One of the reasons I go on about the regeneration thing is because I believe that many other crucial things ride on it. If we don’t keep the necessity of the new birth in the forefront of our minds, we will in short order find ourselves unable to answer the arguments and demands of those secularists who want to remake the world with their own version of a “new birth.”
This is another one of those inescapable concepts — not whether, but which. It is not whether you will have a doctrine of the new birth, but rather which doctrine of the new birth will you have. Will it be the doctrine of liberalism, of human perfectibility, of utopian progress, in which you may always become whatever you want? Dream your dreams! You go, girl!
Or will it be the doctrine of Christ, where God takes raw material made up entirely of wrecked residue of human, and performs the marvelous miracle of transforming that material into completed and restored human beings?
If we abandon the historic Protestant doctrine of the new birth, as I have argued, we will be unable to answer the demands of the secularist new order, and this for two reasons. One is that we will have lost a foundational argument that the mere fact of the new birth provides. Secondly, because we will not have been preaching with the new birth in view, we will find ourselves shepherding quite a mixed multitude, many of whom will want to go wherever the world is going. For two cents, a good portion of the church would to join in the orgy now.
So let us start with where the world wants to go — which can readily be ascertained by looking at where the world is in fact going. Just within the last week, Washington State instituted their new “No Perv Left Behind Act,” which allows any male student who self-identifies as a creep to use the girls’ locker room at the neighborhood government junior high school near you — in order to get a better view when ogling your daughter. And our heart really should go out to that poor girl. She has quite a hard go of it — she has a creep for a stalker/suitor, mountain orcs for civil magistrates, and idiots for parents.
Am I being too hard on those parents who (having a choice) even now willingly subject their children to the government school system, what one wit called the State Indoctrination Network (SIN)? Let me think about it, no. For as long as I can remember, modern Christians have been tsking about that regrettable story in the Old Testament — you know, the one where Lot offered his daughters to a street full of rapists? This is a problem passage, we say. It displays a problematic deficiency of moral sense, and is not worthy of a holy book. Says a generation of Christian parents doing the very same kind of thing.
There is also, natch, a truckload of restrictions on free speech with regard to this.
In the face of such lunacy, you may pardon me for thinking that we in the church have been unwilling or unable to do some hard thinking about some pretty basic issues. One of those basic issues is this one — what is human nature? Is there such a thing? If that fixed human nature can change, what are the parameters for that change? Does the direction of change matter? What is lawful to change and what not? What is lawful to leave the way it is and what not? By what standard? Always and everywhere, by what standard?
Now if one of the driving assumptions behind this secular pomosexual push is the evolutionary idea that there no such thing as a defined human nature, with set limitations and boundaries, then I hope you see why we should be wary if Christians (even if for entirely different reasons) start to say something that sounds similar.
Now you will have to work with me here. In order to answer this cultural foolishness, we need an abstraction. We need something called “human nature,” independent of any particular human being.
Here’s a thought experiment. Take 100 men and 100 women and put them on a deserted island. We need to observe what they do, and what they don’t do. We also need to observe what a few of them do, to the outrage of the others. Let us watch them for a while, say for a hundred years. When we have gathered all our data, we need to define certain things about human nature generally — what is the telos of this creature? What is he for?
Certain aspects of that last question cannot be answered apart from special revelation, certainly. We are not going to learn that man is meant to glorify God and enjoy Him forever simply by watching the boar hunt and feast on the beach afterward. And yes, so I guess I did imply that the Shorter Catechism is special revelation.
But many questions about the nature of man can be answered apart from special revelation — provided we are allowed to abstract from “this man” and “that man” to “men.” For example, we will learn that part of the telos of the race is to reproduce after its kind, and in order to achieve this, the behavior involved will have to be recognizably old school.
Of course, in all our calculations, we also have to factor in the reality of sin — which would run contrary to the telos we have identified. These creatures have a standard which all of them recognize, but which none of them fulfills adequately We have to discount for that.
As we continue to push the question, we also need to distinguish certain actions which are identical when defined one way and worlds apart when the telos of human nature is factored in.
I trust you have gotten the point, and so we can leave our deserted island now. That is because the whole world is that island.
So then, what is the difference between a man cutting his hair, paring his nails, and getting a sex change operation? All three could be defined simply as “cutting off part of your body.” But with regard to the first, Christians know that it is unnatural if he doesn’t cut his hair (1 Cor. 11: 14). With regard to the second, it is simply uncouth if he doesn’t. With regard to the third, it is an abomination if he does.
The problem can’t be “body modification.” A teenage boy getting braces on his teeth and a teenage boy getting breast implants are doing completely different things, but those completely different things can be equally classified as “body modifications.” The moral difference is not to be found there. So we can’t tag the one as the result of responsible parenting and the other one as appalling without knowing something about the “givenness” of human nature.
So each person in the world, whether male or female, has a nature that is defined by creation, covenant, curse, history, ancestry, genetics, and biology. Once the complete telos of that nature is grasped, it becomes possible in some cases to to modify that nature around the edges. It is lawful to get a haircut. It is not lawful to get a pair cut.
Put it another way. Of course surgery is lawful. Of course body modification is lawful. You may cut your hair. You may trim your nails. You can have a kidney taken out. But you may not violate the blueprints. What you may not cut is nature.
Now if my theology says I do not have “a nature” at all, then how do I answer the secularist who asks me why I do not condemn the haircut, but I do condemn other modifications? It is not enough to say “of course I condemn sex change operations.” Yes, we know that. But why?
Special revelation does teach us that boys should not dress up like girls (Dt. 22:5). But special revelation does not teach us who the boys are. We were supposed to figure that out ourselves. It should not be that hard. In fact, Eve figured it out on the very first go. “I have gotten a man from the Lord” (Gen. 4:1).
But suppose the argument is that if God made this person with traits commonly associated with being a boy, and so we don’t have the authority to try to change it. You don’t need to appeal to “nature” in order simply to appeal to the status quo. Why wouldn’t that work? The answer is that the stars quo argument works equally well in shutting down the orthodontist who wanted to fix a snaggletooth.
There is no answer to this dilemma without appealing to nature. The orthodontist has a natural template in mind that he is trying to get back to. His template is in fact correct, and he is trying to fix something broken. The sex change surgeon has an unnatural template in mind, and he is trying break something that is whole. That is the only difference between them — but it is quite a difference.
We are to exercise dominion over nature, and we must also respect the nature of nature, leaving her inviolate. In order to do both, we must study Scripture closely, and nature just as closely. As we study nature, we look at particular instances, using an adequate sample size. We then render general by induction. We come up with a general definition, and if we have done our work correctly that definition will have spiritual authority. We know it to be true.
I do not believe in a generic natural law. I don’t believe that atheists can consistently have natural law (although they nevertheless do have it). I am much more comfortable with the phrase natural revelation because I want to insist that the revelation reveals the true and only God, and I believe that natural law is given by the Father of Jesus Christ.
All that said, one of the things we know by natural revelation is the fact that we have a nature. We know when it is being degraded and insulted, and we know when it is being disciplined and trained. We know this, but there is no place in the Bible that tells us what those precise boundaries are. The Bible tells us that there are such boundaries, and it also tells us that we are responsible to find and honor them.
The fact that the church at large has largely refused to undertake this task is one of the central reasons why we live in a culture where sexually inchoate boys can be sent into the girls’ showers. And if there is a problem, of course it will be the normal people who are disciplined. These are your representatives, America. I am rapidly becoming convinced that God is running a reductio on our stupidity in order to prove that a people struck with a judicial stupor cannot recognize when a reductio has been run on them.