Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
According to Scripture’s log, only believers boat. The rest, the wicked, are lost at sea. In fact, the wicked are not only lost at sea. They are the sea, or at least quite similar, spiritually speaking.
What sea are sinners like?
They are like a big sea, and a deep. For the entire human race is lost; a vast sea of unholy nations. And the sin-lostness is as deep as the great Mariana Trench; as deep as the deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9).
As well, this sea of nations is as the dead sea; for the sea of sinners, the whole human race, is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), incapable of sustaining life with God, and not in the least desirous of it.
These wicked are, the prophet says, “like the troubled sea” (Is. 57:20, 21). Their waters and their cultures continually cast up mire and dirt, squids and abortionists, green peace activists and existentialism.
Adding to the roil is the righteous God Himself. The holy God is angry with the polluted, proudly swelling sea. He gives such seas no peace. He stirs up their souls. He sends sharks and octopi their way, and especially His holy law, to whirl them round and round, in fear of His judgments.
These troubled seas trouble the boats—the flotilla of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Hail and ahoy! Noble fleet of the Captain of our salvation! Catching the wind of the Spirit! Graceful gallant galleons skimming the seven seas in His Majesty’s service!
Hail and ahoy! Watch out! The seas are stirring. There’s another wind-spirit whirling up whitecaps. To whirl you too. To bend your keel. To board your ship. To ransack your ancient cargo. To hurl your men, women, and children to the bottom. To hoist an other sail. Or dismantle your boats.
Till all are sea.
Fellow frothing troubled troublers.
One way many churches go down into the sea of nations, to become like them, is by being sucked toward and into the seas’ many whirlpools.
Whirlpools of the wicked are their swirling spots of non-traditional, truth-less religion. They are those places in these seas of nations where there is no place for truth, at least for truth that is truly traditional— something been around a long time, the once-for-all kind of truth, the from-one-unchangeable- God kind of truth, the Jesus Word, the infallible and ever living Word of the Scriptures.
These places of “no truth,” at least of no one truth, are “whirlpoolish” in that they are the places where are seen and felt in a big way the vortex and the force of the vanity of this world, where men go round and round, philosophies spinning ’round, folks playing around, and where you Christian are OK, and yon Muslim is OK, and you secular humanists are OK…as if there were no God, no One Way, nothing to do that is right or wrong and meaningful but only to eat and to drink for tomorrow we die and then maybe come ’round again ….
In a recent book one has argued that especially America, where there is now “no place for truth,” is whirlpoolish. And, to be sure, the whirl swirls here in the universities, San Francisco, Grand Rapids, and everywhere. Certainly since about the middle of last century, when Trinity became good men at most, and caught the last train for the coast, has the music of our father’s truth and morality … died.
But really now all the world is a whirlpool. It has come to this. Adam and Eve began writing the soap opera about the glories and excitement of life without God as their God and God’s Word as man’s guide. Babel was more babble. Athenians continued the swirling tale of this enchanted Godless and godless life, spending time “in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). But now it is all over. Not as in finished. But as in ubiquitous. Whirlpool here. Whirlpool there. Perilous pools. In these our perilous times. Midst men going round and round, “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7) and not enduring sound doctrine, but, after their own lusts, heaping to themselves teachers, having itching ears (II Tim. 4:3).
Wherever it is, the whirlpool is always off to Port. Way off. To get there, traditional boats must always come about, change tack, make a hard left. All of Christendom’s boats that have, to one degree or another, abandoned the truth traditions of Christ and His Church, lean in this direction. They are all headed for the whirlpool. Only an act of grace can keep them away, working either Reformation of church, or the courage of God-fearing crews to man the lifeboats in order to escape the pull of the whirlpool while they and their families can.
The scary thing is that even sailors on traditional boats, boats built solid, boats of the Old Ironside-rugged-cross variety, of beautiful three-forms-of-unity-masted schooner make…they can go that way, toward the whirlpool. Not because their boat does, all of itself. Truth of itself never tends to the lie, leans left or right, leads one astray. But such traditional boats can indeed be steered left. Or maybe someone on board smuggles in some extra cargo, or throws off some old stuff so that it tilts left. Or maybe something happens to the mates, the ordinary sailors. Something can happen, and sometimes, all too often, tragically, does—to young sailors! So that folks born on the boat, maybe, or married into it, and sailing along with it for awhile, then gradually, or by and bye—hop ship. Maybe they end up in the next (Christian) boat over toward the port; maybe they abandon the Christian ship altogether. They may just start swimming with wicked buddies. But always left. Toward, and then sucked into, the whirl of the whirlpool.
How can it be? How can it be that some boats steer left and that some, even many young people/adults go left? Why do they go from traditional Church to emerging church? Why do they go from holy church to thelaughing church? Why do they exchange suits for blue jeans? Why do they go from the Holy God to the Sex God? To Buddhism? To cults? To humanism? Where keels and creeds are suspect, irrelevant …?
A couple of reasons, I’ve been thinking…
Reasons for the pull toward the whirlpool of humanity are not hard to find.
The Bible speaks, after all, of this thing that remains even in the most holy and truthful Christians. It is called “the flesh.” And the flesh just loves to whirl. Eve was the first whirler. From the moment she joined hands with Adam thus began the human dance around and around the truth. That kind of a whirling dervish of a flesh remains in us.
Then there is, for folks like young Grace-life readers, this fact of youth: young people and young adults are prone to whirlin everything—good or bad. They like new things. Exciting things. To try things—from X-Sports to X-whatever. The whirls of whirlpools are about all this. They have this appeal, especially to folks who may not have been around many blocks yet. In whirls are all kinds of things floating around, and popping up and down. Here a flash. There a flash. Something moving. Something turning. Something different. Looks like fun. Certainly not dull. I’ll just go over and look at it. Then I’ll just try it.
Advertisers know it, and so they sell you this stuff today, and next year tell you that you have to have this other stuff. And you actually listen, and I know, because you wear it to church. Not bad in itself, this youthful whirling. Keeps us all not only on our toes, but sometimes livens up a dead place, a severe routine, or a complacent church. But throw into that whirling all this: car keys in the hands, and freedom on a Friday night, and an invitation to a party, and the whirls of youth and the whirling of the world are bound to collide. And watch out, when whirls collide!
Or, such is the vulnerability of the whirling and the growing time of life that all you need is to get angry with your parents, and never to forgive your seventh grade teacher. Then the minister (and all the truth he stands for) is next in line to face your anger and critique. And as soon as you are out of the house and as soon as the poor preacher-man has a bad preaching day and sounds as dull as oatmeal, there you are, off to the whirlpool that is Mars Hill, where you’ve heard that that guy can really connect and I am allowed and encouraged to sip iced tea during the sermon. And then you meet some girl there. And there you are, off to the races. Lured by the whirl, the girl, and the …???
Other reasons for our being seduced by the whirl of truthlessness? Think of them. Then think of one reason you would rather sail than whirl. Talk to each other. What is it? What floats your boat? Why not abandon your traditional ship? Why sail on as a Christian? “Why sail on as a Protestant Reformed Christian?”
Till we meet again. On board. All hands. All Grace Life hands. On deck.