Adapting and Judgment: Making sense of the scary universe we find ourselves in
All of human behavior can be summed up as adaptation to the situations they find themselves in. Both environmental and internal (neurological, etc.) It does no good for me to look forward to anyone being “punished” for their actions, whether affecting me directly, such as political, business, agency or interpersonal offenses, or stuff not affecting me such as others’ sexual practices; any more than I want to be judged for however I adapt. If God were to judge by the Law, we’d all perish. It was not given as motivation for creating a good society, it was given to show us we will fall short.
As much as I may get annoyed at people like racists, or capitalists and criminals who prosper by exploiting advantages I have not been able to seize upon, I see that I can’t deny that I would probably do many of the same things if I did have those opportunities.
The Race issue
As far as race, growing up as someone not “street-wise”, and having to constantly worry about tougher kids, especially when, on top of it, having my father (and some others) constantly warning me about being so vulnerable or “weak” (not only not being respected in general, but also not being respected by girls); and then tying it to “black culture” (especially as the 80’s progressed, and rap turned from a more conscientious countercultural voice to just a reflection of all the worst stereotypes of blacks, and the street life), I could have easily turned against the whole “culture” in resentment, and become like an Allen West or Thomas Sowell, who are actually prominent advocates of white conservative “dog-whistling” rhetoric against the entire “community”.
It was likely my own identification with the “underdog” from my own life experiences, especially the dire financial straits under capitalism with its rising prices and lowering quality, being put off by all the unjust political rhetoric against blacks, still, and my own future trying to enter the work force (and realizing that white history and pop-culture is just as mean-spirited or “bad” in its own ways), as well as the nostalgia of the good parts of the “growing up black” experience (such as the music, and the pre-teen periods where I did manage to fit in better) that always kept me aggravated with the white conservative platform. This is what made me more “centrist” in seeing the “problems” of both white and black “pop culture”, and both Christian and non-Christian [in-practice] world views.
So from there, I could try to imagine being white. Would I be so “balanced” and supportive of the black community? I would like to think so, but if I for years resented “tough” street culture, as a black male who came from that environment, then imagine if I came from outside of it, where it was something “over there”, you hear about on the news with the latest crimes every night. It might even be worse if I was close to the community, and had to brave whatever reactions from the people because of the racial difference, and not being able to fit in as much as I did. I must embarrasedly confess that I actually favored Bernhard Goetz, the infamous white-on-black defensive shooter of the mid 80’s. If a non-tough black male was so vulnerable in the streets, with guys who would just see you and start something just because of how you look, then this skinny, geeky white guy was the epitome of the “weak” thug-bait. I remember thinking (borrowing a line from my father about the streets), “the only thing they understand is death“, and thus that what they needed was for someone they pick on like that for looking “weak” to go crazy on them. And sure enough, it happened. Even though I was becoming increasingly aware of dog-whistling at the time (right in the middle of the Reagan era), I still didn’t piece this together with the larger problem of racism, but rather with my own experience, where you did have to worry about being victimized by other blacks directly (on top of the larger white system. Like everybody was “against you”).
By the time of the Central Park Jogger case, I was much more aware of racism, but still felt that that particular incident was the consequence of those kids being in the park “wilding” in the first place. It looked like they were guilty, whether they were or not. They were already acting “criminal” (unless it turns out the whole “wilding” thing was a fabrication, which is certainly possible given the way things get slanted, but I’ve never heard that even claimed. Funny, but as silent as we were in answering all the “welfare queen” and general “crime” dog whistling exploding like wildfire that decade, I remember how fired up Ann Trip and Joe Bragg were on their Sunday Kiss-FM news show about the case).
We can appeal to racial “implicit bias”, but then, that should all the more motivate us to clean up senseless bad behavior that only “gives occasion” to accusers (like Christians were reminded in the Bible, regarding the Devil, who is the spiritual “Accuser”). When I was a kid, I had a problem of liking to meddle in the building superintendent’s shop, and then when something was out of place, and I didn’t do it that time, I was still suspect, and my parents told me that that’s what will happen. It’s what, in Christian biblical lingo, we would term the “appearance of evil”.
However, this will be opposed on the basis of what’s called being “twice as good” (which, IIRC, Rowan discussed in his book, and involved Martin Luther King). We have to be “extra good”, to impress the white man, and prove we are not dangerous, in order to be perceived better, and not be shot. This obviously is basically accepting “inferiority”, and trying to “fix” it (which of course, the conservatives believe is the answer to begin with). But that is granting them their flawed superiority premise, which was the original cause of the problem in the first place, and thus not what we want to do.
Unfortunately, this is likely the way many in the streets doing all the crimes feel; it’s like “F it; they’re racist and hate us and the cops are going to come and kill me anyway, and they’re evil; I’m not going to follow ‘their’ corrupt laws, so I might as well be bad” (even though it’s other blacks they more often end up killing, as the dog whistlers repeat incessantly).
And hence, to address the point of this topic, the way they are “adapting”, that I can’t self-righteously dismiss. And so we’re in a catch-22.
So again, imagine how I would have felt if I was white. I imagine if I was of a liberal persuasion, I would try to bury those feelings behind a fired up altruism; you know, let’s do all we can to help ‘those poor people’. (And yet still nevertheless getting nervous and clenching my belongings, hoping no one notices, when thuggish looking kids pass by). I would still, deep inside feel just as defensive when hearing blacks complain about whites as I do now when whites cite black “problems”. And of course, that’s the “at best” scenario. (I even knew a few individual moderate evangelicals, who lived in the city, and tried to “reach out” to the urban kids, but eventually got frustrated with, I guess, the attitudes, or the “lack of hope” one described, and then all moved to the heartland, basically, which to them looked more receptive to the Gospel).
If I were conservative, I could imagine feeling put upon, and taking for granted the whole “exceptionality” premise, which as I’ve argued, is what drives all dog whistling. It’s like “Well, our forefathers are the ones who built this great nation; that’s the way it happened, what do you want from me? It couldn’t have been that bad; your ancestors had wars and conquests, and sold each other as slaves, so we’re no worse than you all were, and all the good we’ve done more than makes up for it. Yet these liberals (who promise you so much, and yet have accomplished nothing for you) ruined it all, and now I’m struggling to maintain my standard of living, and here you come asking for things because of what was done in the past. Just get over it already! At least our system is still good enough that one can succeed if they try.”
(Of course, this is skewed on several points, by splitting all problems off onto someone else; it was all good, but then these rogues, called “liberals” came and messed it up —for me, that is, but it still would work for you, if you weren’t being so “lazy”. They never make the connections between the problems of the past and present, [basically summed up in “greed“] and the resulting struggles of all of us. Everything is always attributed differently).
I can also imagine inbetween groups on the “whiteness” hierarchy scale, such as Jewish, on the white side, or even Hispanic, on the “colored” side. While able to identify with the black experience at the hands of white supremacy to different extents (in which both groups fare right above blacks, basically), I’m pretty sure a part of myself would muse at the idea of at least not being as low in perception as blacks. When hearing them totally smeared with the reputation of “crime” and “dependency”; feeling good that at least I’m not seen as “that bad”. That conservative heroes like Zimmerman, and political candidates Cruz and Rubio were on the “white side” against those “problematic” blacks.
The point is, as annoyed as I get at conservativism, I realize they’re adapting to natural human fears. And the same with the much despised “black thugs” themselves, as stated. I grew up with that traditional “nuclear family”, where my father was always there (despite actually being a small time hustler at one point), and my mother a respectable educated and cultured lady, who taught me well, despite all the problems. But many others even as early as my generation, did not have it like this, so I cannot say I’m so much “better” than the “thugs”. (1 Cor. 4:7)
“Choice”: the engine of Judgment
The whole fulcrum of the issue of judgment is the matter of human “choice“. I could have said “I chose to not get involved in the streets and become a thug/gangsta, or a junkie, etc.” (and then naturally look down on those who did), or “I chose not to hold onto resentment and turn against the black community altogether and become a black conservative” (who used to be labeled “[Uncle] Toms”, but are now called “coons”). On the other hand, my father and others thought I chose not to become tougher or more self-confident, and the conservatives would claim I chose to do what I’m doing and not to rise up and simply take hold of the maximum opportunities of capitalism. And it would be true (in part, to a very limited extent), but it ignores other factors (or limitations) that simply pushed me the way I developed. (And this is of course what they say to the rest of the complaining black community, and even my father said something to that effect to me, when I was struggling to enter the work force in my 20’s. A well-off cousin said the same thing; the two of them neglecting the fact that they came of age in the liberal 60’s, when there was a more concerted effort to help out blacks, and prices and job competition weren’t so high, compared to the “backlash” paradigm I found myself in, in the 80’s. But that was just a “crutch” they, especially the cousin, said!)
“Choice” is what the whole concept of “merit” is based on. (See https://erictb.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/humanitys-biggest-pitfall-merit)
Of course, “choice” is the whole weapon in the religious world of Christian doctrine. Everyone deserves Hell, because they all “chose” to sin, and they could have “chosen” Christ for salvation, but instead “chose” to “hold on to their sin” instead. Initially, it’s because the first man (Adam) chose to “disobey”. The Fall is often seen in terms of a single act of “disobedience” (that somehow the rest of us got charged with), rather than its effect; knowledge of good and evil. (I think I remember seeing at least one teacher [perhaps in Armstrongism?] say that the “tree” was a “test” of obedience). It’s all about the tree and the physical fruit itself (assumed by nominal folklore to be an apple, even though scripture never says that), and not what that fruit represented (we have to keep all of Genesis “literal”, after all, so we can’t allow “represent”, for that may open the entire book up to mere “allegory”).
Then, you often heard it shorthanded into simply “tree of knowledge“, which fit in perfectly with the Church’s fear of modern knowledge (science). Carl Sagan’s “A Universe Not Made For Us” video is an example of how people in the world think “knowledge” itself was what was deemed evil in the Fall story. (I even once saw a political cartoon (basically the forerunner of today’s internet “memes”) showing the “fruit” as a science textbook! But it’s not just any “knowledge”; it’s knowledge specifically of good and evil. That, ironically, ended up getting assumed by religion, to be the solution to “disobedience”, where scripture itself portrays it as essentially the cause of our “sin” afterwards.
Even among various groups professing Christ, there is doctrinal difference, which often ends up amounting to a forfeiture of salvation of one group in the view of the others. (If the doctrine in question is not seen as too fundamental, then it might not question salvation, but still ends up as something they come close in the rhetoric to denying salvation, such as Calvinism and Arminianism’s portrayals of each other’s “monstrous” or “weak” ‘god’). Whether it’s “how to be saved”, or the Trinity or deity of Christ (disputed by so-called “cults” who are “beyond the pale of orthodoxy”), or various points of “obedience to the commands of God”, one group “chose” the clear “truth”, while the other group (or everyone else in the “world”) allowed “human ego” or its components such as “the wicked heart” [emotions] or the “sinful mind” [“faulty human logic”] to take over, and thus they’re “blind”, while we “see”. All by our own “choice”!
What’s wrong with those “sinners” (in general), or homosexuals, or leftists, or “rebellious compromising ‘neo’ Christians”, or holders of whatever other doctrine or philosophy, for their “blindness”? For rejecting the “clear truth”? Of course, the “reprovers” of these sins rapidly fill in the answer: they “chose” their “sin” or “error”. You would think, if they were really so “blind”, as they call them, then when you think of blindness, that’s something the person usually couldn’t help. “Error” is a “mistake“. Yet here, they are being blamed, as “responsible” for their own blindness and error. (Of course, the Calvinists will loudly proclaim that’s exactly how judgment is meant to work!) This should really bring to mind Christ’s warning :”If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you say, ‘We see,’ therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41)
I’ve noticed that the entire evangelico-fundamentalist world-view (from IFB’s to charismatics, with many “new-evangelicals” inbetween) relies on a whole “cause and effect” mindset as justification of their morality. That music, or those people, or that object or that belief system will lead to “sin”, and “sin” leads to “more sin”. You just keep “indulging” and “feeding” it, they claim. (Many even rejecting what they call “behaviorism” as held by secular “humanistic” psychologists, then adopt a “Christianeze” version of the same thing, differing only in that it’s “scriptural”, meaning proof-texted with passages like James 1:14-5. But then “salvation”, “regeneration”, “sanctification” etc. [depending on the group] ends up becoming a “process” of breaking bad habits. It’s claimed to be supernatural and thus only accessible to born again converts, but the “process” they describe is something that nonbelievers can engage and succeed in. It should also be pointed out, in passing, that James reflects the requirements of the “Law” to those accustomed to keeping it, where Paul focused more on Grace, and showed that Law leads naturally to the downward process James described).
So sin will finally lead to “Hell” for the unbeliever after death, and even apart from that, the “end times One World apostasy” (which professing Christians can hypothetically get caught up in), which you can see behind, for example, the entire IFB badgering on all the “compromise” they point out, in not only the new-evangelicals, but even other IFB groups, now.
At one point, I myself am warned (by charismatics, who are otherwise moderate, but with apparently a full Arminian belief that in practice denies eternal security) that if I don’t “give God [His due] time” every day (reading the Bible and praying in a “systematic” effort), then I’ll become “lukewarm” and eventually be “spat out of Christ’s mouth”. (Which some will argue doesn’t really mean lost, but rather “ineffective for being ‘used by God’ in the world”, but the context of the overall Methodistic soteriology suggests otherwise).
When I begin questioning things like this, as well as other pseudo-scriptural assumptions in common “Christian teaching” (especially in light of the way life is, and God’s role in it), then it’s suggested, essentially, “see, it’s happening!” When I adopt the “fulfilled view”, seen as unorthodox, then it’s “see, it’s happened!” Of course, next step forecasted is turning away from God altogether! From this, I’m supposed to be stricken with fear, and just drop everything I’ve come to believe (which explained a lot of things, yet still from a biblical framework), and run back to the “Commonly Accepted Message” (with all the contradictions and resulting dissension it’s plagued by, pitched as “unsearchable” “paradoxes”), all based on something that has not happened, but is surmised or hypothesized as possibly happening, based on a perceived “pattern”. Basically, just to be “safe”.
(Here’s a meme perfectly illustrating this mindset, including holiness as an effort-based “choice”):
Many people who use these tactics are “introverted Sensing” preferring types, who compare current sensory data with what they remember, and then use a lesser “extraverted iNtuition”, based on that, to figure where it’s going. (i.e. what “could ” happen in the future. And for even those who don’t prefer the function, the Church as a whole has taken on an Si mindset). A more mature extraverted iNtuition will see other possibilities and not just rely on the past, though its true that you can overlook other concrete realities that may be driving the previous patterns, so you can’t completely dismiss them. Still, it makes me feel placed in a bind, and thus makes the all-important “choice” ever so harder, rather than motivating me to make the one choice they deem “right”.
Then, “submitting to God” is held up as the ultimate answer. This is again assumed to be doing the aforementioned “disciplines” (prayer, etc.) combined with changing our attitudes toward disappointments and difficulties (assumed to be “His will”). One problem with this is how speculatory it becomes. God is not tangibly experienced, and so is in practice becomes like an “idea”. People will oppose this strongly and say He can be detected through “what He has made”; but this is indirect, and thus still an “idea”. To say He can only be “spiritually” experienced within is still indirect, and thus to everyone else, an idea. This is why the whole concept of God has been so malleable, producing thousands of different beliefs and doctrines about God, even with ‘tangible’ scriptures.
So to “submit to God” ends up being to submit to people’s idea of what God wants from us, only inferred through the tangible world, which then gets interpreted as “His will”. So this strikes me as submitting to “the way life is”, or submitting to life, meaning impersonal nature and fate, as if it were God itself. Which is basically what the atheists, agnostics, pantheists, etc. all practice by default. Christian and nonChristian alike then point to some “power” WITHIN to help you cope with having no or at best limited external power over most things. This further solidifies “me” vs “the rest of the universe”. So God becomes conflated with “the universe”, or what has been created. “The way of the world” seems immutable (one of the key divine attributes). Only something larger in the universe can stop it. Even the “serenity prayer” assumes some things in life are immutable, and God’s only action is changing our attitude to adapt (and the things we “can” change ending up more than likely the things we don’t want to).
So like what is it that’s really being “submitted” to? It’s just something people have been throwing at others when they don’t have any other answers to problems.
(God is the “beginning and the end”, and so can be seen as displaced from us through time, and hence, now in practice an N “idea” with “S” reality being what was “begun” and will have “ended”).
Of course, throw into the mix the “monergism vs synergism” argument of Calvinism, then all good “choice” is controlled by God, while bad choice or no choice is what’s been left to “sinful human nature”. That gets them around the question of “what causes you to differ” (1 Cor.4:7; which they then level at Arminians), but then, a particular clause of the doctrine (especially held by “Baptistic” and “Methodistic” Calvinists, in order to make sure to maintain maximum blame of the sinner), is that God still “holds men responsible” for the “natural” choices they couldn’t help but make. So they are still blamed for it, as if they had controlled their own choice or lack thereof.
So while certain Calvinists, such as Michael Horton (who I like to cite) will scold the Church for its hostile rhetoric toward the sinful world (that’s “merely acting out its beliefs”, Beyond Culture Wars p. 70), and blame this on the “Pelagian” assumption of free will, many Calvinists do join their Arminian counterparts in aggravated blaming of “the world” (or other segments of the Church), and wanting to “take back” something they feel has been taken from them. (They never figure, when applied to themselves, that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away” Job.1:21).
“Law”, the wielder of the “choice” club
The whole issue is centered on what defines “sin” in the first place, which is the [divine] Law (Rom. 3:20, 7:7, 1 John 3:4). One of the key scriptures regarding the Law, which was what one “served” God through, was “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”, whether false gods or YHWH (Joshua 24:15) and “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deut. 30:19).
While these are from the Old Testament account of God’s dealing with the physical nation of Israel, because New Testament people were told to “believe on” Christ, then the whole “choice” theme (with the all important “will” that defined a human “soul”), ended up getting effectively transferred over to the New Covenant in people’s view, becoming the backbone of “evangelical” Christianity. Meaning, that the Law has been transferred over, but only modified as to certain practices, deemed specifically “Mosaic” or rituals directly replaced by the sacrifice of Christ.
(In reality, the New Testament recorded the period of overlap between the two covenants, so they had to “choose” and “hold fast” to the New one [Christ], until the ‘soon’ “end” of the old age, where the complete unmerited redemption of “Grace” [God “not counting their sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19)] they had an “earnest” of (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:14) would come to full fruition. The Church of course extended this to our time, and still waiting. So we are in effect still in an “overlap” of Law and Grace and this is exactly what we see in the religious world, with foreboding “judgment” and a conditional “grace”, all based on the “choices” we make, and most people deemed failing; as the Church goes on divided in which doctrines are true, including things like law vs grace and perseverance vs eternal security).
And often not only the individual “judgment” of every unconverted sinner in Hell, but also in their political views, where many of them, in total imitation of Israel, imagined they were the guardians of a new physical nation (rather than a spiritual one, as the New Testament stressed), with everyone obligated to “choose” what are deemed the “traditional values”, and if they don’t, then it’s the Christians who must then choose (through voting for the right people, or organizing around various “moral” causes) to rise up and take the nation back.
This whole issue of “will” is what has come to the forefront now, in the entire controversy of homosexuality, with it being given full marital rights recently. In order to justify the seemingly harsh condemnations of homosexual activity in certain scriptures, Christians must insist it is purely a “choice”, of the “will”. They can appeal to many otherwise seemingly “straight” people who overindulged in sex, and then started experimenting with same sex (out of being “jaded”, which has been true in many cases), and then plug this into [what they think they’re reading in] the first chapter of Romans, and thus generalize it to every person who claims to be gay. The “testimonies” of some who have turned straight (whether through “conversion therapy” or otherwise) are the ultimate proof. They need to simply “choose” to be straight, and [teachers admit] “it will be hard”, since it is such an ingrained “habit”, or merely is a reaction to heterosexual abuse (as is often assumed), —or else! But on the contrary, I’ve heard the stories of people who did just that (sometimes even violating the other “moral” rules, such as the one against heterosexual “fornication”, which I had thought would be their escape from hetero pressure), only to further confirm their aversion and preference.
The purpose of the Law
Under the divine Law, certain behaviors were considered “unfit”. Many were just common ways people adapt to situations. Some were things people couldn’t help, or that we would today not see as having anything wrong with them at all. Some precepts fit in with the need for public morality and justice. Others were ceremonial or spiritual. Only seven of these principles were original and assumed to be universal (and thus predated the big written code of the Old Covenant).
These can be summed up as: Idolatry: Gen. 31:19-36; Blasphemy: Gen. 3:1-4, Murder: Gen. 4.8-10-16, 6:11, 9:6, Theft: Gen. 3:6, Gen. 31:19, Sexual violation: Gen. 19:5-7, 20.3, Maintaining justice: Gen. 19:1-9. [The Gates of a city were where Judges sat to convene Courts of Justice], Cruelty to Animals: Gen. 9.4-5). These are what we all could agree are necessary to maintain society and relationships. (The first two, a relationship with God, and also, without specifying right away, details of what sexual “violations” are).
As these were constantly violated, God began a plan of redeeming man, through one nation, and the laws were expanded into the extensive written code. Many of them go way beyond what’s really necessary to maintain society. This is where, for instance, sexual violations (such as the forcible sex threatened by the Sodomites) became specified into harsh condemnations of homosexual practice, seen as “odd” (and yet, polygamy was still permitted, though most Judeo-Christian traditions today specify “one man and one woman” is God’s “natural order”). And many other rules were added, that most do not keep today, such as leprosy, menstruation, pork, shellfish and mixed fabrics likewise being “odd”. Properly honoring God now included a special day of the week set aside, along with annual observances. There was even a physical alteration on the male body, to identify who was in the nation set aside to follow God. (People will easily point to AIDS as the “proof” homosexuality is wrong ⦅that is, those who don’t think it’s His judgment on the practice⦆, and sabbatarians argue extensively that the dietary and even the Sabbath are for “health”, a few may even argue the same for circumcision, but none of them has really come up with a good answer for why menstruation and leprosy were unclean, though all the Christians believe those are abolished. Rabbinic Jews believe none of them are for “health”, and that keeping them merely for that purpose is to not observe the Law).
When the lesson was written through that nation, and they killed the Messiah sent to redeem man, the extensive code was phased out.
So Christ (borrowing from Hillel) said that the whole Law was fulfilled in what became known as “The Golden rule”: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). Paul adds to this, that “If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men“. (Rom.12:18)
When “universal” laws are violated, such that others are endangered, then we can apprehend and penalize them, for the good of society. But not to go beyond that, and use “divine Law” to condemn acts that do or should not affect anyone, using God to control others through fear. Those laws all had their purpose, which was fulfilled in Christ. We must recognize “good and evil”, and “give and take” in order to maintain equity (fairness) as physical creatures. But realize that before God, those have been abolished, as we were not able to stand, under them. We must employ a system of deterrence, whereby we try to make people afraid to commit crimes, because of a penalty (which as it is often doesn’t work). But this is not the purpose of God’s Law, as is suggested every time a preacher or other religious pundit claims that “removal of the Law” or “relativism” is what’s allowed “sin to run rampant”.
People will say this leads to relativity (and trash it as “pragmatism”), but that assumes the purpose of “choice” is so we can follow the Law; whose purpose is supposedly to motivate good behavior through threat of divine punishment, which is then to create a good society or the divine “Kingdom” itself, or “grow” us toward perfection, which they believe is what “growing into the image of Christ” is referring to (though they admit we will never get there. The resurrection would then be what boosts us instantly the rest of the way to perfection, but then that would have nothing to do with how close we “grow” towards it in this life).
Like from Armstrong, an iconic statement, on the first of the “Four Horsemen” of the “end times” is “The false teaching of doing away with the LAW of God, and the GOVERNMENT of God, and endorsing the ways of men, led inevitably to WARS, which have grown progressively more frightening and colossal in scale, until it is now questionable whether the world can survive another war, unless God Almighty steps in supernaturally to intervene!” (Revelation, Unveiled at Last p.23) So-called “orthodox” Christians may argue against him on some of the particular items of this “law”, or whether to use the term “Law”, and perhaps not put such an emphasis on “government of God”, but most have agreed with and echoed the basic assessment.
The assumption is that God’s whole goal is about “creating order”, and that this carries over to human “moral order”. In fact, some groups will draw the analogy, that “God created the physical universe (and man in His image), and [after the Fall] now [RE]-creates us in His Son’s image, and now is creating His Kingdom in us…”. Basically, God condemns us and threatens us with Hell (or “annihilation” among some), to scare us into attention, and then offers us forgiveness and “help” by receiving Christ and the Spirit, to motivate us try to stop sinning. In practice, no one ever becomes actually “perfect” (though some groups do believe it is possible to “stop sinning”), but it’s people trying to stop, and “growing” toward a hypothetical perfection that creates a better society and also makes them more “like Christ” and thus fit for “the Kingdom”. It’s all in the fear element, and the proof is that when you remove it, the people believing this ask “well, why should anybody ‘obey’, then?” Even once converted, this is what continues to keep us in the faith. Many lament how when people leave the Church, it’s because “they don’t want to feel convicted by their sin and don’t want to be confronted with the fact that we all still need Christ and His regenerating power long after we’ve been saved” (Here, “regeneration” is clearly cast as behavioral and motivated by guilt and thus ongoing rather than “finished”. This is made the universal motive of people leaving).
So all of history ends up becoming a tug of war, with God trying to create moral order on the earth (through His Law), the Devil trying to destroy it, and man’s desire just being pleasure, which Satan then tempts him with, to get him to violate the Law. This is the basis of conservative Christian “moral” rhetoric (with traditionally “Christian” nations like America seen as representing this, and thus being “exceptional” but now being corrupted and essentially “falling” anew, because of non-Christian influences).
So “situational ethics” was derided in favor of “black and white” rules. “Black is black, and white is white; hell is hot and sin ain’t right” one verbal meme goes. This is purely legalistic thinking (since the Law is what defines sin, and condemns sinners to Hell), but [among the non-“lawkeeping” groups] just as long as it doesn’t include OT rituals they admit are “abolished”, they don’t see it as compromising “grace alone”. You also often heard “Ten Commandments, not Ten Suggestions” (which is what they would insist removing the fear of judgment will reduce them to). But if “commandments” is what you want, Paul, shows what “commandments” do to us (Romans 7:8-11). Basically, the very opposite of what we think it does for us! In this chapter, he makes it clear how effective “choice” really is!
The point he’s building up to, going into the next chapter, is that being out from under condemnation is based on Christ, not our efforts. (But the Church would only take the “spirit vs flesh” language there, and place it back onto us and our “choices”, with “walking in the Spirit” interpreted in terms of our “daily” efforts, with the Spirit somehow “helping” us to change our behavior —likely through heightened “conscience”. What Paul concludes that thought with is that what the Spirit actually does for us is to “bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God“, 8:16. Trusting in this is what’s “walking in the Spirit”. Trying to do it yourself through your efforts [in the Law, even if “with God’s help”] is what’s “walking in the flesh”).
Further illustrating the fruits of all of this, he earlier asks “You that preach a man should not steal, do you steal? You that say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you commit sacrilege? You that make your boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonor you God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” (Rom.2:21-24; and hence, this is a larger cause of all the revolt against the “Judeo-Christian ethic” they have frequently mentioned, rather than some “anti-God” conspiracy against them. Also, remember it’s not just literal adultery, idolatry, etc. that is condemned).
He had just said in v.14-5, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law to themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another)”. Yet Herbert Armstrong (who does advocate more of the Law than other Christians, but still nowhere near the whole thing) once said “Christianity…puts human conscience, actuated by Satan’s false teaching, in place of God’s law” (Which Day is the Christian Sabbath, p36). Others acknowledge “conscience”, but likely drawing upon this passage, use it as the ultimate noose around man’s neck; like a virtual new “special revelation” that is completely clear, as God appearing in the burning bush. (Of course, that passage is framed in terms of “doing the law” to be “justified” (v.13) before a future judgment (v16), but suffice it to say, other scriptures say that this event he was referring to was something they were waiting for in their lifetimes, not delayed thousands of years to yet our future. Hence, the Law being completely fulfilled, and condemnation ended).
People who speak of moral “relativity” assume that if we just preach loudly “There’s NO excuse for your behavior, and if you don’t REPENT, you’re going to HELL!!!”, then that will grip all the offenders with fear, and they’ll stop and [at least start or “want” to] change their behavior (and then embark on the spiritual “path” where they receive God’s help); and it once worked like this, but then some people wanted to go soft and “relativize” morality (likewise, to “justify” their own sin or subjective sentimental belief in “human goodness”), and that’s when morality “fell apart”.
But all sorts of evil was done in this moral “golden age”. It was just rationalized differently than today’s offenses, often even using the scriptures that are supposed to be the “moral glue”. That’s why relativists today are so suspicious of that approach.
Common practice in the “good old days”, when America was supposedly “great” (as we need to make it “again”), and morality was “absolute”, compared to today!
Fear is not the purpose; it doesn’t work anyway
And for one thing, there are plenty of people who will not be motivated by the fear of consequence. Sociopaths and/or psychopaths, are an example. (As an example, you can think of the worst internet “trolls”, “spammers” or “hackers”. This brought to mind by the guy who harassed the female Ghostbusters star on Twitter; and people like her don’t realize that crying and showing all that emotion is only “rewarding” rather than shaming them. Also, Russia yet again mentioned as where the hacking and viruses come from). They seem to be encouraged by people’s negative reactions, and only bothered by boredom, which is easily solved by hurting more people.
As someone who has always had guilt problems regarding other people (AS problems, Supine temperament, inferior extraverted Feeling), I can see that not caring at all about what other people think or feel gives individuals like this a tremendous amount of power. People functioning with other people have to worry about offending others and receiving negative consequences. To sociopaths, it’s all “fun”, so no threat is a deterrent. In the case of hackers and other thieves, the more security put in place (which often makes things more complicated for the honest users), the more of a challenge it is, and they usually eventually find a way to crack the code, and then even tighter measures are implemented. (And to us, in the middle, it seems like they’re all against us, and the problem is never able to be solved permanently).
It’s like “pest” animals, who can’t even recognize any threat of extermination, so they keep coming, no matter what. Nature keeps on driving them, and it’s relentless (unless you manage to gain the upper hand, and exterminate all of them. But when we translate this to human “pests”, that would be “inhuman”, and has been tried before by the worst regimes, and always wrong in who determining who is good or evil).
I tend to think that the only way for there to be no sin, crime or evil, is if we had a built-in “shock therapy” mechanism. Whenever we knowingly violate something, we get a little jolt. That way, the “stimulus response” that often drives us to “sinful” pleasures (or more accurately, legitimately based pleasures that can cross the line into sin, when overindulged) would work to restrain itself, against the pull to gain pleasure at others’ expense. Basically, a “secondary gain”. Of course, it would be cruel if man created something like that (like who would create, implement and enforce it?), but I sometimes now wonder why God didn’t design something like that, especially if religion was correct, in the belief that God’s aim for us is to behave, in order to create a good society or be fit for the Kingdom. Some insist “He wants us to have ‘free will'”, but thousands of years of history and scripture testimony shows where that leads.
We are often counseled about how the “evil doers” will “get theirs”. For the average “secular” people (as you can see frequently on social media memes), “karma” has been assumed. (Like as I finish this, there’s some lady in the news whose daughter was murdered, and she’s taunting him with “karma”. I’m pretty sure the guy, if he’s even watching, is probably laughing. He obviously doesn’t care about the future or the afterlife. [Edit, he has since been caught, and I believe, is mentally ill]. That’s actually a way of “reasoning” with them, and there’s obviously no reasoning with them. It’s “nature” in complete control, and you can’t reason or scare them into adopting the integrity they are lacking. Evidence for how they think; rapper KRS once portraying a drug kingpin, and how does “Just Say No” and “This is Your Brain On Drugs” strike him? “The dial I quickly turn, for with that bull— I’m not concerned”).
For biblical theists, “Vengeance is mine” (Deut.32:35/Rom.12:19) is the final answer (Psalms 37 and 73 are also often cited). Since different people have done different things; we then surmise different levels of punishment (which is what Dante played up to the hilt; and based on one verse of scripture, the “stripes” of Luke 12:48), and for believers, it’s “crowns” granted or works “burned up”. So (being frequently handed these two lines by an early Christian mentor of sorts when I first converted and was dealing with harassment from my father), I would be thinking of what will be done to make up every offense, or if a given offense against me would even be significant, amongst all the sins in an average given person’s life (many probably much greater than anything they may have done to me), which will all be “replayed out” to the person in the judgment, according to standard teaching.
I at some point began to realize it was getting petty, and that I shouldn’t be getting some sort of gratification out of this. I then took notice of Christ’s “You do not know what spirit you are of” (Luke 9:55), when the disciples wished punishment on people. The “vengeance” promise had a particular context for a particular people.
We can dismiss “excuses”, and just say the sociopaths must have “seared consciences” (which many, instead of taking that in the context Christ spoke it in, try fuse it with another passage, in Hebrews, that seems to describe a “condition” created by “sinning willfully”; which is taken in the typical mechanical “cause and effect” fashion I mentioned, as “deadening your moral senses”, but is discussing something altogether different. The more conservative fundamentalists go on to insist every form of “mental illness” is a “choice” [there’s that legalism term again!]; and hence badgering even the “new evangelicals” on selling out to “psychoheresy”).
But what does this accomplish? It doesn’t even restrain their behavior. They don’t care, remember. All it is doing is stroking our own ego; like we’re the good people, and if we don’t like how they behave, God is sure going to get them and avenge us; they’re trapped in sin and will never get out. However, it doesn’t make up for whatever they did, which we still have to live with (but is usually made irrelevant, in favor of Heaven, or “growth”).
How typological perspective shapes the world
Many Christians didn’t like psychology, because their view was that man as a whole was a rotten sinner who had no excuse for anything, while they themselves had risen above that, through their conversion and “regeneration”. Psychology removed the guilt from general mankind, and at the same time, showing how we all act from selfish motives, including the religious. This turned their world view upside down. (Right away, “excuse” is yet another term of legalism. The Law judges us, and we try to “excuse” ourselves. When religion wields this term, they’re trying to uphold the divine Law and its mandates for humans to make the right “choices”, but the Gospel shows this is futile, and we need justification “imputed” to us).
Secular self-help rejects typology because it takes psychology one step further in saying we all have our different ways of making perceptions and judgments. Self-help, much like conservative Christianity, believes there is a “right way” to perceive and judge things, and likewise accepts no “excuses” otherwise, which typology is seen as presenting. The rest of the science field, including even mainstream psychology, also takes a “right way” view, which is basically “empiricism” (“concrete: evidence), and thus, typology is too “abstract” (which is itself a category explained by the typological concept).
Empiricism is understandable, as the physical part of our existence, which is tied to the material world, has a need of maintenance that creates a necessary emphasis on the S (Sensation) perspective. We have to feed, clothe and shelter these bodies, and have to engage a system of “trade” with each other in order to afford those accommodations, and have to develop knowledge and skill to have something to be able to trade with. (And all of this deals in impersonal “mechanics”, which is the Thinking perspective).
This is why the world seems to be “geared” toward ST types, as I’ve noted. STJ’s will be the managers who run the business and government worlds, and STP’s will be the “scouts” of new territory in the “frontier”, or (if unhealthily narcissistic), the Trumps who see opportunities they can exploit, to rise up. As an N, and the “odd man out” a lot of times, I might tend to blame them for the way they run things, but it’s only their cognitive perspective.
The problem with waiting for “rewards” and “judgment”
So when I get annoyed at:
•the decisions of business, government, or especially my own agency, and particularly the extraverted Thinking—introverted Sensing perspective,
•as an example of this, the legal industry, which has everyone afraid of lawsuits, and thus reacting
•often leading to a rigid system of rules, procedures and discipline, or the extraverted Sensing perspective of the movers and shakers,
•”CYA”, where everyone covers themselves, and just passes burdens (responsibility, culpability, etc.) down to whoever is more vulnerable
•and then all the “rugged individualist” rhetoric in politics, which justifies this inordinate power,
•and then tops it off by blaming those on the bottom for not simply “choosing” to rise higher,
•and then, the utter double standards, such as corruption or bungling in those high places that place such standard on everyone else;
I would be looking forward to the day God shows them how wrong they are, how “puffed up” they were, how much pain they’ve caused, and how it was not justified, not “hard truth” that they easily accepted where others couldn’t; and under the futurist, world-still-under-condemnation-until-the-future-Kingdom belief, would imagine them at the Great White Throne, reeling in terror at the fruit of their “choices”.
But even now, under a “Fulfilled” (pantelist or “consistent” preterist) view, where condemnation has been removed (all taken upon by Christ) it seems this would simply be “busted down” to perhaps a “sorry” on their part? Or, when first confronted with their error, having been so confident they were “right”, with all the “facts” seeming to support them, now will it be “but, but, but…“. or “I didn’t mean it; I was just kidding!“? (This was brought to mind from the passage “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” Matt.12:36; where they think insensitive things they say or do shouldn’t be so “offensive”). I wonder if the open racists will tell God “But didn’t You curse the black people and “choose” the white Christians?” Cult leaders: “But didn’t Your Word say ______?” [whatever they were teaching or practicing, with the relevant proof-texts]. Atheists who bash theism in the name of “cold hard fact” will probably be left completely speechless.
I get the sense that most Christians believe the people standing before God won’t even have a chance to try to plead their case like that, but that the “truth” will be suddenly revealed to them, and then, at the most, perhaps either the “sorry” or “I was only kidding” (especially if it turned out to be true that they were still being sentenced to some sort of judgment), but more than likely, the humble acceptance of their judgment, and perhaps that’s when “every knee bows and every tongue confesses” (Rom.14:11, Phil.2:10).
That just makes me wonder, why couldn’t the “truth” be exposed to them (us) like that, now, in this life? (And why go as far as to reveal the truth to them, and force them to accept it, but then still sentence them to Hell?) Wouldn’t that have the much desired effect of creating a good moral civilization?
Most Christians will of course repeat the tome of “He wants us to have free will”. But again, where did that lead them? Which of course, the Calvinists will then take as the proof of their view; that God willed to damn most, and saved only who He wanted to save.
Some have argued that the purpose of punishment is being made to feel what others you’ve offended feel. That seems perfectly “just”, but would first, question why an eternal Hell of tremendous physical pain for a limited lifetime of mundane sins is what fulfills that.
Many Christians build up this idea of our sins “offending” Him (His “holiness”) that much, somehow, on top of the holy Son of God having to bear the sins on the Cross. (But right there, Him bearing them on the Cross would kind of speak against Him essentially “un-bearing” them for a person if they don’t respond the right way!)
This phrase is not even found in scripture. The closest to it would be “profane the holiness of the LORD” in Mal. 2:11; “profane” meaning “pollute”, of course, but this is referring to specific acts, of Judah violating the Law, in the context of the COVENANT (v8), not some whole “state” of condemnation, as the Church has used it. Of course, violating the Law, as all have done, does put us in a state of condemnation, but this has nothing to do with something being “required” of us, to have the condemnation removed. It is just a fear-stirring cliché made to shut down any questioning of the doctrine, by appealing to our innate guilt.
This has worked, because on one hand, something in us tells us that the fears of hell must be true, it’s too good to be true if we get away with our sins (hence, the opposition to that notion; “you just want to ‘get away with’ your sins”, and how this stirs up guilt, and is then handily used as proof via “conscience“), but on the other hand, something tells us that there’s something wrong with the notion of God punishing us like that, and for all eternity, for a short lifetime of bad behaviors (many of which are “personal” or “private”).
But even if we bust this down from Hell, to something more comparable to what they have done (like I would love to see racists and other conservatives get exactly the pure “exceptional” society they have been trying to get “back”, and with no blacks, liberals or any other “problem” groups to blame for anything wrong, and then see how well it goes. Like Trump supporters could have their own country with him as president, and see what that’s like); if we still speak of this as a kind of “punishment”, then I fear it might compromise the concept of Grace. Again, any of us would be susceptible to this sort of “consequence”.
Then, the flipside of this, is the “rewards” people are to get, for their “suffering”. In my case, and many others today, it’s simply “accepting the things we can’t change, and changing the things we can” (which are often what we don’t want to change). For some reason, I can’t help feeling that being “rewarded” for “rolling with the punches” (which this comes off to me as) legitimizes the whole system. (In addition to us not really “earning” the rewards if we didn’t voluntarily take on the burden, and then there’s even Christ’s statement “When you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done what we were obliged to do.'” Luke 17:10). Isn’t expecting a reward a sense of “entitlement”, and thus feeling “owed” (by God)?
Following the patterns of a “universe” that “does not care about your feelings”, and where the “ego” is supposed to be diminished in favor of a larger reality (Where Jung and Christianity would agree), I would wonder why there would be a reward (presumably for a still differentiated “ego” identity) for suffering “just the way things are”. This would then get into the whole thing of the universe being “fallen”, and “not the way God wants it”. But being left this way for so long, it often seems it is the way He wants it (“at least for now”).
It seems the purpose of the promise of rewards originally was to encourage the Christians to get through the persecution they were suffering (at the hands of the accusing Law system, and often using the hand of the pagan Romans). The prospect was more for the “now” than for the time of actually getting them. But you wonder what the purpose of them will be for those of us not suffering that, and when we wake up in this totally new world. Teachers transfer the promises to our mundane problems of today, but as I’ve said, it just doesn’t seem to fit in many cases, and I would think trivializes what they went through. (Other Fulfilled view advocates even suggested the “crowns” were just the “legacy” of suffering for Christ. Seems very ethereal, but it’s true that “legacy” was very important to the people back then. That’s why people wanted offspring so much, to carry on their name. The whole battle between the Christians and the apostate Israelites was over who God loved; who were Abraham’s children —which was in fulfillment for the promise made to Abraham to become father of “many nations”).
I guess, for us, it might be nothing more than God “giving” us something then because He promised us something, and will never break a promise. We still have no idea what this is. But meanwhile, whether Grace is conditional or not, and whatever happens to the unrepentant sinners after this life, this current world does often look like the “truth”, even God’s truth (of how we are to suffer, or how to succeed or how to justify any action, even with God and scripture), is on their side (as they or their defenders argue).
I used to think about all of this, when various scriptures used to say our pain is “for good” were often leveled at suffering. God is “using” it (and therefore, you better be “humble” and not rage against what God has ordained for you). This then plays right into the “grand Calvinist” scheme I outlined recently (https://erictb.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/humanitys-biggest-pitfall-merit/#comment-3929)
And in that vein, it seems the system, based on what I pointed out above, encourages their behavior. It “works”. They are “rewarded” by their capitalistic shrewdness, or hacking, or trolling, or conquering in God’s name. Why should they not do those things then? This is where people, especially Christians, will bring out “conscience”, but I find even that to be weak and ambiguous at times. If God were really holding it up to human choice to enter Heaven, then wouldn’t there be a more clear counter to this than just the cloudy means of conscience, or the imperfect Church?
So as much as I get irritated by the justifications the powerful and others make for themselves (often loaded with “factual” data), I do the same thing when defensive.
We can probably sum up the whole game of life as adapting with the least expense and greatest benefit to ourselves (which is easier, the more resources you have, and a big part of the game is knowing how to exploit the situations at hand). Who can really blame those, simply for taking the opportunity for this, as it arises?
So then, it seems like everything must be tolerated if I acknowledge this, (and want “grace” for myself). Hence, I too find myself wanting to take a more “legalistic” attitude (wanting “justice”).
If I have to admit that I would do the same things, then it seems unfair that I get equal blame [in a hypothetical sense] for what they’re doing, while only they get whatever actual benefit from it. It’s like the people get to maintain “inertia” (taking the path of least resistance in their beliefs and actions while forcing everyone else to “move” around them. See https://erictb.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/glossary-of-lifes-power-struggle), and the effects of their decisions (particularly the bad ones) become themselves like “acts of God”, (when so many things men do so fundamentally violate internal Ti sense of what’s logically correct, while again, claiming rather emphatically to be logical and factual). It’s what I call the “Ice Age” mentality, which is the survival instinct adapting to harsh conditions of scarcity (even though in this case, they’ve accumulated an abundance, which is then out of reach of everyone else).
In any case, I continue to struggle with this realization, and how to cope in a world that does seem slanted. But trying to wield divine judgment at the world doesn’t make it any easier, and is really not what the Gospel was giving as the final hope (again, there was impending judgment for the system of Law in the New Testament era. But even if there was still mandatory choice and judgment, it does no good to badger the people once they make the choice, and then protest that their beliefs or lifestyles are destroying “our” culture. Christ’s followers were supposed to be “expatriates” of another kingdom, remember). All we can do is adapt the best way we can, and realize others are living beings adapting just as we are, and try to get along with each other the best way we can.