Nature By Grace

All right. Now it is time to bring a number of threads together.

The great American classicist Basil Gildersleeve once said that the American Civil War was fought over a point of grammar. He said that it was over whether we should say “the United States is” or “the United States are.” Other great and complicated issues can be reduced to a simple question as well. When it comes to culture wars, same sex mirage, natural law, and so on, we are really asking this: “What is the universe actually like?”

There are two basic options confronting us today. Either the cosmos was created, made, fashioned . . . or it was not. Either God spoke everything into existence from nothing, or there is no God. Eternality is an attribute of something — either the living God, or time and chance acting on matter and energy. If the former, we must do what He says. If the latter, we may do what we want.

But as it is, we are a rebellious house, and want to do what we want to do. We are a conclusion in search of a premise, and so it turns out that all respectable science testifies that Genesis is not a textbook of science, anything but that. The materialists say that Genesis is bogus, and the Christian abandoners of Genesis say that the book is crammed full of spiritual truths for your faith to believe, but you have to take care what you believe. You can’t believe everything you read. But the whole thing is a power play, seeking to drive from the field the only real alternative to their hellish vision for mankind.

Following Foucault, what these men want to do is hump the world, and they want the authority to make anything they want into an object for their lust. The first questions in their sexual catechism always have to do with sodomy, and this is why America now finds herself fiddling “with the lock on this cage of demons” (Swanson, Apostate, p. 24). Sodomy is simply perversion for beginners — anyone who thinks that we are anywhere close to being done with this foolishness is trying to make his peace with the foolishness himself. “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man” (Prov. 27:20, ESV).

The entire rebellion is built on the foundation of a denial of creation. Evolution must be affirmed as the foundational article. There is only one process, and Darwin is its prophet. If we affirm creation — sun and moon, sea and dry land, male and female, and so forth — we are affirming that heaven and earth have set characteristics. Everything has a nature. They all came off God’s workbench, and He is a craftsman who always builds to a purpose. Everything has a telos, and it has that telos all the way down to the atoms and quarks that make it up, and all the way up to the decrees of God that set a place for every numbered hair on every human head. The Word of God cannot be broken, and there is no aimlessness anywhere.

But in the pleasure of God, the Word of God can be resisted for a time. Genesis does not just tell us that all existence came from the mouth of God, according to His purposes. It does not just tell us that everything has a nature that equips it to fulfill those purposes. Genesis also tells us that our first parents fell into sin and confusion. The created order fell together with them, and so it is that we can see that nature has a nature, and that this nature fell and is broken.

God’s redemptive purpose is to restore that created order, to restore that nature, and it is the contrary purpose of the rebels to keep it broken, and moreover, to keep on breaking it into smaller pieces. Since the trouble began with man, who opted for a broken nature to supervise his ongoing breaking of things, any redemption that is to be accomplished must be done by means of a restored nature in man.

The first Adam defected and rebelled, lost his innocence, and became, by nature, an object of wrath. The last Adam refused to defect and never rebelled, retained His righteousness, and persevered in the holiness of His nature. Because of His obedience, we are invited to participate in His nature and in Him, our broken nature is being restored.

This next point is crucial. We are not contrasting a realm of nature and a realm of grace, as though they were two different countries. We are not being invited to go live in the grace country instead of the nature country. No, we are living in the broken nature country that by His grace is being put back into the restored nature country. It will always be nature, and it will always be nature by His grace. When Jesus turned water to wine at Cana, it was natural water and natural wine. The grace was in His Word.

One last thing is essential. Because God has not abandoned us to our folly, when He intervenes in the lives of particular individuals, He grants them the new birth, which has the effect of restoring nature. The new birth does not obliterate nature, any more than a remodel project obliterates the house.

This new birth — not to be confused with the sacramental signs and seals of it — must be indefectible. This is because we are talking about a work of re-creation, and the Word of God in such contexts must accomplish what it speaks. And when it is spoken, there is no going back. Jesus told us not to set our hand to the plow, and then just turn back. When He said this, is it not plain that He never sets His hand to the plow, only to turns back? “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

When God first spoke and said, “Let there be light,” the darkness did not say it would think about it. There was light. And this is what the new birth actually is. It is an efficacious Word from the Almighty God that cannot be resisted or undone. We are not just talking about a decree that cannot be reversed, we are talking about a light that cannot be put out.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

And this is why we cannot fight the forces of polymorphous perversity with arguments alone. We cannot resist it effectively with laws or referenda alone — although good arguments, righteous laws, and good referenda are to be applauded. But what must happen is that we must deploy the only thing capable of countering the seemingly inexorable forces of autonomous lust. That is the gospel of efficacious grace. We have to plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest. And what will they encounter when they get there? They will find a once happy and prosperous nation, huddled immobile in the corner of a wheelchair.

“And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately” (Acts 9:33–34).

In our day, this would have been like Peter coming across a quadriplegic named George Washington, and telling him that Jesus Christ has made him whole. And he rose up and walked.

“And a certain man named Simon came to Peter, with silver in his hand, and saith unto him, ‘Canst thou give me this power, only without using the name of Jesus? We don’t want to put off the big money Republican donors'” (Acts 52:9).

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dchammers
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“We are a conclusion in search of a premise…” Another great one for my quote file!

timothy
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timothy

I like your synthesis And this is why we cannot fight the forces of polymorphous perversity with arguments alone. We cannot resist it effectively with laws or referenda alone — although good arguments, righteous laws, and good referenda are to be applauded. But what must happen is that we must deploy the only thing capable of countering the seemingly inexorable forces of autonomous lust. That is the gospel of efficacious grace. I agree wholeheartedly with this. I also do not believe in the scientific realm that our “arguments alone” are equal in breadth and depth to what the secularists have.… Read more »