Our secularist age has had it. Yesterday at the ACCS convention Al Mohler reminded us of Elton Trueblood’s spot-on metaphor, when he said that our civilization was a cut flower civilization. And he said this back when the flowers were still nice looking — we have now come to the point in the metaphor that is a lot more brown, and a lot more of us are curled up petals all over the coffee table. And as Mohler argued, this secularism has no way of repairing itself. The elites have consumed the Christian legacy they inherited, and the prodigal son is wondering how he can possibly afford to host the next bash. He is not quite yet at the point where he wants to eat the pig food, but we can see the trough from here.
At the foundational level, the problem is that we do not want to have Jesus rule over us. We have revolted against God. Behind all the trans-sexual, trans-racial, trans-dictionary foolishness is the central foolishness of a race of sinners that wants to be trans-mortal. We want to live forever, but we refuse the way back to the tree of life that God has established through the gospel. And so we go in big for genetic engineering and sexual weirdness. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Gen. 6:2). We’re gonna get us some Nietzschean Nephilim. Yeah, whatever. Après moi le déluge.
In response, Christians are going in for two different kinds of gospel impotence. The first is a calculated impotence. It is the kind of impotence that is kept in a tiny little doctrinal jeweler’s box, the kind with felt lining. It is kept away safe, hidden from the chaotic dictates of our current cultural game of hugger mugger. Everybody is shouting, some one thing and some another, and there is a certain kind of gospel impotence that refuses to engage with a planet full of unbelief. We believe the gospel, and we also hasten to add that we believe that our belief here has nothing whatever to say to all the unbelief out there. Nothing to say? What about repent and believe? And this problem is not solved by gospel centrality, if all you mean is that your precious gospel is centrally placed in your jeweler’s box, and that the jeweler’s box is centrally hidden under the bed.
But the other kind of gospel impotence is the triumphalist kind, the kind that the Lord Jesus established for us. As Chesterton put it in The Everlasting Man, “Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” All they can do is threaten us with death, and this infuriates them because our death is actually our secret weapon. This is true gospel impotence. What is more impotent than a carcase? And what is more astonishing than resurrection from the dead?
What is more impotent than a carcase? And so what is more important than a carcase? This is the impotence of true and living faith, the kind that can say, “Play the man, Master Ridley.”