The late public intellectual Roger Scruton once observed that the difference between the conservative and the progressive visions is that the conservative believes in unchosen obligations while the progressive believes that choice is the foundation for all obligations. We have seen in recent years that this dogma even extends down into one’s biological sex. If one didn’t choose it—and one didn’t—then there can be no obligation. Or so they think.
This is not to say that the conservative vision is coercive. It simply means that obligations can be foundational to our decisions, and that they are not dependent upon our choices or decisions. I have obligations to my family, but did not choose my family. I have obligations to my nation, but did not choose my nation. Not all constraints are coercive.
As we are baptizing an infant here, we can see this principle in play. This child will grow up in this congregation, and will have obligations to her. Those obligations were settled for her before she was born, and we are sealing and solemnizing them now.
In the old covenant, the people of God were charged to act in accordance with their covenantal obligations, and in the economies of God the foundational way to fulfill our covenantal obligations is through personal regeneration, which is the gift of God lest any should boast.
“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings” (Jer. 4:4).
Photo by @samaradoole on unsplash.