When It Looks Like We’re Getting Nowhere

By Tom Gilson Published on June 24, 2017

“It becomes no man to nurse despair, but, in the teeth of clenched antagonisms, to follow up the worthiest till he die.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Michael Brown’s article this week, “Three Men Get ‘Married’ in Colombia and There is No Slippery Slope”, hit me hard. It tells of a flailing, failing culture, shutting its ears to wise counsel, careering toward destruction. Reading it and realizing how resistant our culture has become to sound reason, I must tell you, I felt a strong push toward despair.

Have you felt that way? I wouldn’t blame you.

Just look at where we are: I’ve been involved in the spiritual fight for our culture a long time, and I can’t see where we’ve made much progress. Sure, there are pockets of hope here and there, but overall it looks like we’re sliding faster and faster downward. It’s hard to see anything doing any good to halt the plunge.

Christians and other conservatives, here at The Stream and elsewhere, have been crying out for a return to rationality, but there’s little sign that anyone cares. Our world has turned from reasoning to madness, its motivations wrapped up in desire — especially sexual desire. We try to counter that with appeals to good sense and sound reason, but careful thought is inconvenient for those who would rather live for short-term satisfaction. So our appeals to reason just fall on deaf ears. We’re getting nowhere, it seems.

Thoughts like these could easily drag me off to canyons of despair, dump me off and leave me there.

There’s a Spiritual Dynamic Involved

Do you need examples? Do you need proof of what I’m saying? Probably not; you know it well enough already. But since I’ve mentioned Michael Brown’s article: How long have we been hearing progressives telling us there’s no “slippery slope” attached to gay marriage? How long have we been hearing that “gay rights” could never cause any harm for anyone who disagrees? And how many progressives will notice, much less pay attention to, the plain evidence that they’ve been obviously wrong all along?

Something else besides good thinking is motivating them. I don’t think it’s just personal desire, either. There’s a spiritual dynamic involved, some of it invisible, behind the scenes among the “principalities and powers, … the spiritual forces of wickedness,” as the apostle Paul put it (Eph. 6:12). It’s demonic, in other words. Progressives would consider that view unenlightened. We need not agree with them on that. They are the ones whose irrationality we are trying to sort out here.

Besides that, there’s another, perfectly visible (yet still spiritual) aspect to our cultural mudslide. It is the idolatry of the self. Taking god-like powers upon themselves, people expect perfect, untrammelled freedom to re-make their selves, their social lives, their institutions, even their bodies and “genders,” according to their own image and mindset. Then, god-like again, they demand the rest of us live in accord with their privately re-fashioned realities.

It’s a sulfurous mix of the demonic and the idolatrous, and it keeps getting worse all the time.

Despair Not, There is Reason for Hope!

Thoughts like these could easily drag me off to canyons of despair, dump me off and leave me there. And here’s the thing: It’s all true. I haven’t exaggerated a thing, as far as I can tell. If it were the whole truth — the only truth — then despair would probably be the way of wisdom. I have no use for happy thoughts that ignore the truth of what we’re facing.

Despair makes sense only if we blinker off our vision from the rest of God’s very good truth.

But it isn’t the whole truth; so no, despair is not the way of wisdom. Not at all!

We live in a strange and difficult moment of history, for sure; but it is a mere moment, a blink of the eye. We’re in a story too vast for any of us to see — except its Author has laid out its outlines for us in his Word, the Bible. By His word, His followers can know we’re in good hands, living for good purposes, heading in a very good direction.

We can lift up our eyes, too, and see glimpses of the story as it’s lived out elsewhere, both in history and around the world today. These other pages of the story help us make sense of our own. They show us it’s the kind of story that couldn’t go on without dangers and obstacles; for it is a story of redemption and renewal, courage and faith, love and hope. Faith and character only become real as they are tested.

Our Place in His Plan

So despair makes sense only if we blinker off our vision from the rest of God’s very good truth. He has a plan for His world. Our place in that plan makes perfect sense in His eyes. We can count on it making sense to us, too, when someday we see enough of the rest of it to understand where we fit in to the whole.

So the wise choice is still to live with hope — even joy! — in the place He has established for us. The wise stance is still on the side of His truth and His ways, contending for what’s good and right, just because it’s good and right — and beyond that, who knows what might come of our efforts? We might save an individual from heading down a wrong path. We could rescue a family or a community. Together, by God’s grace, we might still live to see the culture wake up from its demonic delusions and recover sense again.

Whether we live to see that or not, we’re still in the story where we belong.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. … And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Cor. 4:1-6, ESV

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