More needs to said about the idea of cultural justification. Apart from an understanding of this, there is no hope of grasping the deep divisions that the debates over same sex mirages are revealing. Note that I did not say that these debates are creating these division, but rather that they are revealing them. Same sex mirage is the earthquake; different approaches to cultural justification are the tectonic plates.
Justification is of course a theological category. For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. When God looks at believers, what He sees is the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our federal representative and head, which means that He is the appointed face of the new human race, the appointed face of the new humanity. And when God wants to communicate with that new human race, He addresses us to our face. All that righteousness, that goodness, that obedience, is credited to us, imputed to us, declared to be ours, and bestowed on us by a verdict grounded in the everlasting wisdom and kindness of God.
Now a man can be in this justified group and be guilty of three murders, and a man can be outside it and be guilty of none. Notice that there are two aspects to this. There is the status, justified or not, and there are the standards, which run alongside the justification but are not foundational to it. We are not justified by works — not in the biblical form of justification, and not in the pagan knock-offs. Works are always evaluated in the light of justification, not the other way around.
God governs human history in this way, and we either submit to His government (which is part and parcel with being justified), or we seek to wrest control of that governance from Him, and try to institute our own pale, etiolated forms of justification. Our forms of justification are just as sharp in their divisions as God’s justification is, but they are not nearly as successful in maintaining the imputation of righteousness over an extended period of time. At some point they have to collapse into a smoking crater of manifest iniquity.
Now with regard to this social or cultural justification, if a group is under condemnation, there is nothing that group can do, apart from ceasing to exist, that can put that group right with the larger society. And if a group is justified, there is nothing that group can do that will cause them to be ejected from the favor of that justification. Say an enviroloony drives some railroad spikes into trees so that loggers will have their chainsaws kick back on them. If this comes up at a press conference at the campaign headquarters of some soft green congressional candidate, he will say something like, “While I don’t necessarily approve of such extreme tactics, we do need to keep this behavior in context. By opening up this wilderness area to logging, the government has put the native habitat of the gray tufted titmouse in grave peril.” In other words, the loonies are justified, even if it is granted that their sanctification needs some work.
And say that there is a Tea Party rally on the Capitol steps, and someone leaves a crushed and empty pop can behind. This perfidy will be taken as representative of the general wickedness that the group represents. They will not be able to win for losing. They are not justified, and so their “sanctification” doesn’t matter.
This phenomenon is often described as being the result of a double standard, which is actually more of a description than an explanation. It is an accurate description, as far as it goes, but it does not account for why it is happening. Why the double standard? If you take virtually any of Obama’s executive orders, and ask yourself what would have happened if George W. Bush had done that, and ponder the answer, which is that virtually every media outlet in the Eastern Time Zone would have come unstuck, followed right away by the Left Coast doing the same thing, the fact of a double standard is obvious. But why? The answer is that Obama is justified and Bush is not.
This justification is affected by elections, but elections do not control it.
Now justification (or condemnation) is pronounced by the god of the system. That god may have majority support or might not. What matters is whether the decrees of the god of the system are honored when made. I make a distinction between agreeing with the decrees of this god, which cultural opponents do not do, and honoring the authority of the decrees, which such opponents almost always do.
So suppose some Christian — take me, for instance — said something derogatory about how the homos have launched their homo-jihad. Using homo as a prefix is pushing it, with or without the hyphen, but putting it out there all by itself as a makeshift collective noun is a shameless bit of right-wing effrontery. This commonly causes, in one of Melville’s wonderful phrases, a prodigious sensation in all directions. The thought control machinery operated by the god of the system — in this case administered by the Department of Pure Thoughts — moves into action, and I am told that my use of language in this instance was deeply hurtful. But instead of being suitably abashed, I reply with a horselaugh. I am never going to be justified by the god of this system, I might as well get used to it. It would be futility to attempt it. I don’t want the approval of the god of this system.
But enter moderate Christians, and their moderation is seen at just this point. Their compromises are a wonderful emollient. They want to grant the status of “justified” to the secularists, but they still want to maintain the particular standards of Christianity for themselves. They want to say that homosexual acts are without a doubt in a certain sense sinful, certainly, which is a conclusion we must come to if we are to wrestle authentically with the text. We wish we could say differently — oh, how we wish — but for the time being our hermeneutic and our donor base, but mostly the latter, will not allow us to depart from acknowledging a substantial heterosexual bent to human thriving. Had they been in charge of the operation, the Cities of the Plain would have been buried under a mound of pink cotton balls.
So back to the question of double standards. In every forum where equity is a natural requirement, there must be no double standards. If one team has to go 10 yards for a first down, the other team should have to do the same. A Troy ounce of gold sold to one man should weigh the same as another Troy ounce sold to another man. If independent confirmation of guilt is required to convict a man of justified ethnicity, the same should be required when a man of unjustified ethnicity is accused. You may fill in the blanks as you please – Serbs, blacks, Jews, or white cops. These are places where double standards are an abomination.
In the realm of the antithesis, the division between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent is the foundational divide with regard to justification. In the biblical worldview, the seed of the woman is justified and the seed of the serpent is not. In the high revolt of unbelief, the seed of the serpent is justified and the seed of the woman is committing iniquity simply by breathing God’s clean air.
How do these two areas relate – one where justification is inescapable and the other where equity is demanded? This is actually one of the ways we can identify which justification is the true justification. When the truly justified are recognized as such, one of the results is genuine even-handedness in all the places where it ought to be. Putting this another way, making necessary adjustments, justification is never “fair” and sanctification always is.
When you read about some incident, or see some appalling footage on the tube, and you immediately start thinking in terms of approved and justified groups – congratulations, you’ve just been ejected from every sane jury pool. You were applying the categories of one realm to the other one, and the seed of the woman are always called to keep them distinct and separate. It turns out that the racist needs to know that not every black person he knows is a looter, and the libertarian bigot needs to know that not every cop is like that thug captured on video in his Facebook feed. Individual court cases are important for this reason. Those who greet every incident with loud shouts of glad generalization are revealing far more than they realize.
So then, back to same-sex mirage. The central issue is that we have a culture that rejects justified status for God’s people, and who have therefore assumed to themselves the right to remake humanity in their own image, in full accordance with their own collective wet dream. They have consequently said that they do not want to accept heterosexual Christians as embodying the justified presence of God’s people on this planet, living out the beauty of the gospel as Paul so wonderfully depicted it. That being the case, their only alternative is to come up with some other kind of justified humanity. Since they have to bend everything out of its creational shape, the result is the sexual mayhem we have been witnessing.
What would Josh Duggar have to do to be justified? Well, he would have to become something like Woody Allen or Roman Polanski. What would Woody Allen have to do to be justified in the eyes of believers? He would have to confess his sin, turn in true evangelical faith to Jesus Christ, and be put right with God. And if he actually did that, he would lose everything that the world has granted him up to this point. As long as he is saying “the heart wants what it wants,” he is justified. As soon as he said “oh, wretched man that I am,” he would be rejected as one of those people who think they’re better than everybody else
What could Josh Duggar do to be justified by the world? Well, he could have been the same kind of horny bastard as Jeffrey Epstein, that guy who flew Bill Clinton back and forth from Lolita Island. We could call that plane the Jailbait Express, except that these are the cool kids. No jail in their future. They are justified.
Try to imagine the scandal over the Duggars being crowned by Josh Duggar’s wife announcing she was going to run for Congress. You will then have some sense of how much work the world’s justification can accomplish. If you can justify Clinton levels of corruption, you can accomplish quite a bit. At least for a while.
And here’s where we see the true efficacy of true justification. In order to accomplish it, the Son of God had to die. Jesus was crucified with our sin, was buried with all our sin, and rose again from the dead without that sin, and He did this for our justification. God’s justification – the ultimate double standard – required the blood of the Son of God in order to be just. The world’s justification is arbitrary and unjust. It is in no way lovely or learning, and so it is necessary to cudgel into submission anyone who points that awkward fact out. And hence the fines, hence the sensitivity training, hence the bullying. The world declares no condemnation over its favorites, and therefore has to pummel anyone who points out that, actually, the wrath of God remains on such (John 3:36). Clearly a firm hand is needed for such a hate theology.