Saturday, 27 August 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Repentance Made Vile

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Douglas Wilson

Repentance is a gift that can be given to individuals, but it is not limited to that. When reformation and revival break out, and it the genuine article, it is because that same gift is being given to crowds. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance, and all of Judea turned out to hear him (Matt. 3:5). Jesus was exalted to the highest place in order that repentance might be given to Israel (Acts 5:31). In short, what God does in and for an individual heart is something He is fully capable of doing for an entire generation.Vile

There are two enemies of such repentance. One is the insolence that wants to continue to pursue the wickedness in question, whatever it is. Think Planned Parenthood, NAMBLA, and so on. The other is a disapproval of the open forms of wickedness, a disapproval that wants to manage its way away from the cliff edge by means of reasonable reforms. This is the approach that laments having to choose between Hillary and Trump in the coming election, but it never dawns on such a person to consider that we should repent of being the kind of nation that deserves to be saddled with such a choice.

But true repentance is a root and branch affair, and it is either happening or it isn’t. And when it happens, the “tell” is that the name of Jesus is being preached and exalted. There is no such thing as secular salvation. So for those who long to see true repentance given to our nation, both forms of avoiding it are equally problematic.

An unrepentant America necessarily has to see repentance as the adversary. But in order to see repentance as an adversary, it must be cast as some awful thing, some sort of wicked thing. Repentance itself must be made vile.

What could be more obviously good than repentance? How could it possibly be made vile? Let us not underestimate our adversaries. When lying is your native tongue, the sky appears to be the limit.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20).

When a generation has gotten to the point where they are willing to call evil good, they do not back down simply because someone points it out. They double down. They lie. They twist everything completely around and say that you are the one calling evil good. And they will continue to do this unless and until God gives His sovereign, inexorable, unstoppable, tsunami-like gift of repentance. This will happen when God takes up the little burning embers of their lies, has an angelic helicopter pilot fly them a couple hundred miles out over the Pacific Ocean of watery truth, and tells him to drop them all in.

Let me give just two examples of how repentance can be made vile. Obviously many more things could be said about both examples, and might need to be, but the outline of both instances is clear to me.

First, our congregation here in Moscow contains a registered sex offender, for whose sake we have taken a pounding over the years. Maybe you’ve read about it somewhere, and some of what you have read is even true. But the reason we have taken that pounding is because—like every other member of our church—he has professed repentance. All he would need to do to make all the intoleristas lay off him completely is to start wearing a dress and lipstick, denounce Christ Church for its pharisaism, blame his repressive Christian upbringing for his crimes, and announce the formation of a political action organization devoted to opening up Idaho’s bathrooms to every kind of perversion. If he were to do that, there would be a statue to his heroism in Friendship Square, and a gig on the Today show.

Here is another example, this one broader and more cultural. In the experience of mankind, slavery has been a ubiquitous and constant institution, everywhere present—Asia, Africa, Europe, China, everywhere. I am painting with a broad brush here, but that is all right—for I am painting the side of a barn. During the course of the 19th century, one civilization developed a moral revulsion against slavery and eliminated it, all over the world. Sometimes this was done in wisdom, and in other times and places it was not. But it was nevertheless done. That one civilization was Western civilization, the only civilization ever to declare a universal war on slavery as such. The reward for this liberating activity is that Western civilization is now held to be uniquely responsible for slavery, and it is held to be a distinctively white crime.

File this under the heading of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

But such inversions are just temporary. In line with what I outlined above, the contradictory and insane attempts to marginalize repentance as the real wickedness are vanity itself. For repentance is the gift of God, and the gifts of God are irrevocable.

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