Regulating the Externals

As I said in an earlier post, we live in a culture which rejects a biblical anthropology in a very profound way.  In the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Arizona, there are already proposals to regulate various aspects of our lives.  From regulating our speech to yet another round of new gun control laws, there’s now great focus upon controlling external behaviors.  There is a belief that tragedies like this won’t happen if only we have the right controls in place.

I’m not trying to be political here at all, but these proposals miss the point entirely.  They don’t address the fundamental reasons why crimes like this happen.  Modern American society is not only thoroughly pluralistic, but very Pelagian as well.  The idea that we exist at birth in a tabula rasa type of state is very popular.  Original sin is not.  We have a “follow your heart” culture that doesn’t recognize the fallen, corrupt condition of the human heart (Jer. 17:9).

This is a constant challenge when witnessing to unbelievers today.  The good news of the Gospel is alien to them because they don’t even recognize that there’s a problem.  It makes sense that liberal “mainline” churches have a watered-down social gospel in place of the Gospel.  How did this happen?  The first step was a wholesale rejection of biblical authority–and with it, a biblical anthropology.  In recent years, Evangelicalism has been going down the same route.  Just listen to their sermons.

To be fair, this Pelagian mentality exists across the political spectrum.  Within the church, this almost always leads to other agendas superimposing themselves over the proclamation of the Gospel.  The Evangelical Left (e.g., Jim Wallis) and the Evangelical Right (e.g., James Dobson) are both two sides of the same coin.  Their focus is upon controlling the externals, not looking to the inherent problem within the inner man.

A culture that desperately seeks to regulate the external realities of human behavior in order to bring about some collective, earthly salvation is one which has both feet planted firmly in quicksand.  The effects of these regulations are usually short-lived and even backfire.  When it comes to the total depravity of mankind, people suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) while choosing to see the inner man as a picturesque Hallmark card.  “If only we put him in the right environment…”

What I’ve said here is not to discount the necessity of civil government or that those who commit evil acts don’t need to be restrained.  God ordained the state just for the very reason.  It’s a common grace institution whose purpose is to counter and deter the external affects of human sin.  But like all forms of common grace, this too can be abused to a great degree.  History is replete with examples of government excess.

At the end of the day, we have to deal with human nature in the most honest way possible if we are to understand tragedies like the Arizona shooting.  Yet we know that the unregenerate man will continue to deceive himself.  He does not want to be confronted with is own sin.  The natural man stands in stark contrast to the holiness of God, in whose light he cannot stand.

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One Response to Regulating the Externals

  1. James Haughton says:

    Josh, Again you hit the nail on the head. It is the ever present difficulty of man, acknowledging that he is personally responsible for the sin he commits and stands guilty before God. He is ever attempting to off-loading his guilt onto some external influence or justifying himself by some external act. All the while he refuses to acknowledge his guilt before God. Thanks for the post.

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