The Moral High Ground of Free Grace

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One of the oddest developments in my recent experience has to do with how I, paleo-conservative as I am, somehow wound up occupying the moral high ground when it comes to racial matters. I thought some of you might be curious as regarding the reasons for this. Perhaps others are curious about what I intend to do with this moral high ground now that I have it. Those in this latter category can just skip to the last paragraph of this post.

Racial reconciliation requires an objective standard. Someone proposes that we should all get along, and someone else will ask (or should ask) “by what standard?” What do you mean by “getting along?” There are currently two main competing standards operating in our world, and those standards are the subjective feelings of our designated victims du jour, on the one hand, and the absolute standard of God’s holy will, as revealed to us through Scripture, natural law, and conscience, on the other.

When civil rights activists in the sixties used to protest the iniquitous and insulting practices of Jim Crow segregation, they were making an appeal (whether consistently or not) to an objective morality, and they were doing it to a white America that already had a bad conscience about the whole thing. The activists had the moral high ground, and everybody granted that they had the moral high ground. Now there were some die hards who were certainly willing to defend the swampy low ground they had been maneuvered into, but that was what they were defending—a set of indefensible positions, and pretty much everybody knew it. The average white citizen could see with his own eyes the separate schools, the separate restaurants, the separate drinking fountains, and was unable to come up with any reasonable defense for such things.

During those heady days, civil rights activists racked up a huge amount of moral capital—as defined in middle America by Scripture, natural law, and conscience. But once their initial victories were completed, these civil rights activists (together with their heirs and assigns, and the inevitable hustlers) set themselves the daunting task of squandering all of that moral capital—like some redneck in a double-wide who just won big at Powerball.

The way they decided to squander this capital was by switching from an objective standard of morality that everyone could see, and which everyone acknowledged the justice of, to a system that was entirely subjective, and depended on the raw power of the state and economic coercion by big corporations for enforcement. The subjective element was provided by the emotional reactions of people who would play the part of the designated victim, and the enforcement was provided by those who lust after coercive power, and who are always nearby.

Since the sixties, at least a couple of generations have grown to adulthood without any direct experience of the kind of thing that energized the initial civil rights activists. But this does not mean that they have no direct experiences of their own. They do have them, and they are utterly unlike the experiences of their great grandfathers. The most striking feature of these new experiences is the replacement of that earlier bad conscience with a simmering resentment. Their own direct experiences now include things like being lectured by mega-rich black athletes on how tough it is for them living in racist America, being hectored on the use of micro-aggressions by the human rights lady at their community college, and losing a long sought promotion to an affirmative action hire.  

So the general difference between whites in the sixties and whites today is this. In the sixties, whites already had a bad conscience on racial matters, and that bad conscience was honestly and directly appealed to. And it worked. But such a bad conscience on racial matters is no longer present, no longer active, and when the “powers that be” command it to operate the same way it did in the olden times, the usual response is a resentful and seething refusal.

There is a significant exception to this. White liberalism, which actually is a condition of insufferable whiteness, continues to feel guilt over these matters, and can still be easily manipulated by them. But this is not really guilt over racial issues, but rather guilt over other iniquities which are being sublimated and transferred. White progressives really do have a bad conscience over things that torment their consciences—their sexual perversions, promiscuity, abortions, and so on. They hate feeling bad about these things so they transfer their guilt over to things they can feel good about feeling bad about. And race is that scab they love to pick at.

Taking one thing with another, the Christian response to all of this has been pathetic.

Old guard reconstructionists used to distinguish themselves by their unflinching approach to Scripture. If exegesis were a baseball game, they would pitch them high and inside. This is not how the kinder, gentler theonomy that is currently ensconced at American Vision is approaching it, and more’s the pity. For example, if confronted with the “angular” truth that God’s people in the Old Testament were allowed to buy slaves from pagan nations roundabout (Lev. 25:44-46), the likes of Rushdoony or North would say that paganism is slavery, and so a pagan is a slave by definition. Being brought as a slave into the covenant people offered a (long term) prospect for liberty, but in the meantime, it did not increase the amount of servitude in the world, but rather placed boundaries on it. And over generations, it created an off-ramp from that condition of pagan slavery.

If Christians would exercise authority over the consciences of unbelievers, they must appeal to the authority of Scripture, natural law, and conscience. They must have an objective standard. And they must be loyal to that standard. They must not waffle on it. When the text of that objective standard is quoted to them, they must not blow sunshine in response.

If that objective standard includes Scripture, then we must be prepared to answer tough questions from non-Christians who have actually read through the Bible and who know what it actually says. Giving a clear answer with a clear standard, even if aspects of that standard ruffle our contemporary feathers, is far to be preferred to that of giving a Bibley-sounding answer that rides on contemporary goo-feelings and bromides quoted from Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr.—with no Jehovah in Heaven above.

Scripture is a mountain range with granite boulders, and some places that are tough to climb. You can get hurt there, as the apostle once observed. But if you get high enough, above the tree line, you can see everything. By contrast, humanistic sentimentalism is a gigantic muck swamp, artificially augmented by about thirty percent through our legal system’s massive production of green Jell-O, and a diseased pop culture that is positively malarial.

And this is how I found myself on that high ground mentioned earlier. I will not apologize for Scripture. When debating with the racial kinists, I will not apologize for Numbers 12:1, which is God-breathed and profitable for training in righteousness. When debating with woke theonomists, I will not apologize for Exodus 21:2-6, which is God-breathed and profitable for correction. And when debating with apologetic southerners, whose ancestors were more submissive to the Scriptures than they, I will not apologize for 1 Tim. 6:1-5, which is God-breathed and profitable for reproof. And in case these last two examples got some of the brethren a little too whizzed up, I will say again that when debating with white racist punks, I will not apologize for Col. 3:11, which is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine.

I am no apologist for slavery. I am an apologist for the holy law of God, without which there is no possibility of gospel. And I am also an apologist for the gospel, which only makes sense in the context of the law/word of a righteous God. This righteous God judges us for our violations of His moral law as contained and revealed in the Old Testament. We do not get to judge Him for having written the Old Testament. God is not the defendant here.

And this is why I write the way I do. I am a minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not a minister of a small handful of cherry picked verses. What good would that do anybody? I am a minister of the Word. That Word, all of it, is holy, righteous, and good. We are not holy, righteous and good. We in our conceits think we get to pass judgment on Him, when it is Jehovah God who has the ongoing authority and the holy right to bury our entire nation under a bed of fiery coals, three hundred feet deep. No man can have the moral high ground on any issue whatsoever unless he—by the grace of God—is chosen to stand on the ground that God has assigned to him. That ground is high ground only because it is on top of mountains of grace, and from the vantage point of that grace, from the promontory of grace, as mentioned before, we can see it all. We can see how vile white men are, and how despicable black men are, and how contemptible yellow men are, and how corrupt red men are. Red and yellow, black and white, they all are sinful in His sight. All of us, the whole corrupt lot of us, are nothing but a pack of slaves. Our slavery to sin is what makes us despise one another, hating and enslaving one another by various devices, and it is only as we are liberated from that slavery to sin that we are liberated into the power of forgiveness. And this is why Christ’s blood provides the only color that really matters in any of this, and that color is scarlet. This is why you can’t get me off of this high ground with the taunt that I do not deserve to be up here. I know that. In fact, as every preacher of the real gospel will have always been willing to say, who is sufficient for these things? But I am willing to say—from this height—what every blood-washed nobody has always been willing to say, which is that Christ saves sinners,whatever the color of heart—whether rotting black, sickly green, leprous white, or oozing yellow—with one color of blood, the scarlet of a free and wholly undeserved salvation.

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9–10).