Friday, May 16, 2014

Balancing in the center

Try if we might, believers are caught up in the problems of this world, as we live in it. The growing ever intolerant Liberalism in western society with its moral squalor and decadence has affected us in many ways. The promotion of marriage degeneration and perversity complete with the twisting of language places biblical Christianity in the position of constantly having to justify itself, instead of the other way around. Previous generations for example would have been astonished that one has to defend the notion that marriage is between one man and one woman.

In this light, it is very tempting to veer in the opposite direction, to veer strongly to the right. In reaction to moral anarchy, it is tempting to veer towards a police state. Growing irreligion makes the concept of Christendom nostalgic. This does not happen only among Christians. The resurgence in Islam might be a reaction against the irreligion promoted by the loony left in the Western world.

Tempting as the siren call of Christendom, a return to Rome or Constantinople, might be, that is not the way forward. Neither is Putin's "Third Rome" the answer. The problem with this panting after Christendom of any kind is that they have rose-tinted glasses — an underestimation of sin, and an over-realized eschatology. It is the perennial dream of the golden age, that somehow if we can just "go back to the good old days," everything would be back to normal. What they are seeking for is a mirage, something that can only be realized in heaven never on earth.

The collective memories of peoples and cultures seem to quite short. Veering towards the right might seem great when one sees the anarchy and squalor in the left, but one ignores the real danger in the right. The polar opposite of Liberalism is traditional Fascism. Think Mussolini. Think Hitler. Is that something Christians should be desiring, assuming that instead of persecuting the Church, the Führer decided to persecute the immoral. Oh wait, they did just that, while of course being immoral themselves. Ernst Röhm, the notorious homosexual Nazi, persecuted other homosexuals and threw them into concentration camps.

The problem for all humanity is that we feel deficient, because of our sin we are now east of Eden. The history of humanity is the struggle to attain paradise, either personally or collectively. Platonists and the mystics see it as an individual ascent towards God. In secular society, this struggle to attain paradise is clothed in the language of "progress" and "rights." Religious activists, as opposed to mystics, see the struggle as the attempt to re-create the perfect society on earth, whether it is medieval Christendom or the Islamic Caliphate. One can strive for paradise by the left-wing approach of communism or communitarianism, or radical individual and sexual autonomy, or one can strive for paradise through strict enforcement of religious laws and regulations. Missing in all this is the approach of Scripture.

Scripture calls believers pilgrims, just like Abraham (Heb. 11, 1 Peter). We were cut off east of Eden, but now God has promised us an inheritance, the eternal City of God. What all humanity desires, we have it promised to us. Man has been trying to recreate paradise in his own terms, often violently and running roughshod over the bodies and blood or all who oppose their vision. The hubris on the left is matched by the hubris on the right. For believers however, we should not be captivated by any of these efforts to regain paradise, for why should we want to create heaven when heaven is already promised to us?

As pilgrims, we struggle because we have not yet received our inheritance. We have not yet arrived. Yet, it is precisely because of this that this life is to be lived by faith alone. It is a daily struggle, but that is what faith is, the assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). We are to reject the narratives of both the left and the right, while striving to do good to all.


Gregory S. Gill said...

Great post. I must say that I believe with Gordon H. Clarke, and those at The Trinity Foundation that faith is nothing but just mere intellectual ascent to the gospel which only a regenerate soul can do by The Spirit. And which always results in sanctification of the Christian.
Where there is no sanctification then the person has not intellectual ascented to the gospel.

PuritanReformed said...

Actually, Clark did not believe that faith is *mere* intellectual assent. Rather, he believed that faith is assent, which is primarily intellectual and encompasses the whole person. *Mere* assent to Clark is a lie, taking the truths of God on the lips not in the heart.