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Bedrock

August 12, 2016

One of the bedrock principles of most evangelicals is some variation on total depravity.  If you were raised in the church your mind is full of such phrases as “there is none righteous” and “all have sinned.”  We might discuss the best expressions of the concept among ourselves but almost nobody denies it.

A second bedrock principle is salvation through the shed blood of Christ and our conviction that no sin is too great to be “cleansed from all unrighteousness.”  While the concept of atonement is an interesting discussion, most of us see this as transactional.   We bow before King Jesus and ask him to forgive our sins – he (metaphorically) washes us in the blood of the cross.

These two principles come together to give us a third; the sheep and the goats.  At the end of the day there are only two kinds of people.  Race, gender and other divisions are meaningless, there are only the saved and the unsaved.

I can’t help but think that in the current hostile political environment that these concepts are coming together to cause an unanticipated problem.  The sheep and the goats, at least in our expressions, have morphed into and dangerous version of us and them.  Them, the unsaved, are totally depraved.  They are evil through and through.  Nothing they say and nothing they do is good.  There can be no compromise, no consideration that they might have something to say.

We (or “us”) are different.  We’ve been washed in the blood, we’ve been cleansed of all unrighteousness.  Even the “baby Christians” among us; those with long histories of sinful behavior that they, to this day, seem to be proud of, are clean.  Or, at the very least, “a good candidate with flaws.” 

Theologians know that this “totally depraved vs. completely cleansed” dichotomy is wrong.  The worst of us are, to some extent, image-bearers.  The best of us are aware that “in me dwells no good thing.”  But this concept is out there none the less.

This presidential election is, without a doubt, one of the hardest we evangelicals have ever seen.  We struggle to vote for any candidate or wonder if we should vote at all.  It has split fine Christians like Wayne Grudem and Russell Moore.  I admired Al Mohler’s integrity when he made clear that he could not in good conscience endorse Donald Trump because of the same moral failings in him that he condemned Bill Clinton for having.  But if you read his confession you will see it ended with sort of an “I don’t know.”

Only grace, and an unshaken confidence in the providence of God, can preserve our peace of mind.  In the meantime I’d like to end with this hard-to-take (for me at least) challenge from Dorothy Sayers:

“Your love of God is only as great as your love for your worst enemy.”

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