Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why Do the Heathen So Furiously Rage?

“O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.”[i] ~ T. S. Eliot

            We are drawing close to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and there is an ongoing furious debate in the church.  The debate is not about sexuality, but about the nature of authority in the church.

            The Psalmist asks, “Why do the heathen rage?”[ii]  It is a rhetorical question, but the answer is implicit in the response of the heathen.  “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us."[iii]  The problem that the world has with the Lord and his Anointed is authority.  The world cries out, “I am my own!”

            The world is in the Church and it loves to call the things of the Church its own.[iv]  The world within the Church rages against the authority of God and his Messiah and that raging takes the form of mocking denial of the authority of God’s anointed Word as He speaks in Holy Scripture.

            The problem is not intellectual or a matter of scholarship.  It is a matter of the heart.  It is painful to be told that the things that you are doing, the things that are closest to your heart, are sinful. The issue is not over one’s orientation.  The issue is lust.  What an awkward and condemning word that is!  It is so unlike the loving projection of God from the humanist heart of the world.  God is not a humanist.  He does not center the first principle of all things in the desperately wicked human heart,[v] but in himself.

            The argument could be over almost anything that the human heart holds dear.  More subtle are the hidden passions of intellectual snobbery, or human pride, or the self-assumed fundamental right of human beings to be self-determining; the right to say with Eve and Adam, “I am my own.  I want to do it my way.”  But be aware that in practice that self-assumed fundamental right means the right of the children of the world to mold everyone else in their image.

            That of course is the issue.  It is not just that the world within the Church seeks acceptance.  It is not just that the world within the Church seeks approval.  There is a difference between accepting people and approving their actions.  The world within the Church seeks something else.  Ultimately the world with the Church seeks your participation in its lusts.  That is the final approval.

[i] T. S. Eliot, Chorus from the Rock
[ii] Psalm 2:1
[iii] Psalm 2:2-3  
[iv] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall
[v] Jeremiah 17:9