First Colored Baptist Church in Meridian, Mississippi, and Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was always a pillar in the Montgomery community, but in recent decades, it has become internationally renowned for its role in the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of its twentieth pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968). It has been renamed King Memorial Baptist Church.

In the years following Emancipation, the church became the epicenter of the black community. The church was the sole institution that African Americans controlled, and it was central to the black community—not only as a spiritual outpost, but also as a social hub and political nerve center. Often the most educated people in the black community were pastors who had the rhetorical skill necessary to advocate for their congregants. Moreover, full-time ministers at large churches were uniquely situated to advocate for racial justice. They were financially independent from whites, so they could represent blacks on social issues without fear of lost wages—though they could suffer other forms of retaliation like church burning, physical violence, and intimidation.

Ordained ministers like Boothe played a significant role in elevating literacy rates among black Southerners from 10 percent in 1860 to nearly 43 percent in 1890. Boothe promoted literacy so former slaves could read the Bible and break free of the oppressive interpretive practices that made the Christian faith a tool to subjugate blacks during slavery. By reading the Bible for themselves blacks could escape manipulative interpretations that were used to foster docility in slaves and make obedience to their masters synonymous with obedience to God.

He engaged society based on the biblical premise that all people are granted equal dignity as divine image bearers. Boothe’s theological convictions compelled him to be vocal concerning immigration. In 1901 he joined Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) to oppose Alabama’s legal disenfranchisement of blacks.

Boothe established institutions vital for blacks to flourish beyond slavery’s chains. He taught for the Freedmen’s Bureau, which supported black education and provided emancipated slaves food, shelter, medical care, and legal assistance. As a member of the Colored Baptist Missionary Convention, Boothe facilitated literacy programs and theological training for black preachers and laypeople. In 1878 he and other convention leaders founded Selma University; he served as its second president (1901–1902). Boothe also served as the editor of The Baptist Pioneer, which helped underwrite Selma University.

In his life and ministry Boothe emphasized interracial cooperation—even though he ministered during the onset of Jim Crow Segregation and at the height of lynching terror—perhaps in part because as a boy Boothe had had positive interactions with whites. At a Baptist church near his home, whites and blacks worshiped together, served each other, and washed each other’s feet. Whites and blacks alike sought out his grandmother, a respected woman of prayer, for comfort during times of sorrow. So he cooperated with those willing to support black social advancement and combat racial oppression despite their race. Boothe worked collaboratively with white Baptist groups like the Alabama Baptist Convention (of the Southern Baptist Convention), the American Baptist Home Missionary Society, and philanthropists to obtain funding for training ministers and for the operating expenses of Selma University.

After decades of pastoral ministry, educational innovation, and public engagement, Boothe doubted the effectiveness of his efforts for racial reconciliation in the South. The pace of change was slow. In 1910—just before the Great Migration (1915–1930), when 1.6 million blacks moved from the rural South to Midwestern and Southern cities—Boothe moved to Detroit, where he died in 1924. Little is known of his time in Detroit—not even the precise date of his death.

Walter R. Strickland II, “Introduction to Plain Theology for Plain People,” in Plain Theology for Plain People (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), vii–x.