The Death of Beauty (7)

Celebrating Past Beauty (5)

ww2-146-lPaul Ramsey Article (2)

Make no mistake, Mr. Ramsey had a partisan position with regard to participation in World War II — he was for it.  However, the means by which he pressed his point of view could hardly be more different than those used by today’s Progressive Christians.  For, nowhere in Mr. Ramsey’s article will you find accusations of mental illness in his opponents manifested as a “phobia.”  Nor will you find dark intimations of evil motives due to some sort of “ism.”  Finally, you will not find all of the talking points for his secular political position cobbled together with a throwaway reference to Jesus in order to claim that the piece is Christian.

What you will find is a profound meditation on the nature of the human condition in general and sin in particular.  Along the way he will acknowledge truth and error on both sides of the debate.  But the essential fact here is that Mr. Ramsey seeks to convince those in disagreement or on the fence by the quality of his arguments.  That is, he treats those not or not yet on his side as moral and intellectual equals.

By his own words Mr. Ramsey is in disagreement with “Liberal Protestantism”  on the issue at hand.  His opponents apparently were scandalized by the fact that prosecution of the war required people to engage in unrighteous acts.  Of this there can be no dispute, and Mr. Ramsey does not attempt to do so.  Rather, he points out that by so completely focusing on sin as “unrepentant unrighteousness” they fall prey to the less obvious but far more dangerous and destructive sin of “unrepentant righteousness.”

34+Then+Jesus+said,+Father,+forgive+them,+for+they+do+not+know+what+they+do.+Luke+23-34+(NKJV)The departure point for this argument is Christ’s words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34).  For, this greatest sin (perhaps excepting the “unforgivable sin”) was done entirely by people who believed that their motives were righteous.  For the Jewish leaders they were stopping a false Messiah.  For the Romans they were maintaining peace.  Mr. Ramsey’s point is that Christ’s words were not only applicable to that specific case, but are true in general.  Here is the key excerpt.

Do we not here recog­nize that sin and responsibility may vary inversely, rather than directly, with consciousness, so that greater sincerity actually means greater sin? Our own responsible and sinful implication in social institu­tions must already extend far out beyond the range of our conscious participation, else on what grounds do we make ourselves more consciously sinful by making ourselves more sensitive to the grinding, impersonal results of our common life? And when we are stabbed sharply awake to evil results that have followed from one of our actions, which we certainly did not “intend that way,” should this not give us pause, and bring the reflection that it is not just in this case that we sin not knowing what we do.

Mr. Ramsey’s point is not that, because sin consists of “unrepentant righteousness” then there is no need to be concerned about “unrepentant unrighteousness.”  Rather, it is to argue that by making an idol of our righteousness we can end up participating in greater sinfulness.

Before God, unrepentant unrighteousness and unrepentant righteousness come to the same thing; and an indication that they are judged alike by God is the fact that in history they come in time to the same thing, namely, cruelty. This is the Cross in History from which also, in the light of the Cross of Christ, we learn that man’s deepest sin lies in an unrepentant righteousness that knows not the sin for which it is responsible.

How then, if we must admit that we sin both in our unrighteousness and righteousness, can we avoid becoming incapable of any act or thought lest we thereby sin?  Mr. Ramsey’s answers are:

More fundamental than sorrow for our past sins is a repentant faith which in acting nevertheless waits for the Lord to complete by His Divine Provi­dence the goodness of our finite actions, and which still trusts Him when in His Divine Judgment our action is thwarted and rejected. If we are to be truly forgiven, truly the Father must forgive us.

and:

By the action of God in history, the sinfulness of human actions is judged and corrected, and the goodness of human action saved and incorporated in the Divine Will. Since our judgment about what is good is always infected by our sinful righteous­ness, the act of God in history always has, in rela­tion even to the best of us, an aspect of “otherness,” of being beyond the good and evil of our own mixed, self-defensive human judgments. When we do think we know the will of God for our time, our wills are strengthened, either to do or not to do, by a course of events utterly beyond our control. After each event we must always confess that we have been acted upon more than we have acted, that we have been changed more than we have changed anything, and that the ideals with which we began have not been realized in reality so much as they have been transformed to accord more with reality. By grace are we saved!

Nazi-Capture-Jews-WW2Although Mr. Ramsey’s prose does not achieve the heights of beauty discovered by Mr. Lincoln and Rev. Edwards, it yet is beautiful.  Its beauty lives in the lovely, humble and trusting manner in which he connects our fallen lives on this earth with the judgement and grace found only in God.  And, he meets a great human need by helping those brave but conflicted souls who found themselves called to oppose great evil to bear that terrible responsibility within the context of their Christian faith.


 

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The Death of Beauty (6)

Celebrating Past Beauty (4)

Paul-Ramsey-04

Robert Paul Ramsey (1913 – 1988) was a Methodist Christian ethicist.

Paul Ramsey Article (1)

I will spend more time on The Manger, The Cross and The Resurrection: A Christian Interpretation of Our Time by Paul Ramsey not because it is the most beautiful but because it was the means by which my vague sense of contemporary ugliness and past beauty was crystalized. To my mind the article has a somewhat rough start.  Nor does the prose itself ascend to the level of inherent beauty achieved by Lincoln’s or Edwards’.  In spite of this Ramsey’s article achieves beauty due to its blazing insight into human sin, God’s providential engagement in history and our responsibilities in this fallen world.

In the preface provided by the editors of Providence we are told that this article originally appeared in Christianity and Crisis on April 19, 1943.  Thus it would have likely been composed in early 1943, a time in which the outcome of World War II hung in the balance.  The United States, having entered the war on December 8, 1941, had by then engaged in mortal combat with Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.  There had been both crushing defeats and marvelous victories by then, with the war’s ultimate outcome still shrouded in mystery.  It was at this moment of civilizational crisis that Mr. Ramsey addressed some of the most profound issues of Christian theology as related to the human condition.

My assessment of the article’s subtext is that the scale, scope and depth of warfare to which the United States had committed caused great turmoil in many Christian souls.  How, they might have wondered, could their nation participate in the level of destruction and death that appeared to be necessary to defeat our foes?  And, given the extremities of violence necessary, how could we presume to own a moral superiority necessary to justify such cruel acts?

Yes, the Japanese attack on Perl Harbor had unified the nation and galvanized it into action.  Yet that very action led to questions of Christian ethics that simply could not be ignored by the faithful saints.  It was this boiling cauldron of fear, uncertainty and doubt that motivated Mr. Ramsey to meditate on some of the deepest issues of Christian theology as related to human action.

What emerged is a witness that transcends time and place.  It, by honestly and courageously addressing the issues of a particular situation, provides insight that is as relevant today as it was then.  In fact, given the deplorable consequences of human ideology having captivated so much of Mainline Protestantism, its message may be more needed today than it was in 1943.

The Death of Beauty (5)

Celebrating Past Beauty (3)

Jonathan_Edwards_engraving

Engraving of Edwards by R Babson & J Andrews

Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) Sermon

Jonathan Edwards (a strong supporter of Calvinist theology) is best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  But he nonetheless has written words about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ that beautifully capture the simultaneous majesty and humility of His Person.

I have attempted to address this aspect of our Savior’s character in Chapter 4 of my recently published eBook Christ and Cornelius: The Biblical Case Against Christian Pacifism (also available in PDF on this blog’s Documents Repository page).  Compared to this sermon excerpt my work looks clumsy and unconvincing.

And here is not only infinite strength and infinite worthiness, but infinite condescension, and love and mercy, as great as power and dignity. If you are a poor, distressed sinner, whose heart is ready to sink for fear that God never will have mercy on you, you need not be afraid to go to Christ, for fear that he is either unable or unwilling to help you. Here is a strong foundation, and an inexhaustible treasure, to answer the necessities of your poor soul, and here is infinite grace and gentleness to invite and embolden a poor, unworthy, fearful soul to come to it. If Christ accepts of you, you need not fear but that you will be safe, for he is a strong Lion for your defense. And if you come, you need not fear but that you shall be accepted; for he is like a Lamb to all that come to him, and receives then with infinite grace and tenderness. It is true he has awful majesty, he is the great God, and infinitely high above you; but there is this to encourage and embolden the poor sinner, that Christ is man as well as God; he is a creature, as well as the Creator, and he is the most humble and lowly in heart of any creature in heaven or earth. This may well make the poor unworthy creature bold in coming to him. You need not hesitate one moment; but may run to him, and cast yourself upon him. You will certainly be graciously and meekly received by him. Though he is a lion, he will only be a lion to your enemies, but he will be a lamb to you. It could not have been conceived, had it not been so in the person of Christ, that there could have been so much in any Savior, that is inviting and tending to encourage sinners to trust in him. Whatever your circumstances are, you need not be afraid to come to such a Savior as this. Be you never so wicked a creature, here is worthiness enough; be you never so poor, and mean, and ignorant a creature, there is no danger of being despised, for though he be so much greater than you, he is also immensely more humble than you. Any one of you that is a father or mother, will not despise one of your own children that comes to you in distress: much less danger is there of Christ’s despising you, if you in your heart come to him.

Can anyone point to theological prose that more beautifully calls us poor sinners to repentance?  Here is the work of a soul utterly captivated by Christ’s love.  The Reverend Edwards here intermingles two apparently opposite and irreconcilable aspects of our Savior’s character in a passage that unifies them with grace and power.  What non-Biblical words could more beautifully invite repentance and convince us that Christ has the power to save and protect?


It is a shameful fact that the name of Jesus Christ, let alone truthful meditation on His Person and purposes are so rarely found in contemporary PCUSA theological prose.  I certainly don’t demand beauty (otherwise I’d need to stop writing myself).  However, just to see that, regardless of the execution, hearts burn with thankfulness for and love of Christ Himself would be a wonderful relief.

The Death of Beauty (4)

Celebrating Past Beauty (2)

lincoln-2nd-inaug

Abraham Lincoln delivering the Second Inaugural Address

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865)

It is astounding that what I consider to be the most beautiful non-Scriptural theological prose ever written was composed by a politician rather than a theologian.  This Second Inaugural Address may have been delivered on a political occasion, but it utterly transcends the dross of politics.  Rather, at its core, this is a profound theological meditation on the causes and meaning of a truly cataclysmic event in the life of our Nation — the Civil War in which well over 600,000 lives were sacrificed to settle the question of slavery once and for all.

The speech itself is exceedingly short, consisting of only 698 words.  The first 359 words serve as a preamble for the theological meditation of only 339 words.  For the sake of brevity I excerpt only the theological meditation.

… Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Thinking back to the components of beauty for theological prose, what could be a deeper point of human need than that of the millions of lives that had been (and that were still being while the speech was given) scared by this most terrible war in U.S. history?  And, from whom were words of explanation and purpose more needed than that man whose election as President had set into motion that very war?  By bowing humbly to that terrible need Abraham Lincoln was able to compose a theological meditation of terrible beauty.

Although the Civil War still raged at the time of this speech the outcome was no longer in doubt.  In fact, only 36 days later General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House.  So, Lincoln’s primary purpose was to begin the process of healing for a nation that had suffered a grievous, perhaps even mortal wound.  But how could such a goal be pursued given the disunity and hatred of total war?

While living in Washington D.C. Lincoln and his family attended the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.  It is certain that there he would have experienced teaching aligned with the Westminster Confessions.  Thus, as the reelected President pondered his impossible task the theological framework upon which he would draw stressed God’s sovereignty and providential purposes in history.

How though could Lincoln invoke the Christian God Whom both citizens of the Union and Confederacy worshiped?  Lincoln courageously raised this conundrum as the starting point of his meditation.  But, although he included a powerful argument in support of the Union, he yet refused to claim that God was on the Union’s side.  For here the Reformed doctrine of sin’s universality allowed him to see that the sources of this terrible conflict encompassed the entire nation.  Thus, although the specific position on slavery had been decided in the Union’s favor, citizens of both sides were reminded that they shared a common responsibility for the existence of the sinful institution of chattel slavery.  Upon this ground the rightness of the Union’s cause might be maintained but without inciting an attitude of destructive moral superiority.

But it is when Lincoln addresses God’s place in the tragedy that beauty reaches its zenith.  How could there but be the most powerful temptation to blame God for this monstrous war?  That is, how could a kind and loving God have allowed so much terror and death to occur?  Here the humility of the created creature finds voice in Lincoln’s use of Psalm 19:9, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Rather than demanding that God answer at the dock of human pride, Lincoln humbly submits to the reality that God’s purposes are just even if the consequences are dreadful.  That is, “shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”  The answer is a resounding no.  Thus, Lincoln rejects the spiritually destructive temptation to blame God for sin while calling all humanity to repentance for their sin.

It is upon these theological foundations that Lincoln calls to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and to pursue “a just and lasting peace.”  It is therefore on our universal need for a Savior that Abraham Lincoln sought to rebuild the United States.  The miraculous fact is that the nation was indeed rebuilt in spite of Lincoln’s assassination by a Confederate sympathizer on April 15, 1865.

Can there be any doubt that Lincoln’s speech, particularly after his sudden death, encouraged the “better angels” of their natures in both the North and South?  These words, so humbly, so humanely, so worshiply composed and delivered set in motion the events by which a nation riven by hatred could yet be reconciled.  Had God not taught Lincoln utter humility in the crucible war and the school of Reformed theology this speech would have been very different, and a great nation may have been destroyed rather than reborn.


We once again find ourselves riven by seemingly irreconcilable political differences.  It is a sad commentary on the Christian Church that it no longer seems capable of providing the theological resources necessary for healing and renewal.  Were the Church just another human institution there would be no hope.  But it actually is the Body of Jesus Christ, so we wait with expectant hope for resurrection.

The Death of Beauty (3)

BeautyCelebrating Past Beauty (1)

So, what specifically constitutes beauty in theological prose?  Throughout this blog I have identified and discussed works that have profoundly affected me.  Although I didn’t then use the term “beauty,” I realize now that its presence explains much of my reaction.

Some examples in which theological prose achieved beauty include President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, John Calvin’s exposition on Christ’s suffering and death, Wilbert F. Howard’s Interpreter’s Bible exposition on John 2:13-17, Jonathan Edwards’ sermon on Christ’s simultaneous power and meekness, and R.C. Sproul’s The Pelagian Captivity of the Church.  Also, to show that beauty is not entirely dead, Wilfred M. McClay’s The Strange Persistence of Guilt is a wonderful contemporary example (although it isn’t primarily theological, it delves deeply enough into this domain to allow inclusion).

However the piece that initiated these thoughts about theological beauty was recently republished at the Providence web site.  The article, The Manger, The Cross and The Resurrection: A Christian Interpretation of Our Time written by Paul Ramsey was originally published in Christianity and Crisis on April 19, 1943.

Going forward I plan to comment on some of these examples of beauty in theological prose and then discuss the Paul Ramsey article in greater detail.

The Death of Beauty (2)

UglyUnderstanding the Ugliness

I will not wade back into specifics of the PCUSA theological  works identified in the previous post.  For anyone with the interest I have already expended tens of thousands of words critiquing them.  With regard to the same gender marriage Rationales, I have provided a separate page that contains all of the associated documents.  The reader is thus well positioned to assess my arguments regarding their deficiencies.

Rather, I will address the question of why, in my opinion, they are so ugly.  I suspect that the following discussion could be generalized to other domains given that the PCUSA’s elite are embedded in and utterly subservient to a larger social-political movement, that being secular Progressivism.

The first step towards understanding must be to define ugliness for the domain of Christian theological prose.  Here I met an immediate roadblock.  For, after considerable contemplation I have concluded that ugliness isn’t so much a definable thing as it is a negation.  That is, ugliness exists as the nullification of that which is beautiful.  Therefore, the way forward is to define the components of beauty in theological prose with the understanding that ugliness is their negation.

Beauty in Christian theological prose:

  • explores the implications of Christianity at the points of deepest human need;
  • maintains unity between the Bible’s testimony and our contemporary challenges;
  • honors and respects that great cloud of Christian witnesses that has come before us;
  • builds towards its conclusions by honestly addressing the primary necessary constituent issues;
  • treats readers as intellectualy and morally competent individuals whose agreement must be won through credible, compelling demonstration of truth;
  • seeks to define and discover truth;
  • utilizes language with a mastery of its capabilities to communicate profound meaning to the reader;
  • demonstrates mastery of the necessary subject matter;
  • elicits a sense of wonder in the reader;
  • draws the readers up towards truths that they may not have previously realized existed, but which are demonstrated to be testified to by Scripture;
  • honestly acknowledges the existence of competing perspectives and seeks to sufficiently address them.

Clearly, theological prose can be valuable and important without being beautiful.  In fact, there are many occasions where some aspects of beauty must be sacrificed in order to achieve the intended purpose.  A primary example of this is our Confessions.  In them the primary goals are comprehensiveness and accuracy in defining the doctrines taught by Scripture. Certainly, there are places in our Confessions where the majesty of the subject matter results in beauty.  However, this is not and cannot be the primary goal.

However, when a work of theological prose negates many or most of beauty’s components then ugliness is a likely outcome.  I claim that this is the case for many recent cases in the PCUSA’s theological prose.  Please feel free to compare the examples (and others) identified in the previous post with these components of beauty.  I contend that they are violated in profound ways, resulting in what can only be characterized as soul destroying ugliness.

Beauty is still sought and achieved throughout the PCUSA.  What a shame that it must swim against the tide of dishonesty, incompetence, bad faith and apostasy, that is the ugliness, that emanates from our supposedly elite leadership.

The Death of Beauty (1)

Death-of-Beauty

Introduction

I recently came across a fascinating article titled The Persistence of Beauty.  Although the primary topic is classical music, the author (Andrew Balio) also touches on beauty as related to architecture, poetry and worship.  His thesis is that, somehow, the concept of beauty has not been killed in the world of classical music.  This situation is notable because beauty has been effectively murdered in many other areas, including art, architecture and poetry/prose.

Unless you are a recent graduate of an “institution of higher education” or are deeply involved in the elite Progressive world of philosophy or the arts, it may come as a surprise that the concept of beauty is dead.  Apparently, the reason that beauty must be killed is that it is a value judgment that places one thing above another.  Of course, Progressives continually place their ideological positions above those of others and then use those determinations to destroy the lives of those others.  But, you see, this is just the application of “truth” (as delivered to us daily by the pagan gods of contemporary America) as opposed to that of individual human “judgement.”

A cynic might well conclude that the murder of “beauty” in the arts is primarily in the interest of talentless con-artists who wish to make a financial killing.  The problem unique to classical music is that the listening public has rejected this con-game, thus forcing orchestras to continue offering up “beautiful” classical music.  Here’s how the author describes the situation.

The ugly and the ridiculous in musical composition have been largely defeated in our concert halls because they have been rejected unequivocally by the human ear. When they do appear in a concert program today they are not-quite-ingeniously sandwiched in the middle of the evening, because programmers know that audiences will arrive late or leave early to avoid them. And it’s no good scorning the audience for its “philistine” appreciation of Beauty. They’ll just elect not to show up for the scorn or for anything else, either. In fact, not surprisingly, that is exactly what has happened as naturally conservative audiences abandoned their symphony orchestras.

It is with reference to the author’s brief comment on the relationship between beauty and worship that I will develop my own ideas on the current sorry state of Progressive Christianity’s theological prose.  Mr. Balio quotes Roger Scruton and then adds his own thoughts.

You entered both the church and the concert hall from the world of business, laying aside your everyday concerns and preparing to be addressed by the silence. You came in an attitude of readiness, not to do something, but to receive something. In both places you were confronted with a mystery, something that happened without a real explanation, and which must be contemplated for the thing that it is. The silence is received as a preparation, a lustration, in which the audience prepares itself for an act of spiritual refreshment.

The music, like the religious mystery, draws us into it and holds us in its enchantment. It opens for us a door into a space that exists beyond our physical world, and what we hear moving in the music through that space is us. The symphony takes us on a journey through the secretive shadows and the uncertain vistas of our human condition. It touches those things of value within us, and it invites them to witness the miracle of transubstantiation wherein the dross of our daily existence, however trivial or tragic, is changed into the possibility of our salvation. “Your feelings at the end of a great classical symphony,” Scruton confirms, “have been won from you by a process which involves your deepest being.”

My point of departure is the observation that when I read theological writings by people from fifty or more years ago I regularly experience what can be called beauty.  By “beauty” I don’t necessarily mean “agreement.”  Rather, I mean that the author is exploring a theological issue by application of humane argumentation through which they seek to win agreement “by a process which involves your deepest being.”

The same cannot be said of more recent theological writings.  I have had the misfortune to read every rationale document produced by the theologians of the PCUSA in support of same-gender marriage.  I have also read numerous other examples of their writing, including immigration policy, blog posts, the state of Israel, sermons, conference talks, overtures and Confessions (among others).  The last word I would use to describe these efforts is beautiful.  Rather, words like turgid, derivative, bureaucratic, soulless and boring come to mind. If I had to sum it up in a single word it would be ugly.

I thus will argue that what the con-men have done to the arts is analogous to what Progressive theologians have done to theological writing.  That being, turned it from an endeavor requiring the greatest effort of human striving for truth to a bureaucratic production line of pathetic ideological conformity.

 

Romans: The Case for Christ to a Hostile World (18)

DC-Gospel?Contemporary Contemplations (2)

Although the Gospel as testified by Romans is still preached from thousands of pulpits across the United States, I contend that the contemporary hostility to its message may well be similar to that of pagan Rome.  It’s not just that our secular institutions have become “paganized,” but much of what calls itself the Christian Church has followed suit.  For, having lost all faith in the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ, the leadership of some Christian denominations has cast its lot with the secular Progressive political movement in order to remain “relevant.”

This intertwining of “Christianity” and Progressivism has resulted in a general retreat from orthodox Christian theology and to a multicultural, identity-based, socialist and bureaucratic/elitist ideology that is virtually undifferentiated from that of god-less Progressivism.

I contend that, to the extent that Christian leaders have accepted this ideology, they have become willing members of the pagan priestly class described in the previous post.  That is, although they may be in the leadership of organizations that were founded as Christian, their actual purpose is to twist “Christianity” into whatever contorted form necessary to support the Progressive political goals of the day.  Their utility derives from the ability to hoodwink their parishioners into believing that “Christianity” and secular Progressivism are perfectly and always aligned.  Therefore, it is imperative that they maintain the pretense of orthodox Christianity so as to not lose their power base.

Thus, even much of what we call “Christian” in the contemporary United States is simply an extension of the secular, or pagan, power elite that despises actual Christianity.  If you have been reading this blog then you understand the reasons that I make this statement. If you have not or are not paying attention to what some denominational leadership is doing and saying, then this statement may well appear to be ridiculous.  Regardless, please understand that I have not lightly come to this sad conclusion.

As a consequence of this situation the overt and subversive hostility to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as testified to by Romans (and other Bible Books) is massive.  The simple fact is that God’s merciful saving of sinners is of no practical use for partisan Progressives.  In the first place, they are utterly unwilling to acknowledge a source of truth and power that is independent of human will.  For to do so would be an admission that human beings are not capable of organizing themselves to create an ever more perfect world.

Secondly, they absolutely reject the idea of Biblical sin as an unavoidable and uniform human condition.  They demand the right to define “sin” based on their own political positions and practical needs.  They also insist that “sin” is something that they stand above due to their carefully maintained political correctness.  Thus, it is only their political opponents who are “sinners.” And, “sin” must not be tied to anything independent of their thought and needs, like the Bible.  For, in order to manipulate other human beings into accepting their current political “talking points,” “sin” must be an ever changing concept that is under their control.

Thirdly, they absolutely despise the idea of human life based on thankfulness and joy.  For their power is based on the continual accumulation of anger, resentment and jealousy.  The misery that they cultivate is a weapon that can be easily directed at their opponents by painting them as the reason for all the world’s ills.

Finally, they reject the idea that they are answerable to God.  For they refuse to be limited by anything beyond their own wills to power.  Thus they are freed to utilize any argument, no natter how defective or dishonest; any available power, no matter how corrupt or any emotion, no matter how destructive to achieve their chosen ends.

It is into this putrid, hostile cultural environment that the Book of Romans makes its case for Christ.  Two-thousand years ago God chose for this Gospel to transform the Roman Empire from paganism to Christianity.  We simply do not know today if it is God’s providential purpose to save and redeem the West.  One-thousand years hence will we be seen as a source of hope or a warning?  Ours is not to know.  Rather, it is to be faithful to the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ here where we have been placed by God.

Amen.