A Sharpened Focus for the 21st Century
We have denied the soul in our culture.
Christians are being marginalised and not heard.
As always, preach the Word.
But we need to be heard as a prophetic voice (the ‘whole’ Word) to our society’s needs and ills.
Restoring the soul to our culture.
(NB Ravi Zacharias has used the theme Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture in the subtitle of his book Deliver us From Evil)
Issues relating to the beginning of life, the quality of life, and the ‘worth’ of life are critical to our thinking with respect to abortion, embryo research, eugenics and euthanasia. There is good reason to believe that what we are facing in the attempted manipulation of life and death is more sinister than any other evil we have encountered; that this evil eclipses in its potential and significance wars and genocide and immorality and corruption.
The evil that was present in Nazi Germany was recognised as such – albeit belatedly by many. But now we have already gone down the ‘slippery slope’ to euthanasia in two of Germany’s neighbouring countries and their peoples have accepted the change and according to surveys here we have ~80% of the population in favour. We are going down the same slippery slope and evil is being masked as progress and compassion.
Issues around the creation of life have already ‘escaped’ from providing relief to infertile married couples to using embryos for same-sex couples and experimentation on ‘spare’ embryos – soon to be legal in Australia unless God somehow interferes with what State and Federal governments intend. The obvious clandestine extension is to ‘therapeutic’ cloning, genetic selection and manipulation, termination of unwanted clones at various levels of maturity, organ harvesting and ultimately producing mature clones for ostensibly good purposes. There is already in the USA a company that is on the verge of cloning humans, pushing for legislation ‘so it can be controlled’. The potential for evil is horrific.
Control over death also brings in the horror of involuntary euthanasia. There is no possibility of protection against this eventuality once we legalise the ‘mercy’ part of it. Definitions of personhood and disability and worth to self and society are so subject to varying societal and legal definition that it becomes a nightmare to predict when and to what extent compulsory termination of life might ultimately proceed.
You will gather that I think these are the issues for the 21st century.
Yes, our main ‘mission’ focus must always be to glorify God by preaching the gospel in season and out of season and bringing people to Christ, but we also need to speak to issues involving our culture, to be a prophetic voice and say what needs to be said as God’s people and watchmen (Ezek 33:7-9). We need to appeal to lasting values enshrined in our own law and culture and which are a part of universal and natural law, to not only
Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
but also to proclaim it (see Jeremiah 22:1-3).
I am hugely indebted to M.Scott Peck's book The Denial of the Soul (on euthanasia) for highlighting the problem of our culture’s progressive denial of the soul. We need to promote fundamental and universal values of virtue and honour, justice and mercy – with corresponding shame and dis-honour to be clearly identified – in short, our mission should be Restoring the Soul to our Culture.
In addition to M.Scott Peck’s The Denial of the Soul (1997), I am indebted for this suggested focus to:
Changing the Equation: Culture and Internet Porn Charles Colson’s Breakpoint article #020520
Reclaiming the Culture Edited Alan Crippen II, Focus on the Family (1996).
Abolition of Man CSLewis with the concept of Men with Chests (1943) – see appendix.
The Naked Public Square Richard Neuhaus (1984).
Deliver us From Evil – Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture Ravi Zacharias (1996).
We can and should try to change the equation. We can and should try to work on restoring the soul to our culture, to develop Men with Chests, and to be heard in the Public Square.
How do we change our culture?
· Build ‘values’ (and outreach) bridges into the community with topical seminars, panel discussions and specific teaching sessions on depression, suicide, death and dying, euthanasia, the role of family on our society (e.g. Growing Kids God’s Way) etc
· ‘Ground’ our own people in these matters and mobilise an army who understand the times; who know what to do; people of passion like the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32); making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Eph 5:15).
Do Not Shame Australia – Protect Innocent Embryos
Do Not Sell Australia’s Soul – Choose Life
Live Life – and Protect our Souls
Such are not ‘just’ religion speaking: they are part of natural and universal law. We do have a soul. We may dishonour our inbuilt moral standards but we do know the difference however much we may try to ignore them – we are more, and should be more, than animals.
It is also a part of natural and universal law that we reap what we sow.
We must take the risk of being distinctive, to tell the truth. We will be ridiculed; we will be opposed and marginalised. Witness the unparalleled outpouring of anti-Christian letters in the papers recently as focussed by the euthanasia debate and vilification by the homosexual lobby. I believe the divide between Christians and non-Christians in our culture will get wider.
The risk of us sabotaging the battle by allowing sin to trap us is huge. We must be on our guard for ourselves and for each other.
P.S. What about a singing group/band called Men With Chests? They would need to be very good, to have wide appeal to all, to be unimpeachable (like the two witnesses), and to be promoting good values. We could even have Men With Chests USA and Men With Chests Downunder and Men With Chests Britannia etc! If we could get the slogan going and understood, it could become a rallying point for distinctive values. The name would need registering or copyrighting and other such bands only formed with permission. OK, maybe I need to restart my lithium (only joking – I haven’t stopped).
Appendix 1: CSLewis Centenary.
The Abolition of Man and ‘men without chests’.
Paper delivered at Morley Baptist Church, Western Australia
29 November 1998
Today we celebrate the actual centenary of the birth of Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast 29 Nov 1898.
In our travels of Aug and Sept this year I had contact with three significant books - two published last year and the other given as a series of three memorial lectures by CSLewis at the University of Durham in 1943, and published as The Abolition of Man. I took M.Scott Peck’s book The Denial of the Soul – spiritual and medical perspectives on euthanasia and mortality – with me to read. In Massachusetts we were privileged to stay with Emeritus Professor of Economics Doug Vickers and his wife and I was introduced to Doug’s book Economics and Ethics in which he seeks to re-establish the bridges between economics and ethical philosophy – in short, ‘to inform the choices that are made between guns and butter’ as he puts it – the breaking down of such bridges and the divorce of the science of economics from its moral values resulting in catastrophe for the human race. Some of you may recall that I wrote a small paper a few years ago entitled The Human Consequences of Economic Rationalism because of what I saw it (economic rationalism) was doing to the teaching and nursing professions in particular with the resulting destruction of professionalism, so you would understand why this book was significant for me.
In The Denial of the Soul M.Scott Peck (of The Road Less Travelled fame) talks about this destruction:
‘...advocates of euthanasia on demand... fail to realize.. that the achievement of their ends would quite possibly create a society even more soulless and mechanistic than the one we have now... a society where there is no potential glory in dying, an utterly rational society where people are simply put to sleep upon request without any reference to the irrational mystery of their souls or to God who is their source and that of all true glory.’ (p228.)
Peck, like CSLewis before him, is
‘concerned about the secularization of public education, which has made it virtually impossible to teach values...’ (p234)
CSLewis, in this incredible and prophetic series of lectures in 1943, talks about ‘men without chests’ or adults who lack moral formation and moral character, who divorce their head from their hearts, who use their ‘head’ but lose their ‘chest.’ What a wonderfully penetrating and insulting term! ‘Men without chests.’ We should make more of it – not only to mean that people should be more ethical in their economics, more moral in their science and re-integrate values in education, but also to have the courage and moral fortitude to stand up and fight for the future of our society. Thank God for Christian schools.
J I Packer, in his brilliant article Surprised by Lewis in Christianity Today Sept 1998, writes:
‘The Abolition of Man was the waving of a red flag at an oncoming juggernaut that would reduce education to the learning of techniques and so dehumanize and destroy it, tearing out of it that which is its true heart.’
Packer further writes:
‘The attempt was ignored, and today we reap the bitter fruits... The inner desolation and desperation that young people experience as subjectivist relativism and nihilism are wished upon them in schools and universities is a tragedy. (If you do not know what I am referring to, listen to the pop singers; they will tell you.)’
Lewis, in his lecture, writes:
‘In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are
shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.’
‘The practical result of (such) education... must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.’
‘Stepping outside (the moral values), they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of man.’
Wow! I hope you start to get a glimmer of why we celebrate what God has done through CSLewis and why his writings become more and more significant. Lewis’ fiction is about the encouragement of men with chests. The Narnia Chronicles are about the development of ethical, moral and spiritual values in children so they will grow chests. I commend the writings of this most significant thinker, visionary, teacher and prophet to you on this his centenary day.
Appendix 2: Other Quotes from CSLewis re Good and Evil
"Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible."
Mere Christianity Book lll part 9 'Charity':
"Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them."
Mere Christianity Book lV part 4 'Good infection'
'I mean this,' said Dimble in answer to the question she had not asked. 'If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family - anything you like - at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and there's going to be a time after that point when there is less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.'
That Hideous Strength
‘This repression of elements in what would otherwise be our total reaction to it is sometimes very noticeable and even painful: something has to be overcome before we can cut up a dead man or a live animal in a dissecting room. These objects resist the movement of the mind whereby we thrust them into the world of mere Nature. But in other instances too, a similar price is exacted for our analytical knowledge and manipulative power, even if we have ceased to count it. We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety.’
‘..It is the magician's bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. But once our souls, that is, our selves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls…. The objection to his doing so does not lie in the
fact that his point of view (like one's first day in a dissecting room) is painful and shocking till we grow used to it. The pain and the shock are at most a warning and a symptom. The real objection is that if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as
he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite, that is, mere Nature, in the person of his dehumanised Conditioners.’
The Abolition of Man (p 78-80 in my Touchstone edition)
Appendix 3: Scriptures emphasising the importance of the soul and the reality of universal law.
Remember him--before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Eccl 12:6,7
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. Rev 20:4
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matt 16:26
But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. Job 32:8
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Eccl 3:11
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20
Appendix 4: Scriptures regarding the law and the testimony.
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Isaiah 8:19,20; 9:6,7
And the following from Revelation:
…his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (1:1,2)
…was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (1:9)
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. (6:9)
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (12:11)
After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. (15:5)
At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! (19:10)
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (22:16,17)
Appendix 5: The Doctrine of Objective Values – Men With Chests*:
carry each other's burdens;
keep no record of wrongs;
do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth;
work for harmony and peace, not provoking disharmony;
work for justice and righteousness, hating evil;
display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control;
protect the weak and helpless;
always trust; always hope; always persevere;
give honour where honour is due;
are: not weary in doing good, knowing that at the proper time they will reap a harvest;
not wanting to make a good impression;
not boasting or conceited;
not easily angered;
know: the real situation – locally, globally and eternally;
the fragility of life, that life is precious and needs to be protected and cherished;
the preciousness of freedom;
the lies and deceits and illusions all around;
that they reap what they sow;
they are free because they are responsible;
that increased privileges give increased responsibility;
that to whom much has been given, much will be demanded;
autonomous (under God);
encouragers and facilitators, helping others to grow;
prepared to sacrifice – ‘greater love hath no man than this…’
prepared to correct and rebuke with patience and careful instruction;
determined in whatever they do to do it well;
pleased to accomplish and experience, but still humble and contrite in spirit;
display spontaneity; can have fun; have the ability to laugh at themselves;
can live simply, enjoy nature and simple pleasures;
cherish and enjoy each moment while they live it;
look for the good in people and events;
positively think of those things which are “true, noble, right, pure, admirable”;
have learned from the lessons of history;
delay gratification for the sake of something better;
appreciate being taught something new;
appreciate advice from others
(to love God and our neighbour as ourselves is a pretty good summary but then I seem to remember reading that somewhere…)
Gal 5&6; 1 Cor 13; Jer 22:1-3; Amos 5:15; James 1:27; Ezekiel 33:7-9;
2 Tim 4:2; Luke 12:48; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 66:2; Philippians 4:8
So, what do we do?
Who will come with me tomorrow on a march into the city carrying huge placards that read “SHAME!”?
Anyone? No, well that’s a relief…
Well, I guess it would compromise my work… what would my patients think? What about the Medical Board? Would I get charged by the police and then lose my licence to practice? Quite possibly. No, for the sake of respectability and because of my public Christian stand I must not compromise what I have tried to achieve all these years in educating on matters of grief and death & dying and depression and sexual abuse and infidelity and persuading people to become Christians – think of the disrespect I could cause to the message of God – so I will shrink back into my ‘sanctuary of private virtuousness’ and keep my mouth shut and not wave my placard that Australia most desperately needs to see.
Well, it would almost be like walking into town with no clothes on. How embarrassing!
There! Having made that decision I feel more comfortable and no doubt you do too
But, how and when will we know that that is what we have to do?
What will it finally be that drives us to that conclusion?
And will it be too late?
What will it be?
So, what will it finally be that drives us to walk into Perth carrying our placards?
How will we know that that is what we have to do?
And will we still be able to?
Maybe the placard should read: