Though it isn’t the most delicate metaphor in the world, I have been grumbling of late about our propensity, especially in the Reformed world I am happily a part of, to suffer from spiritual constipation. This condition is what happens when we take in with our minds all manner of healthy theological food. We read the best books, attend the best conferences, and download the best podcasts. We take in and take in and take in. But all that information, that glorious, God-honoring, biblically sound information gets stuck in our heads. It doesn’t pass through our systems, entering our hearts and coming out our hands. We are a people of sound mind and cold heart.
It is, in one sense, a simple enough question to answer. When you remember that we are wicked enough to murder our own children it makes sense that we are also wicked enough to not be terribly concerned about the murder of children. Thus the answer to the question – why are Christians so profoundly unmoved by the murder of babies? – is this – sin. We are outside of wombs and therefore safe, and struggle to have compassion on those who are in danger.
It’s a strange phenomenon. I’ve written here on the sacred cows of evangelical social media, those themes that simply cannot be talked about without a sharp uptick in heat and a deep drop in light. Of late I’ve virtually set up camp on one of those third rails, considering on both my blog and my podcast issues related to various military engagements around the globe. I’m concerned that because some on the left instinctively hate America and in turn grumble every time a soldier takes up arms that we have lost the ability to think through important moral issues, none more important than the principles of just war. We have become reactionary, jingoistic, and profoundly emotional right where we ought to be most careful and dispassionate.
We are all tempted to be practical deists. The deists were the poster children for god-of-the-gaps theology. That is, because they wanted the universe to make sense, but didn’t want to have to answer to the living God, they posited a creator god (for how else could we have gotten here?) who, after creating the universe, took a walk, never to return. God explains the universe, but is not active in it. If He’s watching at all, it is from a distance, and with a deep indifference.
How important it is to not allow our grasp of man’s total depravity to cause us to miss the remnants of the image of God in us. We are plenty bad. Sin touches every part of our being, and makes us utterly unable to do anything in ourselves, by ourselves pleasing to God, including coming to faith on our own. We do not, however, run in precisely the opposite direction of where we should be running. Romans 1, wherein Paul’s chief goal is to explain the universal guilt of man, for instance, tells us not that man, made to worship God, in his sin merely refuses to worship God, but rather says we worship the creature rather than the Creator. Because we’re fallen we won’t worship God. Because we bear His image, however, we will worship. Even at Babel they didn’t merely turn their back on the dominion mandate but…
We had been through what was, up to that point, the most trying season of our lives. We had watched as our beloved church was torn apart by sin, slander and pride, too much of it our own. Relationships had been broken, reputations dragged through the mud. Denise and I had clung to each other through the tumult and finally found that the storm had calmed. We caught our breath, mourned the damage, but saw clear skies before us. Which is when I said to her, “Are you ready to go through this all over again?” I overcame her shock as I patiently explained to her that what we had just gone through wasn’t some bizarre aberration, a freakish anomaly. “This,” I told her, “is what the ministry is.”
Last Sunday I preached from Jeremiah where God speaks to His people explaining why He is sending Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. At the end of His list He rebukes them for causing their children to pass through the fire to Moloch. He goes so far as to suggest that this great evil, sacrificing their own children to this false god, “never crossed My mind.” If something is so wicked that the omniscient God never gave it a thought, it’s wicked.
It is a truth so astoundingly simple it’s a wonder we don’t all see it. But we don’t, precisely because we are blind, and we want. Here it is – the government has nothing that it has not first taken from someone else. Right? I mean, isn’t it obvious? The government doesn’t go into the marketplace, offer its goods for sale, make a profit and then determine what it will buy with its surplus. The government and the market are two fundamentally different orders of beings, the former being defined by force, the latter being defined by liberty.
A part of me died on Tuesday, at the birth of my first grandson. As he stepped out of his mother’s womb, I dipped my toe into that murky grave that awaits me. Though my love for him is beyond measure, I’m not completely ignorant. He’s not Jesus. Indeed he needs Jesus. That said, I’m drinking deep of that contentment that lead that grizzled old saint Simeon to, upon seeing the baby Jesus at the temple, cry out, “Lord let your servant now depart in peace.”
It is not, of course, a new thing, for one generation to grumble about the weaknesses of the next generation. Indeed, it isn’t uncommon for the complaints to be essentially the same – the younger generation is lazy, disrespectful, slovenly, self-indulgent. That the same complaints get made generation after generation, that the accused, sooner or later become the accusers, however, doesn’t make it not so. CS Lewis, in the true first story about Narnia, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, speaks through his alter ego, the professor. Lucy had claimed to have entered another world through a wardrobe in the professor’s house and to have spent hours therein, only to reappear in our world just minutes after her disappearance. Edmund had shared some of that experience, but wickedly denied such. Peter and Susan, the oldest of the four were befuddled. The Professor helped them see that it was more…