Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wayward Beings

One theme that recurs frequently in the pages of Scripture is the idea that human beings are wayward and sinful. From the third chapter of Genesis and the Fall of Man until the Great White Throne of Judgment mentioned in Revelation 20, the entire Bible is about people being wayward. We do what we shouldn't do, and don't do the things we should. We pursue things that lead to destruction and avoid things that lead to restoration and life. We value that which is transitory and illusory while denigrating that which is really of worth. All of us live this way. All of us fairly consistently behave in counterproductive manners.

I was reminded of that potent and inescapable fact as I was conversing with my younger brother. Despite being fairly young, he has more wisdom than many people even twice his age. Recently he has been reading through the books of Job, Psalms and Proverbs. As we were discussing the ways various people perceive things, the things people value and the behaviors people exhibit and reward, we were both struck by the simple realization that people really do live almost precisely contrary to the way the Bible teaches. In almost any area of life, wherever society encourages one mindset or set of behaviors, the Bible advocates precisely the opposite path.

Modern Values
Selfishness
Hedonism
Independence
Self-sufficiency
Quid pro quo
Material wealth
Arrogance
Exclusivity
Striving for gain
Instant gratification

God's Values
Unconditional love
Pursuit of holiness
Interdependence
Reliance on God's provision
Sacrificial giving
Spiritual prosperity
Proper assessment of self
Inclusivity
Contentment
Patience

The dichotomy is quite stark. Today we are relentlessly taught to "look out for number one." We are bombarded with messages that material wealth is the key to success, happiness and social status. We are reminded that "you have to depend on yourself because people will always let you down." We value the pursuit of personal happiness more than we care to enhance the lives of others or live by God's moral code. We are told to "be irrationally confident" and "to err on the side of too much cockiness rather than too little." They say that "there is no such thing as unconditional love" and therefore we should never expect it or give it. We are inundated with messages that religion and spirituality are empty or soul-killing things that prevent abundant living. We are encouraged to have an excess of self-esteem, regardless of the rightness of such an opinion. Cliques and snobbery are encouraged, and those who aren't sufficiently exclusive in their social connections are frowned upon. We are taught to give less than we receive, and never be the first one to give. This dichotomy is powerful, pronounced and deeply ingrained in our mental processes.

Yet, it is all backwards. And, throughout human history, it always has been. The clear division that we see between societal values and God's value is not something peculiar to our era. Rather, this is a social phenomenon that has existed since mankind came into being. It is one which afflicts us all. I am no stranger to valuing the things I shouldn't, pursuing things that are transitory and viewing myself through the distorted lenses of my own perceptions or societies perceptions. The disease of sin is an infectious one which spreads and takes over unless it is resisted. The only cure is spiritual renewal, which comes from submission to God and bathing oneself in the words of God.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)
This is also why I am firm believer in Christianity. The Christian metanarrative is the only one that properly explains why we are such wayward beings, attests to sinfulness being an abnormal condition, and offers a solution to that dilemma. Some worldviews postulate that though we are broken beings we are as we always have been, and therefore there can be no solution. Some worldviews deny that there is anything wrong with humanity. Thank God that though there is a disease in humanity, there is also grace and room for redemption. It just takes a bit of humility and the hard work of repentence.

2 comments:

  1. This is also why I am firm believer in Christianity. The Christian metanarrative is the only one that properly explains why we are such wayward beings, attests to sinfulness being an abnormal condition, and offers a solution to that dilemma.

    100% my position as well, Silas. Furthermore, one reason I lean towards Calvinist theology is that not only do I consider, as you say, the Christian story to be the best account of the world as we find it, but it is bizarre to me that so many intelligent people won't see that it is. While I've been impressed by the conservative blogosphere's stance on many of today's PC lies, it's nevertheless the case that you can present the Gospel to somebody who possesses every intellectual means to grasp it - and it's like talking to a stone. They should get it, but they just won't, apart from God's enabling grace.

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