Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Pyrrhic Victory Of Human Nature

Anyone who takes a look at my "What I believe" link will see that I affirm what is commonly called "the Five Points of Calvinism", often shortened to the acrostic TULIP. If you are at all familiar with them you know that the "T" represents "total depravity". It is a recognition of the extent that sin has impacted our world: each and every human being is depraved and without merit or hope apart from Christ. Because I recognize this I also recognize that unregenerate human beings will inevitably reflect this depravity in their belief system and in their actions. Throughout history this has been confirmed by the actions of countless humans treating other humans with cruelty and treating themselves in some ways the same, debasing themselves in various ways. For much of what we would call Western Civilization the state, often in partnership with organized religion, has enforced laws that minimized this depravity or at least drove it underground. I also recognize that Western Civilization has also been home to some of the great atrocities of mankind from the Inquisition to genocide to wars that killed tens of millions of civilians. So I am of mixed feelings on the utility of laws designed to limit the extent of human depravity. On the one hand they have kept some of the more deviant and destructive practices in check until recently. On the other hand these laws and culturally norms have led to a very religious but very confused society that sees morality as the chief end of Christianity rather than regeneration, salvation by behavior modification rather than transformation. I place the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of the church and count myself as one of the guilty.

So along comes the latest head scratching deviancy of the month, so called "Gender-Neutral Dating". This isn't talking about people that are physiologically abnormal, these are just confused people who are aided and abetted in their confusion by our culture. I saw an essay about it in the National Review and even my somewhat jaded mind was befuddled. From lingerie for "men" to confusing rules for dating, the article by Kevin Williamson would have been simply unthinkable just a few years ago. Kevin is pulling his material from the group "the Good Men Project". I stumbled on to their webpage recently and I agree with Kevin's assessment of it as "a repository of painfully navel-gazing male-feminist apologetics". The article is a bit off-putting in its language but that is the world we live in. I wonder if William F. Buckley Jr. had any notion that articles like this would grace the electronic pages of the magazine he founded so soon after his death.

Quite the world we are living in. We are one inevitable Supreme Court decision away from mandating the recognition of homosexual "marriage" which will be followed in short order by another decision that will create yet another right from out of the blue that will expand "marriage" to include any number of permutations. We are far beyond the point where the Constitution has any relevance in law, today laws are unconstitutional if declared so by the court even if there is nary a whisper of the topic to be found in the actual Constitution. If you had told me twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, that we would find ourselves in a place where homosexuals can get married, marijuana can be sold legally and employers have to provide contraception to their employees I would have laughed at you. Now pretty much anything you can imagine is on the table. In the very near future we will live in a society that is majority dependent on the government for basic living essentials and at the same time where traditional marriage, the most reliable bellwether of the odds of a person living in poverty or not, will be relegated to a naive cultural anachronism. No doubt the correlation and irony will be lost on many.

If the choice is between the alleged world of "white privilege", "heteronormalcy" and patriarchy or a world where everything including something so foundational as gender is fluid and subject to change or redefinition on a whim, I will take the former seven days a week. Things were hardly all sunshine and puppy dogs back in the day but compared to today? It seems almost like a barely remembered dream of simpler and better times.

It is not a coincidence that this sort of mass confusion has risen alongside social "progress". In one example of this progress, the sexual revolution that purports to "liberate" women, has in fact done just the opposite. The rise of feminism and the "empowerment" of women, in another richly ironic twist, has proven a utopia for shiftless men where the sex is easy, the access to visual stimulation is so prevalent that you have to take onerous measures to not come across it and women have added bringing home the bacon to their existing role of maintaining the home and caring for the children. I have labeled the current era as the Golden Age Of Male Irresponsibility. No longer do men have to grow up and get a job to get the benefits of marriage. There used to be a saying, now painfully quaint and outdated, that mothers used to say to their daughters: Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free? Now guys get the milk for free and the cow pays the rent while he plays X-Box or moves on entirely for greener and less needy pastures leaving the mother with the kids.

The church has hardly been immune to this degrading of human nature into an amorphous notion of gender (or lack thereof) and sexuality that grows more confusing every day. Many so-called mainline denominations embraced first women as elders and pastors and eventually open, practicing and unrepentant homosexuals as clergy. This is clearly not a new phenomena. Paul addressed the topic of sexuality immorality and gender in multiple occasions, just a few short years after the cross.

What are we to make of this? How can we be witnesses of a exclusive hope that requires a repentance from sin to a world that refuses to acknowledge even the basest concept of sin, except of course the sin of intolerance. I believe we will find that simply living as we are called to live as the church will prove to be the most powerful witness. Rather than despair we should be encouraged. The sin that is on display and celebrated has always been there just under the surface. It was easy for the lost to play at religion and receive affirmation from our cultural manifestations amidst their state of condemnation. That world is coming to an end and our visible witness will become so much more important than our religious trappings and squabbles over pet doctrines. Now more than ever the church needs a bedrock foundation on issues like marriage, gender and human sexuality. Those ever louder voices in our religious culture that claim that the way forward is conformity to the world need to be confronted in love and boldness. This is not a time for retreat and compromise, it is a time for renewed fidelity to Scripture. The more we demonstrate a way that runs counter to the world, the more distinct yet accessible we are, the clearer our witness will be. Shouldn't that be our goal?

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