The USA is rushing to ruin, a ‘victim’ of her own out-of-control passions for sex, violence, lies, godless pleasures, and every form of wickedness. Some might say she is going to hell in a handbasket, but that sounds to be making light of a very serious matter. Our society is plunging herself into ruin, asking for a tsunami to overcome her from both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Recently, some in our society have been pushing back against a few of the evils that most disturb them. The media and others who have a voice in our society have been complaining of, even objecting vehemently to, a trio of evils that have shown themselves among us: sexual assault, mass murder, and lies (aka: “fake news”).
But the objections are hypocritical because, while venting their spleen against these particular forms of evil, society approves and promotes dozens of other kinds of the same sin. It is a self-righteous rampage. Objecting to mass murderers wielding AK-47s, while at the same time approving the killing of unborn children and paying to be entertained by violence, is hypocritical. Condemning sexual predators while sponsoring every other form of fornication in entertainment and society is two-faced. As for fake news (a horrible euphemism for “bald lies”), our country has for so long winked at yellow journalism, one-sided reporting, and tabloid excesses that to censure fake news now is worse than disingenuous. At the deepest level, the USA has rejected Truth with a capital T and therefore cannot be serious about a desire for truth in any area.
In this swiftly decaying society the church of Christ must exist. We must live and witness. But we must not partake of her evils in any shape or form, lest we plunge ourselves into the same ruin into which our country plummets.
In the January 15 editorial, I observed primarily the what of our country’s wickedness. Now, I ask why?
Why such increase of evil among us?
Why such evils, and why their rapid and unprecedented upsurge?
Also non-Christians are looking to find answers to this question. At least some of the more thoughtful among them are interested. But for them there is no real answer. Since “evil” is a theological category, a word that expresses moral judgments, non-Christians have a very difficult time with the concept. It forces them to ask the unpleasant questions such as, “What are the standards for moral judgments?” and, “Who has the right to make or change these standards?” Since these questions lead them to consider the testimony of the Christian faith and the Word of God, and to consider God Himself, the questions put them on edge. In the end, they are forced to admit that, without Jehovah God, there are no standards that promote the safety and preservation of the nation.
For a couple of generations already most state-run universities and public high schools have been indoctrinating students that there are no absolute moral standards, that nothing is objectively right or wrong. That is, there is no ultimate rule or “ruler” by which conduct can be measured, no “straightedge” with which actions may be judged crooked or straight. Our society, generally, has rejected God, the “Ruler” (both senses apply) by whom all actions can be measured; has discarded God, the “Straightedge” who determines whether conduct is upright or perverted, righteous or crooked.
The world without God nevertheless continues to use the word evil to describe mass murders, sexual offenses, and fake news simply because it cannot think of a better term to describe something they disapprove or just wish had not happened. So, after they label these unpleasant realities ‘evil,’ they either shout profanities at some ‘god’ who ought to have intervened if he really were able, or blame another political party for not doing enough to prevent the atrocities. Or—which is the solution of the masses—try to ignore the evils by immersing themselves in entertainment, the modern form of hiring a jester, as kings of old would do to divert their attention from their kingdom’s problems. Oh, “the seductive power of distractive materialism,” as one put it. Another quipped, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
But even much of today’s church world is at a loss to explain the presence of such evils. Where does God fit in the sad state of affairs of our country? The liberal church would say that He is doing His best. Others contend that God is strong enough, but has bound Himself not to get in man’s way. Still others, determined to be more biblical, will have a difficult time fitting the increase of wickedness into their postmillennial optimism or their neo-Calvinist vision of the future.
How, then, to understand these evils? How is this ramping up of evil to be explained? What must a Reformed Christian say?
The judgments of God
The answer to the questions, “Why the increase, why the dramatic upturn in evil, why the overwhelming wickedness sweeping across the land like a tsunami come inland?” is: God’s judgments are rolling. God’s judgments come upon nations, societies, churches, even individuals and families who turn from Him. As a judgment upon their sinful rejection of His will, the righteous God gives men over to greater sin. And greater. And greater. Until they are overwhelmed by the sin itself.
Here, we must be very careful. God is not the author of sin. The Belgic Confession’s statement in Article 13 is essential: “God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed…” (see also the Canons of Dordt, III/IV:15, and the Canons’ Conclusions). The holy and upright God is not to be blamed for any sin. He cannot sin (; , etc.). However, that holy God has promised that, without sinning Himself or approving sin in any way, He would judge man’s sin with more sin, that He would punish man’s evil with more evil, that He would give what sinful man asks for until it “comes out at his nostrils” as He did for Israel when, unsatisfied with manna, they wickedly lusted after meat. I will give it to you, God said in His anger, until it becomes “loathsome to you” ( ).
The explanation, therefore, for the escalation of evil in our land is God’s just judgment. Soon, God’s final judgment will come upon the land that rejects Him. It is coming upon her already now.
We must not overlook the place of the devil. God sovereignly uses the devil to accomplish some of His judgments upon men. We are not ignorant of his devices. Satan is very active in the world, creating the waves he hopes will overwhelm the church as well as the world. But we will not focus on the devil, but on God, the righteous God whose Word makes very clear what happens to our country, and what will happen to churches and families that reject Him.
The ‘law’ that governs all of life, revealed already in the Old Testament, is clear: “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (, ), and often shall reap far more than he sows. Thus, the man who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind ( ), that is, the storm-wind—tornado, hurricane, cyclone. And Paul teaches that the man who sows to the flesh reaps corruption ( , where “corruption” is “destruction” or “ruin”). That’s the inescapable ‘law of life.’
Behind that ‘law of life’ is the hand of the righteous God Himself. As God gives to one kernel of corn sown the fruit of one hundred more kernels, so to one impenitent evil He sovereignly and justly gives one-hundredfold evil. Romans 1 explains that God “gives men up to uncleanness” who “change the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator.” God gives them “up unto vile affections” who do “not like to retain God in their knowledge.” God gives “over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” those who “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image.” God is judging sin with more sin.
The Word of God, therefore, has the explanation why the United States of America is swimming in and choking upon its own vomit. God comes in righteous judgment upon her.
The Heidelberg Catechism expresses the biblical truth that God is “terribly displeased with our original as well as actual sins; and will punish them in His just judgment temporally and eternally” (Q & A 10). God does not reserve His judgments for eternity, but justly judges also temporally. He punishes wickedness every day. He judges the sin that wicked men want with more of that sin. Man wants illicit sex. God gives it to him in greater and greater measures until he chokes on it and it destroys him. Man wants violence. God gives him over to violence until the violence consumes him and his society. Man wants to live by lies. Very soon God delivers him up to “fake news” until no one can distinguish lie from truth, everyone mistrusts everyone else, and society comes unraveled.
All of which means that the USA is no ‘victim’ at all, as the opening line of this editorial suggested. But only suggested. Which is why victim was put in quotation marks. The USA is no innocent victim, but the object of God’s wrath, the convicted criminal receiving the sentence our society knows it deserves.
God “gives them over to their own lusts.” This is God’s explanation in.
Romans 1 explains what is happening in our land and others. God gives unrighteous men over to every sort of sin. Among many other sins, the three we have looked at are listed there. Note in these quotations the specific sins objected to by our society today. Men and women are
filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.
The pinnacle of God’s awful judgments Romans 1 lists first. They
dishonor their own bodies between themselves…their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.
The Word of God is so clear here that we can (and we should) explain to our children what is happening to our society: God “gives them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient….” It is His judgment upon those who reject His law, the law that starts with, “Have Me alone as your God,” and includes, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Abounding sex, increasing violence, and the glut of fake news are God’s judgment on a society and people who reject God.
The application to Christians
Romans 1 was written, however, not only to teach what happens to societies that reject God, but what happens also to churches and families and individuals who do so. This, too, must be part of the education of our children. God gives over to their sin churches who want sin. God judges families in their generations who permit sin, who do not retain God in their knowledge, or who ‘love’ God with their mind but not with their heart. A reprobate mind and all the sins that flow out of that mind are the just reward of men and women who worship and serve the creation more than the Creator.
Meditate on all these realities. Then plead with God not to reward us—churches and families—with the judgments we deserve, with the judgments now coming upon our nation. Pray that He humble us with sorrow for our part in these sins, forgive us our manifold transgressions, and deliver us from the evils that are so natural to us. Pray God to teach us to hate sin and to love Him with everything in us. God forbid that we boast.
Thou, Jehovah, art a God Who delightest not in sin;
Evil shall not dwell with Thee, nor the proud Thy favor win.
Evildoers Thou dost hate, lying tongues Thou wilt defeat;
God abhors the man who loves violence and base deceit.