We certainly live in crazy times, but they are a particular brand of crazy times. The more advanced the lunacy gets, the more difficult it becomes to remember what normality might look like. And the weirder it all gets, the more we seem to cultivate our appetite for the weird.
Our cultural apostasy is not quite off the edge of the cliff yet, but we are running toward it, head down and arms pumping, and vaulting the fence looks pretty easy. The cliff is very high—so to reassure the thoughtful cultural analysts among us—there will be plenty of time for the “what went wrong?” questions on the way down.
Let me change the metaphor. How much sand can you put in the sugar bowl before it does not count as a sugar bowl anymore? Our secularist spoilers, and not a few professing Christian zietgeisters, have been dumping sand into the sugar bowl by the fistful, and then, when anyone dares to call them on it, moderate Christian observers—who have all the cultural acuity of three pounds of wet liver—step forward to debate the pros and cons of this or that particular grain of sand.
Say that some ordained king of the swishes is going to speak at a conference in order to give a voice to the marginalized LGBTQPCAers, and he really is light in the loafers. This is how you debate the grains of sand. “Where does the Bible say you can’t walk that way in your loafers? Where does the Bible say—sola Scriptura man—that a man can’t wear a necktie like it was a gaudy scarf? Where does the Bible say that a preacher must stride to the pulpit instead of mincing his way there? Where does the Bible ever condemn camp?”
And then, as soon as everyone’s back is turned, another fistful of sand goes in.
Repentance Is Not Piecemeal
Our rebellion against God and His law/word has been up and down the entire waterfront. We have rejected His ways entirely, and have been trying to cope, in piecemeal ways, with the consequences of having done so. We have sinned wholesale, and for the repentance we want to buy a little item here or there. This is why the #MeToo business has turned into such a farce—you can read more about that here.
Some Christians looking on think that there is nothing wrong with giving a sympathetic ear to women who have been abused by men. Christians are against the abuse of women. What could wrong with saying that we are against abusing women?
The thing that is wrong with it is this. We are in the midst of one vast cultural orgiastic meltdown. When unsavory things happen to us at the orgy, instead of lamenting the way Three Dog Night did—“Mama told me not to come”—because Mama, incidentally, had more wisdom about the ways of the world in her little finger than three think tanks full of evangelical scholars—where was I?—oh, yes, instead of repenting of the whole project, instead of repudiating the sexual revolution in its entirety, including abortion, same sex mirage, routine porn use, easy sex, and so on, we find somebody else to blame. So she slept with every guy in the office, and when her supervisor suggested that it might be his turn now, she bustled right down to HR in a high fit of Victorian indignation.
The issue is not whether it was right for her supervisor to hit on her. Of course it was not. The issue is the radical cultural inconsistency, ramped up on stilts and steroids. We want this to stop, but we want that to keep on going. We want no more fires in the garage, but we insist on storing all our oily rags there.
There is a vast gulf between the Christian doctrine that every descendant of Adam is a sinner, and cannot be trusted with unaccountable authority over anyone else, and the feminist view that every male is part of the patriarchy that must be smashed. The solution to the very real problem of unaccountable men abusing vulnerable women—I put that part in bold for my critics who have trouble reading—is not to give unaccountable authority to another group of sinners. I repeat, if the problem is unaccountable sinners, you don’t fix that with different unaccountable sinners.
The solution is for all of us to submit to Christ. All of us must learn all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:20). The solution is not for godless women to submit to Christless men, and it is not for godless men to submit to Christless women. When we do the former, the whole thing turns into a grope-fest. When we do the latter, the whole thing turns into a melee of shrill accusation, given a semblance of moral authority by a parade of pussyhats.
On their own, men cannot listen to the legitimate voices of women. On their own, women cannot listen to the legitimate voices of men. Both of them together must first agree to listen to the voice of Christ. He is the one who died on a cross for both the lustful groping and for telling lies about lustful groping. Not only so, but He rose from the dead so that we might have the victory over our life here in Stupidville.
A Woke John the Baptist
What might a piecemeal revival look like?
“In those days came John the Baptist, offering helpful suggestions in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Embrace ye the concept of human flourishing: for the kingdom of heaven is still a long ways off. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness of marginalized and broken lives, Prepare ye the way of your best life now, making your own paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of soft clothing, and a silken girdle about his loins; and his meat was biscuits made with refined white flour and wild honey, locally sourced. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were lining up in columns to be baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their pre-selected sins according to their columns. The first column was made up of those who were repenting of adultery but not pornography. The second column were those who were repenting of adultery on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The third column were those who were repenting of homosexual intercourse, but not homosexual celibate cuddling. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which thinketh itself better than other trees is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt. 3:1–10, modified by some clown).
A Revoice Crying in the Wilderness
The fragmented nature of our thinking can be seen everywhere. Some folks in the PCA are hosting a “Revoice” conference, which illustrates the grease fire nature of our problems nicely. You can read more about all that here and here.
One fellow associated with this conference said this: “I’d like to see close, committed, promise-sealed friendships become normalized in churches that continue to teach the historical, traditional, Christian sex ethic. What if we could, um, what if we treated it as important, honorable, and godly for a celibate gay Christian to commit to a close friend precisely as the way a growing Christian does in love?”
What could go wrong?
It will not be long before the young people in our churches, passionately committed to celibacy (passionately is a key word excusing everything, so take note everybody), take a page from Gandhi’s playbook and start sleeping with each other in the nude in order to test their Resolve. And if you have a problem with that, you probably think that sugar is sweeter than sand. Bigot.
Social Injustice Warriors
I mentioned piecemeal repentance earlier. When we try to undo the consequences of our lawlessness without actually repenting, the only thing we can think of to do about those consequences is to accuse somebody else of something. But without repentance for our own complicity in whatever it was, the door is opened wide for false accusations. It is customary for feminists to say that women don’t ever lie about rape, but there is a slight problem, which is that they do. For some recent examples, consider this, or this.
Women are sinners in a fallen world, which means that we should understand that some of them lie and some of them tell the truth. Just like the men. All plausible claims about sexual abuse should be investigated while treating the woman who reported the assault with dignity and respect. Of course. But common courtesy is quite a different thing than belief.
When Morgan Freeman recently joined the ranks of the accused, and the consequences started to rain down upon him before anything had been sorted out, the Screen Actors Guild had this to say.
“Any accused person has the right to due process, but it is our starting point to believe the courageous voices who come forward to report incidents of harassment.”
If you were to change that word believe to the word hear, there would be nothing objectionable. That would be consistent with a millennium of jurisprudence. But to say that the accuser must be believed, while granting the accuser due process is the same thing as saying that the due process is fully consistent with disbelieving the defendant.
This is not to say that the charges against Freeman are false. Hollywood is packed full of dirty birds, and it is certainly possible that he could be one of them. As all these charges have been tumbling out, about Freeman and a host of others, one of the refrains in the background has been “everybody knew.” Right. And if everybody knew, then that means that a bunch of the women knew. Not just the women trying to make it in Hollywood, but the women who already had made it, who were part of the establishment there. And this is why your piecemeal repentance won’t cut it.
And to point out yet one more feature of your intersectionality chaos, remember that believing the woman automatically may require you to believe a white woman who makes claims about a black male, and all of a sudden you find yourself having to believe Carolyn Bryant and her (later retracted) claims about Emmett Till. How do you like living where you do? How do you think you managed to get there?
Piecemeal repentance means that you have to defend some sins over against others, which will stand you in poor stead at the Day of Judgment. Christ summons us away from all sin. He forgives all sin. But He never says, “Okay, you may keep that one.” The law of God is a plate glass window, and not a series of French panes. Break it anywhere, and you have broken it all (Jas. 2:10). Real repentance is a complete surrender in principle. This is why the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification is necessary if anyone is to be saved.
In the meantime, I would encourage all Christian cultural observers to get their B.S. Detectors into the shop. Have it refurbished. The warranty is still good, with parts and labor being both free. All you have to be willing to do is turn it on, for crying out loud.
The Divine Wood Chipper
I have written before about justice and false allegations, and have certainly touched on it here, but that is not my main point. I have written before about sexual uncleanness, and have plainly touched on it here, but neither is that my central point. The point is that sins are like grapes; they come in clusters. Have you ever noticed how frequently Scripture names sins in such clusters? For example, take Galatian 5:19-21 or Corinthinans 6:9-10 or Romans 1:26-31 or Ephesians 4:25-31 or Colossians 3:5-7 or 2 Timothy 3:1-7.
Confronted with such penetrating classifications, such inspired groupings, we want to retreat to a much more defensible position (or so we think). We want to isolate the solitary grape pit that is our own private affectation, like gay amounts of mousse in the hair, serene in the confidence that Koine Greek didn’t even have a word for mousse. And no Greek Word, no sin, stands to reason, eh? If there is no Greek Word for the various aspects of what is going down, you can call some outré-sexual as a pastor, and gear up for all the legalistic thoughts that will be coming your way.
But true repentance and real judgment both work the same way. When God gives a spirit of true repentance, the axe is laid at the root of the tree. When judgment falls, and a prophet is raised up to cut through the trunk, all the twigs of rationalization and self-justification will also fall to the ground. And then when God has His mighty angels run this corrupt generation through His wood chipper in order to make the mulch that will help the next generation flourish, a wise people will remember that while the mulch originally came from large branches and little pieces of wood, it is all little bits of wood now.
God is not mocked. Not only does a man reap what he sows, but so does a culture. And if you sow little rationalizations, you will grow great big, enormous rationalizations, leaving you without any excuse whatever, and then you will harvest a fiery indignation that will consume the enemies of God.