I’m experimenting with blogging at Medium; it looks like I can get ad-free without having to pay for it or be hidden by a paywall. Anyway, here’s my first post over there, a brief meditation on the comfort that comes from knowing God’s providential control.
I said, in a previous post, that a secular or pagan society does not have the resources to deal effectively with the issues facing us, without collapsing into chaos or cementing into control. I want to elaborate on what some of the gaps are in the secular worldview, and how these become evident as a pagan society grapples with injustice. Two elements in particular come to mind, both of which are found in the passage I looked at yesterday, Colossians 3:1-11.
The first is that the pursuit of justice is properly holistic, and a partial pursuit of justice is easily twisted. The Christian worldview understands justice in the context of God’s righteousness, and therefore promotes a holistic justice in line with the character of God. But a pagan culture takes a subjective approach to justice, built on a confusion of philosophies and social theories. Thus we see the same people calling for justice in one area, while they promote wickedness in another. Exhibit A is the American celebrity class, who call for economic justice (while enjoying lavish lifestyles), even as they frequently advance the cause of abortion; exhibit B is the Black Lives Matter organization, which calls for racial justice even while they zealously advance sexual immorality.
In contrast, the Christian worldview calls for a holistic embrace of righteousness; racial unity comes in the context of the entire mortification of the flesh, including “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires…greed…anger, rage, malice, slander…filthy language” and lying (Col. 3:1-9, NIV). Our culture would like to pursue racial justice, while holding on to most, if not all of, the rest of these sins. Justice will not be the result. That is one of the lessons of the past weeks. It seems that the same cultural currents running against retributive justice for criminals have turned suddenly warm to unjust and indiscriminate retribution towards the innocent. That is a consequence of having an understanding of justice untethered to divine righteousness.
The second crippling gap in the secular worldview–and it is connected to the first–is the gross inadequacy of its anthropology. They seek racial justice, but they have rejected the truth about humanity. A culture that does not grasp the logic of human dignity will find new ways to denigrate people. A culture that doesn’t know what men and women are cannot advance human flourishing. This shows itself in the strikingly naïve call to disband police–in an area that has just been ravaged by horrifying rioting, arson, and looting–with the rosy prediction that peace and mutually supportive community will spring up in the absence of any law enforcement. Such policies can only be advanced by people who are ignorant of human fallenness, and think that sin can be remedied solely by education, psychology, housing, and community.
The Christian worldview, by contrast, recognizes that human dignity transcends all differences between us, because we are created in the image of God. This is why there is retributive justice, and not indiscriminate retribution. We also recognize that humans are fallen and now have a sin nature, and that laws (and their enforcement) are necessary. And we recognize that the hope for true and supportive community, for love that transcends all boundaries, is found in a new humanity in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to save us from sin. The hope for racial reconciliation is found in a Christian anthropology, which proclaims that in Christ, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (v.11).
The many grim headlines that have met us in recent days point to a nation caught in the tug-of-war between chaos and control, and remind us that we are in this dilemma because we, as a culture, have rejected the Lordship of Christ. We encounter grievous injustice, and try to deal with it with all the resources of pagan or secular worldviews; the results are what we see unfolding.
There can be no doubt that self-consciously Christian societies have often failed to live up to their own principles. But what should be noticed is that these failures were a contradiction of their principles, not an accordance with them. That means that such a society would have within itself the resources to address its failures with repentance and reconciliation. There is a divine standard of justice, pure and glorious, to which all men stand accountable; there is an identifiable spiritual root to all injustice, sin in the human heart; there is a means of challenging wickedness with the gospel of Jesus Christ, of calling sinners to repentance and of seeing change, reconciliation, healing, and love that transcends boundaries.
But a secular or pagan society–and are these different things, or only different names?–does not contain within itself the resources to address injustice. That is why the efforts to address it turn towards chaos or control. The way of Christ has been excluded from the start, in pursuit of freedom from God. But freedom from the Righteous One will never mean righteousness, nor true freedom. A society that rejects the God who is the divine standard of justice cannot be expected to arrive at justice in its social dimensions.
The solution to our situation is neither revolution nor authoritarianism. It is conversion. The price of a just and peacefully society is repentance. Repentance of what? Many things. But, in the first place, of our secularism. If we will not have Christ, it is control or chaos. If we do not want chaos or control, we must turn to Christ.
I bless you, God Most High, for this day to declare your glory and the resurrection hope. Wonderful you are, and wonderful are your works for our redemption. Thank you for the love that sent your Son to the cross; thank you for the power that raised our Lord from the tomb. For your mercy and kindness, your majesty and strength, be forever praised, God Most High—Amen.
Ever-blessed, ever-holy, Lord of life and light and love, ever-righteous, ever-mighty, God be praised this Easter dusk. We bless your Name and praise your majesty, Father-Son-Spirit, One God in Persons Three. Thank you for the gift of Jesus our Savior, for His atoning death, for His victorious resurrection, and for the gift of new life in Him. Draw us near, blessed God, in your so wonderful redemption—Amen.
Father Almighty, we worship you on this joyful resurrection day. Be glorified, Almighty God, our Maker and Master, our Savior and King. Glory to you in your unfathomable love, in the mercy that delivered your Son for us. Glory to you in your invincible strength, in the power that raised Jesus our Savior from the dead. Glory to you in your unapproachable holiness, in your incomparable majesty, glory and honor and praise—Amen!
This Easter finds us in strange circumstances, isolated during a time of fear and uncertainty. It may seem like there is a shadow over our celebration, when we are unable to gather together and sing the hymns of the resurrection, to exchange the joyful yearly greeting, “He is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”
But for these very reasons our Easter faith must be especially dear this year. It is in the depths of winter, when all is dead and bitterly cold, that we long most fervently for spring. The days we lay a-bed sick make us long for good health we otherwise take for granted, and the great sorrows of life strip away all of the distractions that numb us, and fill us instead with sweet and desperate hope for the life to come.
That hope is the joy of Easter, the wonderful promise of resurrection, of unfading newness beyond all the loss and weakness and grief of this world. For our longing for eternity is not a vain wish of the human heart; it is an echo of God’s original design in our souls, and it points us to the wonderful salvation that God offers in Jesus Christ. This high and holy day sweeps away all darkness and gloom with the triumphant proclamation of resurrection life.
Jesus is alive—now, today, and forevermore. Jesus has risen from the grave, conquered death, and He offers life and freedom to all who come to Him. This is the message of Easter, the perennial proclamation of gospel hope to a world of uncertainty and sorrow.
How wonderful the news on that first Easter Sunday, when the women came to the sepulcher expecting to find Jesus dead and buried, entombed in stone. Instead, two angels met them, and said, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’” (Luke 24:5-6, NIV). And in this resurrection, we have a living Savior, and the promise of resurrection to eternal life for all who trust in Him.
Take heart, for it is Easter. He is risen! Risen, indeed.
Spirit of Life, fill us ever fuller with this newness you have brought. Spirit of Hope, draw us daily to the cross, daily to the living Lord; confirm in us your hope undying. Spirit of Glory, be glorified in this day of joy. Be glorified in your power, in your holiness, in your love, in your wisdom and presence and work. Praise and worship and honor be yours, now and forevermore—Amen.
Risen Savior, thank you for this day to celebrate your resurrection. Let your victory be the praise of my heart and your glory the theme of my joy. You have triumphed in majesty and might. Sin is broken, death dealt a mortal blow. The stone is rolled aside, and the tomb no longer holds a power over us. Glory to you, Christus Victor, Lord triumphant, King forever!