How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 3

Part 0Part 2

From A. W. Pink’s Exposition of the Gospel of John:

From what has been said, it will be evident that when God told Moses to make a serpent of brass, fix it upon a pole, and bid the bitten Israelites look on it and they should live, that He was preaching to them the Gospel of His grace. We would now point out seven things which these Israelites were not bidden to do.

3. They were not told to fight the serpents. If some of our moderns had been present that day they would have urged Moses to organize a Society for the Extermination of Serpents! But of what use had that been to those who were already bitten and dying? Had each stricken one killed a thousand serpents they would still have died. And what does all this fighting sin amount to! True, it affords an outlet for the energy of the flesh; but all these crusades against intemperance, profanity and vice, have not improved society any, nor have they brought a single sinner one step nearer to Christ.

Wow — this quote alone, I think, is enough to earn Pink a nomination for Outhouse Sainthood.  Of course, nowadays we don’t crusade much against intemperance or profanity, but it’s not hard to find the Christian Crusades of our day.  The right have the gay marriage front, and the abortion wars — which (as Z notes) often become more about the vice of teen fornication than about homicide.  And the left would have the church crusading against poverty, climate change, and oppressive American imperialism.

Now I think we are probably able to look back at the early 20th century and agree with Pink that all of their “crusades against intemperance, profanity and vice, have not improved society any.”  And even though legislation against gay marriage is the right thing to do (Natural Law), I wouldn’t say that it would actually “improve society any”.  However, I can’t resist affirming that, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, then many states would ban many categories of abortions, and thus many babies would be saved.  And that I would call an improvement to society.

More importantly however, is Pink’s final point, that “all these crusades against intemperance, profanity and vice, have not … brought a single sinner one step nearer to Christ.”  So here at the Outhouse, we are in agreement with Pink that the Gospel is not aimed at the problems of society, and any solution for society is worthless when it comes to the problem the Gospel is aimed at, namely sin.

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9 Responses to How Not to Look at the Snake, Part 3

  1. wout says:

    “all these crusades against intemperance, profanity and vice, have not … brought a single sinner one step nearer to Christ.”

    How true! So many Christians think that their causes are the same as the gospel, or are the gospel.

    How presumptuous of us also to expect the non-Christian to live by standards such as those set for abortion and homosexuality, when we ourselves as redeemed sinners cannot even do so in regard to our own sins. It is easy for me as a male heterosexual Christian to not sin in regards to abortion and homosexuality as I can not have an abortion, and I am not tempted with same sex sexual attraction.

  2. Zrim says:

    Funny how gazing upon a sacred snake translates into tipping sacred cows. (You’re tipping more like a southern Californian than a northern Michigander, but I’ll take it.)

  3. Wayne says:

    I’m always amazed at how many theologians hold to the principle that the focus of the Church should be the Gospel and the edifying of the Saints rather than a “Christian” America.

    Imagine if Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson would have stayed behind the pulpit rather than stirring up fleshly desires to “win back” America how different American politics would be today.

  4. RubeRad says:

    You’re tipping more like a southern Californian than a northern Michigander, but I’ll take it.

    That’s why Happy Cows come from California

    Would it help if I affirmed that the Roe v. Wade statement is not a distinctly Christian, or even religious statement? The point is not that moral campaigns cannot improve society, or even that church-led moral campaigns cannot improve society — indeed they can and have (society was improved, for instance, by the abolition of slavery). The point is that, whether or not moral campaigns achieve their stated end of improving society, if the church is the means to that end, then the church is degraded in the process. (Why is there no good opposite of “improve”, like “deprove”?)

  5. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    I’m mostly giving you a hard time. I can’t help it, I’m a first-born.

    But, as long as you bring it up, Ecclesiastes seems to have a beef with the premise that there is even such a thing as “improving society.” There is nothing new under the sun. I think he’s right, but probably only because I agree with him (joke). So, I also agree with you—the church can only be worse off for agreeing to a premise that is both false and that distracts her from her mission. But I am also very skeptical that anyone anywhere thinks they are “improving society.”

  6. RubeRad says:

    More like, I think, there may be improvements to society, but progress brings with it “new” problems. Kinda like living on the inside of an amoeba, trying to push out the cell wall and make it bigger. We may be able to push out here or there, but only at the expense of taking up slack from some other direction. So the KoM is like an amoeba bulging this way and that, trying to make “progress”, but really just changing shape (but never volume)?

  7. Zrim says:

    That, and the doctrine of sin. I don’t see how one can maintain a high view of sin and human progress at the same time.

  8. RubeRad says:

    Not all progress has to do with sin. It is not sinful that I cannot travel from Chicago to San Diego in one day on foot, yet I would call modern transportation progress. (Of course, our sinful natures find “new” ways of sinning given this progress; for instance, Negligent Vehicular Manslaughter.)

    And beyond that, I think a distinction can be drawn between conquering the effects/consequences of sin, vs. conquering sin itself. The gospel does the latter. KoM I think can make headway against the former. Although sickness exists because of the Fall, it is not sinful for me to get sick, and modern medicine is making progress against that all the time. I would say that a decrease in infant mortality is an improvement to society (and of course, what is an abortion but an infant mortality?).

  9. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    I’m not sure I follow, but, agreed, it’s no sin to get a cold.

    But traditionalism understands the human predicamant as a struggle against sin, not a project with an eye toward eradicating it. It presumes that sin is a reality that really isn’t going anywhere. And its effects just change, they never really go away, like a game of Whack-A-Mole. Traditionalism, in a manner of speaking, is very comfortable with sin.

    When traditional orthodoxy speaks of “conquering sin” it has in mind doing so through foolish things which never really seem to translate in the here and now (i.e. word, water, bread and wine), not things that do translate (i.e laws, medicine and education). It’s the difference between living by faith and living by sight. Peeking counts as sight.

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