The Sinful Mind at Bay

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A bunch of tightly woven thoughts with no connecting phrases in between them. Sometimes no verb either.

Cornelius Van Til used to write about “integration downward into the Void.” Spiritually insightful people knew what he was talking about, but now, with the events of the last five years, all of us should know what he was talking about.

But in the final stages before we disappear down into the Sinkhole of the Abyss, our blind seers and our blinkered pundits will continue to tell us that the economy is picking up, that the border is secure, and that men are way better at chest feeding than women.

The fundamental choice is always between Christ or chaos. But that is not how the choice initially presents itself. The madness begins when fallen man first asserts that there is any aspect of reality whatever that is independent of the sovereign and absolute decree of God.

After he makes this fatal choice, he looks around and feels vindicated. The sky is still blue, the grass is still green, objects still fall to the ground at 9.8 meters per second squared, and women are still nicer to look at than men are. He does not recognize that the imbecility he has chosen does not happen all at once, as though someone flipped a breaker, but comes on gradually, by tiny increments, such that he can always reassure himself that all is still well. Then one day he passes the point of no return, sins against the Holy Ghost, and embraces the darkness. Evil, be thou my good.

Even the women, and in some cases especially the women. Never have so many thought to echo the clear-eyed madness of Lady Macbeth, and all at the same time.

Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty!

Make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it!

Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers.

Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 5

And Isaac Watts anticipated a similar scenario, and for our encouragement compared it to the constancy of our God. The world has gone mad, not the God of heaven.

Can a kind woman e’er forget
The infant of her womb?
And ‘mongst a thousand tender thoughts
Her suckling have no room?

“Yet,” saith the Lord, “should nature change,
And mothers monsters prove,
Zion still dwells upon the heart
Of everlasting love.

Now Let My Inward Joys Arise

But in the beginning, the Absolute and triune Creator, self-contained and not contingent in any way, spoke the heavens and earth into existence. The heavens and earth, and all that they could ever contain, Nietzsche included, are contingent in every possible way. If God were to leave off speaking the world, it would zip back into nothingness.

Nietzsche was once a one-year-old, gamboling around the living room, making the adults laugh. And his dependency, his contingency, his creatureliness, did not decrease at all as the years went by, a fact that he utterly hated, and which he was careful to hide behind his compensatory mustache.

This is why every Christian who confesses the glorious truth of creatio ex nihilo is a Calvinist in principle. All the denominational debates that we have are the result of most of us wanting to deny this most obvious truth. The fundamental divide within all Christendom is therefore between Calvinists who are epistemologically self-conscious, confused but sincere Calvinists who are not, and Calvinists who are fifth-columnists for the devil’s party.

The choice is always between autonomy, which is madness in principle, and theonomy, which is sanity itself.

The use of the word theonomy here does not refer to any hermeneutical principle regarding the Old Testament, but rather to an absolute theological category. God is the sole interpreter of every fact, the sole basis for every righteous law, and the sole authority over what should be done to, with or about every fact.

Every fact in the created order stands in some relation to the Creator and Maker of that order, and every sentient being has a moral obligation to recognize what that relation is. It is the relation of Creator to creature.

There is therefore no possible neutrality anywhere. Every fact is what it is because it is a God-interpreted fact. Each fact is related to Him, a relationship which He understands exhaustively, and with no remainder. Whenever facts are “detached” from Him, they vanish into meaninglessness. All our scientists and researchers are therefore standing on the lip of the Void, throwing in the facts just as fast as they gather them.

Sartre summarized his own madness well when he said that without an infinite reference point, every finite point is absurd.

So our behavior in all of this is not in principle any different than those savage peoples who used to throw virgins into volcanos.

If asked why a race of creatures would gather facts and then scatter them over the top of the Abyss like this, the answer would probably have something to do with federal research grants. And this means that not only are the facts catalogued and filed (albeit no longer alphabetically) down into the Pit, but so is the federal money thrown into the Pit.

The facts themselves don’t vanish, of course, because their meaninglessness is only limited to the minds of the sinners who have sought in their madness to detach them from the Creator. And so then, as they stand on the lip of the Abyss, they are not actually throwing any facts in, but are rather preparing themselves for the inevitable jump.

The facts are not damned, but they are. The place they are choosing is not the Paradise of final autonomy, but rather the terminus of all attempted autonomies, which is to say, the outer darkness.

Every true Christian grants that, at any given moment, we should be doing what God wants us to be doing, and not some other thing. That is the heart of theonomy.

To carve out any realm of human endeavor and claim it as being subject to our own independent and autonomous purview is the root of all our madness. That is autonomy, the root of all our spiritual stupidity.    

The God of the Bible is the true and living God. As the one who lives eternally, and as the one who created all that exists, and as the one in whom we live and move and have our being, His relationship to the created order is necessarily an exhaustive one. He encompasses everything.

There are no isolated data. There are no independent minds. The desire for autonomy is the ultimate death wish. It has been a death wish with a long fuse, but it is in fact a death wish.

Those believers who have ceded any realms of human knowledge to experts who have no regard for the authority of the triune God (e.g. in psychology, physics, history, etc.) are believers who are trying to attach biblical names to a powerful but still limited Zeus.

The sovereignty of God is not something God exercises by hemming us in. It is not as though He steers us externally, but with His sovereignty ending at the perimeter of our epidermis, and with us being in charge of all the insides.

Those believers who want to maintain a place for God as well as a place for man, with the total of their two places adding up to 100% are wanting a bounded Zeus and not the great Jehovah.

A corollary to this wish is the idea that sin is to be located in our finitude. Our problem, we think, is a metaphysical one, and not an ethical one. But according to Scripture, man’s problem is ethical—he is in high rebellion. Our problem is that we are rebels, not that we are small.

But for those who locate man’s problem in his finitude, the problem is metaphysical, not ethical. After all, if the problem is that he is small and bounded, who made him that way? If finitude is the problem, then the source of the problem is the God who made us like this. We therefore have a beef with Zeus.

But not really, because Zeus is just a construct of our imagination. We invented a god to be the fall guy for making us like this, and our atheists puff themselves up to jeer at him, and our apologists palter around with arguments in defense of this Zeus. But there is no real defense because he is not the exhaustively sovereign God of the Bible. It is time for us to be honest with each other. Zeus is frankly in over his head.

So finitude has never been our problem. Before his fall into sin, Adam was finite. He was bounded. He was a tiny human on a huge planet. And he walked with the true God in the garden. Finitude is not the problem.

Not only do we want to blame our finitude on the one who gave it to us, we also assume that within the boundaries of that finitude, we are dukes in charge of our own little fiefdoms. Inside the castle, we are lords. Or so we like to think.

But God controls every element of everything. He does not do it the way Zeus would do it, pushing people around and badgering them. He does it the way the Maker of heaven and earth would do it—the way Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, as cited above. In that unsex me speech what percentage of it was Shakespeare and what percentage of it was Lady Macbeth? Any attempt to divvy up the speech, apportioning some to him and some to her, exposes our fatal conceit.

Some will object, of course, saying that Lady Macbeth was a fictional character, while we are real beings, with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Your analogy fails, they will say.

So why does the scriptural analogy also not fail, on the same principle? An earthenware pot has no hopes, dreams, or aspirations. Why does Jeremiah use such a lame illustration then? And why does the apostle Paul tell that heckling pot to keep his lid on?

Not only so, but why have I never been told that my analogy fails and is not complete because God is so much greater than Shakespeare? I have never been told that because it actually makes the argument unanswerable. Turns it into a lead pipe cinch apologetic.

We are in the mess we are in because we have forgotten God.

First, we redefined Him, so as to make him forgettable, and then we walked away. The diehard evangelical worshippers of Zeus are those who do not want to forget him entirely, and so we have retreated to our big box religion centers, there to commiserate with him in his exile. “It won’t be long now,” we reassure him. “And we will take you to heaven with us when we go. You’re in our hearts, after all.”

But the Christ revealed in Scripture cannot be contained on any god shelf that we might construct, or contained within any box we might build. Christ is the point of integration for all things in heaven and on earth. He is the one who has absolute preeminence. He holds the keys to death and Hades. His Word is absolute. His name has been placed above every name. Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess. He has been given this preeminence because He was obedient to the point of an agonizing death on the cross, there to secure your salvation and mine, as well as to secure the authority to put this entire fragmented world back together.

His rule over us rests upon His obedience, and this is why He summons us into that same obedience. And when by faith we enter into His obedience, His death is made ours, His burial becomes ours, and His resurrection from the dead is granted to us as our newness of life. Look around at the world the godless are trying to make for us. It is bloodless, deracinated insanity.

Then look away to Christ. Look around at the kind of world that He promises us in His Word. Look at the seven churches in His right hand, and note that these seven stars make a circle around the wound where the spike was. It is a blood-bought soundness, rationality, and stability. And the fruit of the Spirit is . . . hetero-normality. Now that’s a subversive concept, right there.

One ongoing mystery is why those who say they believe this, and who teach it in their seminaries, won’t confess it out in public.

The choice is a binary one. It really is Christ or chaos. In a lunatic mashup of shrewdness and insanity, our rebels anticipated this, and tried to forestall the moment when true repentance would be demanded of us. They did this by declaring war on the very concept of binaries, and anything that reminded us of binaries.

But the sinful mind is now at bay, with its back to a tree it didn’t climb in time, and the two hounds of heaven each have an ankle in their jaw. It is time we came quietly.