by Barry Newton
“Doctors … don’t decide what’s ethical and then do it; rather, if enough of them start doing it, eventually they decide its ethical.”/1 Such cynical thoughts no longer shock me.
Initially I had expected more out of people since I had grown up in a family valuing truth and integrity. But the naiveté of assuming godly virtue in others has since evaporated.
Two events stand out in my mind as contributing toward a certain sophistication with a heavy dollop of cynicism. The former occurred in a graduate church history class where the professor stated rather matter-of-factly, “practice precedes dogma.”
The latter of the two experiences occurred when reading Philip Johnson’s candid observation, that it is naive to assume that if you present the evidence people will change their minds. That is not how the world works./2 In other words, for many people, truth does not drive understanding nor practice.
These memories bubble to the surface because ideas which had been unthinkable in America merely decades ago and certainly a century ago have now become unimpeachable for many. To even question the appropriateness of abortion, homosexuality or physician-assisted suicide can ignite a firestorm.
The tyranny of a decadently-driven populism fueled by didactic humor and the artificial lives encapsulated in sitcoms saturating the airwaves continues to mitigate against Christian morals and a theistic worldview. Grasping for absolute freedom, the culture becomes ever more enslaved to self-destructive principles.
The dissolution of what is godly and noble should be lamentable. But if truly the ways of this world are commanded by the ruler of the kingdom of the air and if the evil one can give authority and splendor to whomever he desires,/3 should we not expect such a cultural sea surge?
Opportunity and danger stand before us: Like a tsunami devouring objects within its path that ever-pervasive mentality rushes forward, which assumes that democratic measures determine genuine acceptability. Culture sweeps along in its surge those who confuse practice with truth.
Meanwhile the opportunity to be a beacon of sanity against the backdrop of a democratic experience, whose historic attempts at a godly mooring are fast evaporating, seems to constantly increase.
To weather this storm requires knowing where the rock is and building on it. To spin Jesus to accommodate popular ideas or to confuse practice with acceptability involves building upon the sand which will be swept along in the surge.
1/ “Rest in Pieces,” Salvo 8 (Spring 2009): 35.
2/ I would be deeply indebted to anyone locating the exact quote. It might be in one of his books, First Things or Touchstone.
3/ Ephesians 2:2; Luke 4:6