by RICK PLASTERER
Faithful Christians contending for the true gospel, both from external legal and social threat and internal subversion, need to keep constantly in mind the reason for the conflict, and why we are contending. The conflict is about the meaning of the gospel, which is salvation from sin to the glory of God. Against this, the opposing doctrine of our day, advanced externally by social and legal pressure, and internally by theological liberalism, proposes that the true meaning of the gospel is liberation from oppression. Whenever the latter meaning is accepted, the point of following Christ is lost. Freedom can be sought with many justifications, but salvation can only be found in Christ. To the extent that liberation rather than salvation is accepted as the gospel, the task of the orthodox believer defending the Biblical gospel of salvation from sin becomes a hopeless one.
As discussed in an earlier article by this writer, the theological left uses Jesus’ anti-Pharisee polemic to strong advantage to make their point, along with a selective reading of the prophets of Israel. It is true that Jesus denounced the Pharisees, but he denounced them for their hypocrisy, not for their aspiration to obey the law of God as being the righteous rule for life. He did not consider the law of the old covenant to be oppressive, and he (in practice) set aside only its ceremonial aspects, not the moral commands pertaining to our relation to God and man.
Nor were Moses and the prophets focused above all on suffering and oppression. The Bible has much to say about oppression and the unjust use of authority, but it is clear that the cause of oppression is the indulgence of the flesh. Just as the Egyptians benefitted by the oppression of the Hebrews, allowing them “the pleasures of sin,” and the high standard of living it required, so the Israelites in the wilderness wanderings and the promised land were moved by the lust of the eyes and the pride of life to seek gods who would provide what they wanted in life, and personified what they wanted (e.g., rain, sex, fertility). Or they were tempted to magic to get what they wanted (including the practice of human sacrifice, which we again see in our day in the taking of unborn life). Or indeed they were moved to oppress others, violating the law given through Moses, to secure the good life as the Egyptians did. But the call of the prophets was rebuke for indulging the self, a call to self-denial, not a proclamation that people should be free to be their “true selves” (liberated from the authority of the law).
In addition to the charge of hypocrisy, both the older social gospel, the later “liberation theology,” and indeed, people from the ordinary populace of the wider world who don’t like traditional Christian faith and morals, make the closely related charge of self-righteousness. But this too is wrong. It is rather the revolutionaries commonly called “leftists” in our day, with their doctrine of self-actualization (both for the individual and society) from constraining authority who are in fact guilty of self-righteousness. They really advance their own righteousness, i.e., the propriety of their identities and self-established requirements, against whatever stands in the way of what they want. What Christians claim instead is the righteousness of God. We obey Gods commands, although imperfectly, as a result of salvation, not to attain salvation. Faithful Christians are, indeed, the “good people,” advancing the holiness and humility commanded by God, against a world of pride and sin. It is very telling that those who claim “oppressed identities” advance their own pride as a matter of virtue. Biblically, pride is not virtue, but vice. The pride of self-determination does not acknowledge any higher constraining authority. In particular, since it is self-determination, it will not accept correction, and thus will deny sharing in the sin of humanity.
These two theologies, orthodox theology, which is focused on a righteous creator to whom we have a duty overriding all else, and modern theology, growing out of the Enlightenment, which holds God to bless our own self determined life, are the theologies behind today’s political conflict. Conservative politics is ultimately rooted in the Christian past. It may not be specifically Christian, but it seeks to ensure the conditions in which people can do what is manifestly their duty in the created order, and to protect the right of people to obey God as they understand his commands to be. “Liberal,” or better, “liberal/left” politics, striving to ensure self- determination for all, seeks to ensure material well-being for all, and a legal structure in which one can comfortably assign one’s life whatever meaning one wants to give it.
There is no common ground between a gospel which mandates obedience to God and one which holds that God mandates whatever people want. By the grace that God has given us, we choose to obey God rather than men. There can be coincidental agreement with the secular left on a particular issue, but at a basic level, the two gospels are immoral to one another.
But Christians can point out that the ethic of self-determination cannot consistently work. Abortion is a particularly sharp issue, where the self- defined good life of one human being requires the death of another. The advent of transgenderism is another sharp issue, where the virtue of self- defined sex clashes with the virtue of protecting biological women.
The narrow gate may be difficult. It would restrict the joy of sexual union to the monogamous marriage of man and woman, restrict the life of a mother by her duty to care for her child, prohibit the consumption of physically and psychologically harmful substances, and in general discourage or prohibit the culture of sensuality and gratification encouraged by today’s entertainment industry. The Bible holds the narrow gate to be difficult. But pursuing it is everyone’s duty to God, and the way to life.
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