Over time Nebuchadnezzar drifted into a belief in Babylonian exceptionalism. “The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). Because of his hubris, because of his conceit, he was struck with madness. The God of heaven determined to show that a man thinking that he had actually built his own empire was equivalent to him thinking that he was a moo cow.
And Nebuchadnezzar remained in that state until he returned to sanity. And what did that return to sanity look like? It looked like this:
“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:34–35).
The king’s insanity consisted of not taking God (as God) into account, and his return to sanity consisted of acknowledging that the God of the system was outside the system.
If there is no God outside the system, then the system is god. And that means there is no external point of reference by which the activities of the system may be evaluated. But using your only yardstick to measure your yardstick is simply stupid. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12).
This kind of folly is how Nebuchadnezzar came to embrace the bovine right of kings. This is how Caligula planned to make his horse a consul. And this is exactly the same kind of thing that Obama is doing with the transgender insanity. The Justice Department has determined that a small child with a wee wee has the authority to determine in his heart that he really ought not to have one, and thus must be allowed to use the other restroom. And the full fury of our august nation will descend upon your head and shoulders if you give way to the temptation to snicker.
But there is a logic to it. If you are the supreme leader of the strongest nation the world has ever known, and there is no voice from outside the system to check your folly, then it follows that there is no such thing as folly.
“For my people is foolish, they have not known me; They are sottish children, and they have none understanding: They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jer. 4:22).
In the early years of secularism, because of inherited Christian capital, things could run pretty well. But this is like saying that for the first three days of partying the prodigal son still had money. After secularism has had its full opportunity to work out the logic of its own premises, to rule on the basis of its own insane wisdom, you may glance around at the consequences. What a JOKE. So it was prescient for the secularists to devise a system of polity in which all decisions are vindicated in their very own self-referential ways, where we measure our yardstick with our own yardstick, such that there is no such thing as a JOKE. Otherwise we’d all look pretty stupid right now.
In Scripture, death is separation. Physical death is separation of the spirit from the body. Spiritual death is separation from God. That which is dead is divided. Death is therefore not a state of being inert. Death is actually separation. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins, Paul says, in which we used to walk. We used to walk around in a condition of separation from God. We did not walk around in a condition of not being able to walk around.
I say this in order to define life. If we want to talk about “all of Christ for all of life,” and it is only fair to define terms. Jesus said that He came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. But what is this abundant life? Is it merely some kind of spiritual joy juice, some kind of celestial circus water? Doing whatever you were doing before, but just a little bit more cheerfully?
If death is separation and division, then life is union, integration, restoration. In Col. 1:18, Paul says that Christ is the arche of all things, the one in whom all things hold together. But in order to hold all things together like this, Christ must be at the right hand of the Father. He must be the one who created the cosmos, which means that we must insist on a Creator/creation divide. Meaning for the creation can only come from outside the creation. If meaning arises from within the system, then whatever arises must be received by us as though it were meaningful, and we must do so with solemn faces.
The integration of all things that is so necessary can only be accomplished by Christ, and this Christ must be the uncreated God, the Second Person of the Godhead. Deny this and everything turns stupid.
Now we live in a world that is fragmented by sin. It has always been fragmented de facto, but one of the things that is unique about our time is that we have begun insisting on normalizing this fragmented condition. We are now insisting on fragmentation de jure. It is one thing to live in a broken world that you know is broken (because there is an unbroken standard outside the world). But it is quite another to live in a broken world that everyone claims is whole, perfect, just right. So the decree has now gone forth — Bedlam rhymes with Bethlehem, and will serve just as well.
And if you say no, no, the world in fact is broken, the thought police — actually, we don’t have thought police anymore, but something more like militarized thought SWAT teams — descend upon you and your hateful ways.
Remember that death is separation, and note that there are three forms of death that our crazed and febrile world insists we cling to. In what follows, I am using certain figures in philosophy as representatives and/or place-holders, and not trying to review the history of intellectual thought as though it were an exercise in billiard ball physics. Still, take note.
Going back to Kant, we have wanted to insist on a profound separation between the Creator and the creation. This is not epistemic humility — it is spiritual death. Going back to Hume, we have been separated from the world around us. We do not trust our knowledge of the world anymore at all. We needed to have followed Thomas Reid instead. Going back to Sartre, we have been separated from the authority of right reason. In short, we lost God, we lost the world, and now, right on schedule, we have lost our minds.
Another way of saying this is that we have lost our way.
“My people hath been lost sheep: Their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: They have gone from mountain to hill, They have forgotten their restingplace” (Jer. 50:6).
When Christian thinkers try to appeal to this world gone mad, urging them to remember the honored tradition of religious liberty, they need to realize that it was the honored Christian tradition of religious liberty. But now, locked up in the asylum as we are, with no outside reference point tolerated, there is no reason for anyone to remember any of that. Who is worse off? The madman who sticks with his madness, or the reasonable guy who expects the madman to act as though he were not mad?
And so this is why the only thing the Church should be doing right now is declaring, announcing, and preaching the saving lordship of Jesus Christ. Do you want salvation? You will need a Savior for that. But mark it well. I do not mean “gospel-centeredness” as a means of evacuating a crazy world. I mean real gospel-centeredness, the kind that restores worlds, and builds civilizations.
Our generation is in the midst of lunatic convulsions. Whenever the fit seizes us, we are thrown into the fire, into the water. Nothing whatever can be done. The disciples could not cast out that particular demon, Jesus said, because of their unbelief. It is the same now.
Consider the sentiments from this translation of the first verse of Psalm 68, a Huguenot battle hymn. Compare it to the kinds of things we sing in our huddled conclaves.
Let God but rise and show his face,
And in a moment from the place
Our foes are disappearing.
Their camp dispersed, bereft their pride,
Astonished, pressed on every side,
They flee at his appearing.
We shall behold their scattered tents
Fade like a vapor dark and dense,
Their nothingness remaining:
As melts the wax in fervent heat,
So melt the wicked when they meet
Our God, their strength consuming.