When a Public Mind Cannot Repent

Many Christian activists and reformers are in that position because they see — they anticipate, they look forward, they can run out the consequences. If they were in a position to do so, they would be good providers for our society. The word provide comes from two Latin words, meaning to see beforehand. You can give the provision because you saw it coming.

When someone sees ordinary things coming — springtime and harvest, for example — he is considered diligent. The sluggard is surprised by the arrival of winter. He wants desperately, but has nothing (Prov. 13:4). He is reduced to begging in the time of harvest (Prov. 20:4). But can you warn him beforehand? Not a bit of it — he is wiser in his own conceits than seven men with good reasons (Prov. 26:16).

When someone sees extraordinary things coming — the famine that threatened Egypt, for example — he is considered a prophet like Joseph. When someone truly identifies future things in a way that is not consistent with chance, we say that he is a prophet of God (Is. 41:23). And (in a movie) if someone were able to predict the winning lottery numbers, we would say it was clairvoyance . . . or cheating.

But when someone sees damnation coming to someone, the more his prediction is confirmed, the more it is discounted and despised. This applies to individuals who are in the process of apostasy, and it applies to cultures that are coming apart. Those who anticipate, those who see, those who predict, are like Cassandra, speaking the truth and never believed. This is because of the very nature of damnation. When someone is spiraling toward the darkness, the light doesn’t get any better as he goes. This is happening to them because they can’t see. This is what a judicial stupor is.

Let me illustrate it with individuals first, and then move on to our culture at large. Suppose you have two partners in a business, fast friends. They have strong fellowship together, and are very much of one mind (Ps. 56:14). After a few years, one of them starts to say and do some strange things — reading odd books, watching movies he shouldn’t, dropping the random comment here and there. The two friends talk about it, agreeing to disagree at the end, but the healthy friend remains worried. Then one day something happens that makes a bigger confrontation necessary. Not the end of the world, but it needs to be addressed. Suppose the one friend says to the other, in a spirit of frank earnestness, that if you keep this up, if you keep thinking like this, if you continue going in this direction, you are going to wind up divorcing your wife, and you will run off with some teenage boy who wants to become a model in Manhattan. And after you are gone, we will discover how much money you embezzled. “Don’t do this to me, man.” The other friend is shocked, and denies all of it. “That could never happen. It saddens me to think . . .” Now — five years later, he divorces his wife, runs off with a boy who was 13 when the prediction was made, and the auditor calls the remaining partner with some bad news. And the point is this. For the person who is apostatizing, for the person who is falling away, the accuracy of the predictions made beforehand does not in any way confirm that he is in the wrong. The nature of doing wrong is self-will, with the outside world and all its facts considered to be irrelevant. To the extent they are thought about at all, they are just an additional grievance. Every confirmation of the truth after the event is filed in the how-dare-he file.

This is our position as we are trying to confront our nation. Each new outrage is met with a new set of predictions, and is answered with a fusillade of denunciations, denials, and curses. Homosexual marriage doesn’t mean polygamy, you bozo. Polygamy doesn’t mean sanctioned pederasty, you bozo. Then, three weeks after the ink is dry on the Gay-Is-The-New-Straight legislation, who do you find testifying before Congress? Is it the Big Love family? What a shock. But if you hope that pointing out that you called this shot beforehand, and that it was stoutly denied beforehand by everybody in the room, will convince anybody in the room now, you are living in a dream world. Winning an argument, with documents and everything, is not what brings repentance.

This is because cultural damnation is denial of God, denial of the truth, denial of reason, denial of what is obvious, and it is denial of all these things, no matter what. Absolutely anything can be repulsed (and will be repulsed) by a heart in this condition. A private heart in this condition cannot repent. A public mind in this condition cannot repent. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can cause the old heart to see. And that is why, when the Spirit moves, He does what He does by giving a new heart.

And when He does that, nothing can stop Him.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • http://www.thriceholy.net Fredericka

    “. . .they can run out the consequences.”

    The Bible denies the existence of such people: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.” (James 4:13-16).

  • Vishwanath

    But, as I am sure you were about to say, there is Good News. Jesus Christ is risen and He will glorify Himself through even this. In the meantime, as I am certain you were going to point out, we should love these horrible people and pray to Him for the well being of those who persecute us.
    We should not, as you surely were hastening to add, seek after power etc. like the Gentiles do, but seek first His Kingdom, which is not of this world. We must rest in Him and trust Him to provide for us.
    You didn’t qualify your bad news with the Good, but its ok, your brethren have got your back. :)

  • David Morgan

    “Then, three weeks after the ink is dry on the Gay-Is-The-New-Straight legislation, who do you find testifying before Congress? Is it the Big Love family? What a shock.”

    Could someone help me out? Is the pastor referring to news? Where can I read about this?


  • Tony from Pandora

    David Morgan,
    ‘Big Love’ is a show (on Showtime? HBO?) that is about a Mormon family where the man has multiple wives and how they deals with it. It’s just a pop culture reference… You should be proud you didn’t get it!

  • Jonathan

    Fredericka, I believe that the context of that passage is far more specific than you’re making it out to be. In the context of James making several statements against the rich, and specifically referring to merchants, he seems to be making a statement about wealthy businessmen plotting out their profit much like Jesus’s statement in Luke 12:16-21. Like Pastor Wilson, I think that a faithful person can look at actions and predict what their likely consequences will be, though Pastor Wilson and I may disagree quite a bit in our analysis and only God knows what will happen.

  • Seth Fuller (in reply to Jonathan)

    Try Acts 18:21: But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus…and many other such passages (e.g. Prov 27:1, Luke 12:18-20). The teaching is about arrogantly assuming what one WILL do in presumptuousness against God. He decides, not us. His will be done, not ours. He destroys entire nations (read the prophets) for this kind of arrogance. Proverbs says that a man may plan his way, but the Lord directs His steps. We may plan wisely, but we may not presume.

  • Robert

    I have already seen real polygamists interviewed on tv

  • katecho

    It seems that the public mind cannot repent because it is deeply and organically connected to the individual mind that has learned to use the public to rationalize its individual sin. When individuals hear of unrepentant public corruption and lawlessness, then they are emboldened to partake in their share. If consequence comes, it will be only public consequence, which they will somehow avoid.

    “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” — Stanisław Jerzy Lec

  • http://www.thriceholy.net Fredericka

    Hi Jonathan,
    “Like Pastor Wilson, I think that a faithful person can look at actions and predict what their likely consequences will be. . .”

    I agree that he is evidently a consequentialist which does not strike me as particularly Biblical. Notice for example the Lord saying, “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.” (John 13:19). If knowing beforehand what will happen is proof that He is God, then no, don’t try this at home. God declares the end from the beginning; He knows the outcome, Acts 15:18, as do those with whom He shares the information. But to assume, as does this system of ethics, that information about thus far unseen future consequences is generally available and can be plugged into the computation, is not particularly Biblical.