Monday, April 23, 2007

I had a great conversation with a friend at church, discussing sovereignty and total depravity (the latter greatly aids in understanding the former).

Total Depravity states the core truth that we're stinkers at heart. To begin with, we do nothing to deserve birth, and all our actions are designed around a self-centered viewpoint thereafter. Gallileo was wrong: the world does not revolve around the sun, it revolves around me, or so we each believe. We want what we want when we want it.

"Wait" you say. "We're not all sociopaths!"

And yet, maybe we are. An infant screams and tantrums to get what he/she wants. As the infant grows older, either through individual observation or parental input, the infant learns to avoid a less desirable outcome by couching demands as requests; balancing "get it" behavior with "avoid trouble" behavior.

Imagine that self-centered, me-at-all-costs core of our being as a dirtpile. We construct structures over that core. Social mores, religious trappings, civil laws, all to enable us to function in our chosen societies better (to get what we want as saftely and easily as we can).

This was no problem through much of history. The trappings were rarely challenged outright, and change tended to come slowly.

Today, however, science, religion (cults), and philosophies change dramatically and often; sometimes as quickly as a publishing season delivers fresh books. The structure is ripped apart and rebuilt, sometimes well, sometime not. Sometimes safely, sometimes not.

There have been no utopian societies in our world outside fiction stories. This alone should tell us the truth about ourselves. We have had and still have despotic societies. Nazi Germany fed a lie that our wicked core enabled to spread (had people been good at heart, the lie couldn't take hold, but it did and still does), slavery was another evil that a broken structure enabled, and the list goes on.

Worse still, sometimes society's structures have gaps. Not everyone fits, and those people fall down through the cracks and sink into their own wicked cores. I'd hazzard a guess that the Virginia Tech and Columbine monstrosities were examples of this. While I have no way to confirm this, I'm willing to bet in each case, the perpetrators couldn't accept the structure that was supplanting their own that had "worked" til then, and fell into their wicked core. "I can't have what I want, so I'll take it away from everyone else, too."

As the structures blur and change ever more rapidly, more people will fall through the gaps and take it out on those around them. We all have that inside of us. We're all capable of heinous, selfish things because we were made that way.

Judaism and Christianity are the only religions to recognize this tainted core. Both faith systems (and only these faith systems) recognize that the first step is to recognize that wicked core (that's what repentence is "Lord, I am desperately wicked and lost without You. All the seeds to my own destruction are inside me, not outside me.") The Jews then gave sin offerings to the Lord until the Lord put an end to that, offering His Son as the only sacrifice. That's what makes Christianity different, by the way. Every other religion or philosophy says the power to improve is in you; Christianity (and Judiasm before it) says the problem is within, but the Answer is outside ourselves, in God Himself. All we need do is believe God did what He said He did.

Isn't there a Christian structure? Yes, there is. That structure is called Sovereignty. God is in control. Why doesn't He prevent all these horrible events from happening? For one thing, those events point to the truth of our corrupt souls. Those evil people are the best picture of who we truly are beneath our selected structures. As for the victims, this isn't meant to be cold, but we don't deserve our births so anything we get beyond birth is pure blessing. It's horrible what happened to those kids and their families, and my prayers are with them. The proper (though difficult) response is "thank you, God, for the time You gave me with them." (It would take me years, if not life, to get to that response myself if that every happened to ones I loved, but it is the proper response. Grief is another thing entirely, one God will hold us through, if we let Him).

Also important is the understanding that salvation happens before the Christian "structure" in our life. From the moment we confess our wickedness, and our belief that Jesus's death and resurrection covers us, we are forgive. We don't have to "do" anything else for salvation, but true belief will result in the Christian structure being created (and fixed and modified as we grow, of course). If we think we need works to save us, we haven't believed what He says: "my Grace is sufficient for you."

The Christian "structure" has fairly open architecture. Truth does not shake it, and lies will not take hold for long. As science presents its findings, we can accept the truth (and disallow the speculation). As for antithetical structures in other people, God has told us to love them as we would ourselves. Anger, hatred, and violence are never appropriate; they indicate our core is creeping up, and our structure needs to change to end it (in other words, repent and believe God).

Bit more of a sermon than the simple musings it was meant to be. I hope your structures can allow that...