(With the new blog settings, it's not obvious that the title is a link to an article in the NYT. The article this post is responding to is here).
The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked Jeremiah tells us. Since the fall men have sought to sin in ways that would be culturally acceptable— ways that allow a deceitful heart to rationalize the sin into acceptable behavior.
In Jesus day, apparently it was culturally acceptable to declare one’s goods Corban and thereby honorably relieve one’s self of any obligations to provide for one’s extended family.
In previous centuries, while it would have been considered murder for a man-hater to simply put a bullet in the head of the man he hated as he walked out his front door, it was acceptable to challenge him to a duel and put a bullet in his head from 15 paces. In fact, refusal to participate in such activity was considered dishonorable or cowardly.
We’re no different today. While it’s no longer culturally acceptable to leave your unwanted baby to die in the center of town, it is acceptable to bash in their skull and suck out their brains, provided the baby’s feet are still in the birth canal. If they weren’t, of course, then it would be murder.
While it is illegal to confiscate other people’s labor today without compensation, simply because they are black, it is perfectly legal and acceptable to confiscate other peoples labor without compensation under the elastic currency laws. [For the full explanation of how this works, see the book, Dollar Non¢ents.] Similarly, while no one would condone greedy men collecting money at gunpoint, many consider it perfectly acceptable for greedy men to enact a tax of 90% of other people’s income and then to collect the tax at gunpoint. In fact, participation in such activity by legislators, voters, and special agents is considered worthy public service.
The same games that are played with the 5th, 6th, and 8th commandment are also played with the 7th commandment. In the 7th commandment, God forbids procreation outside of the marriage covenant. Donor eggs and sperm from outside a marriage produce children outside of a marriage. When all the rationalizing is over, participation in such activity by married people is adultery. Participation in such activity by unmarried people is fornication.
Why all these silly distinctions? People know in their heart of hearts that murder, adultery, and theft are wrong. Their conscience accuses them until they are able to sear it. And so they play games in a futile effort to pretend that the murder they are committing is not murder, that the theft they are committing is not theft, or that the adultery they are committing is not adultery.
It is the church, Jesus said, that is to be the conscience of culture. For you are the salt of the earth. The church primarily accomplishes this through Christians living their lives in obedience to the word of God. It is through synods and preaching that Christians are guided and equipped to live their lives in obedience to the Word of God.
All would acknowledge that it is the law of God that must direct and form our conscience. God's Word is the only rule of faith and practice. So when we come to society as salt and light, what other law can we bring than the law of God? What other standard can we use in being the cultural conscience?
Obviously the only standard that we can bring is the law of God. We should not argue for laws against murder and theft because these actions inconvenience us or ruin families. Our reason these things are wrong must be the simple, "Thus says the Lord." By the same token, neither should we discuss the punishment for these sins in terms of what benefits society. Our reason for executing murderers must be because God has commanded the civil magistrate to bring his [i.e God's] wrath on those that do evil. Although societal benefit is not the basis for punishing criminals, we certainly expect that cultural obedience to God's law in this area will bring his blessing on society. This does not exclude the need for laws that are not specifically given in scripture. But our starting point in such discussions must always be the application of God's revealed law to the specific situation in which we find ourselves.
It is when the church, being ashamed of the law of God, begins to argue for right and wrong in utilitarian terms that she becomes unable to speak clearly on ethical issues. She becomes salt that has lost its savor; she becomes a candle hid under a basket.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
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