Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The triumph of evil

Psalm 73

1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4For they have no pangs until death;_ their bodies are fat and sleek._5They are not in trouble as others are;_ they are not stricken like the rest of mankind._6Therefore pride is their necklace;_ violence covers them as a garment._7Their eyes swell out through fatness;_ their hearts overflow with follies._8They scoff and speak with malice;_ loftily they threaten oppression._9They set their mouths against the heavens,_ and their tongue struts through the earth._10Therefore his people turn back to them,_ and find no fault in them._11And they say, "How can God know?_ Is there knowledge in the Most High?"_12Behold, these are the wicked;_ always at ease, they increase in riches._13All in vain have I kept my heart clean_ and washed my hands in innocence._14For all the day long I have been stricken_ and rebuked every morning._15If I had said, "I will speak thus,"_ I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16But when I thought how to understand this,_ it seemed to me a wearisome task,_17until I went into the sanctuary of God;_ then I discerned their end.
18Truly you set them in slippery places;_ you make them fall to ruin._19How they are destroyed in a moment,_ swept away utterly by terrors!_20Like a dream when one awakes,_ O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms._21When my soul was embittered,_ when I was pricked in heart,_22I was brutish and ignorant;_ I was like a beast toward you.
23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;_ you hold my right hand._24You guide me with your counsel,_ and afterward you will receive me to glory._25 Whom have I in heaven but you?_ And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you._26 My flesh and my heart may fail,_ but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;_ you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you._28But for me it is good to be near God;_ I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,_ that I may tell of all your works.

It’s always sobering to see evil triumph, even in the short term. That can lead to a crisis of faith. Asaph is a textbook example. When the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, it takes a certain amount of faith to stay in the game.

As Christians, we have certain advantages over Asaph. We have the entire OT, as well as the entire NT. So we have a better idea of how the story ends.

In a fallen world, the good guys win some and lose some. The bad guys win some and lose some.

Politics can be frustrating because there are so many setbacks. You almost turn the corner on an issue, only to see your hard-fought gains reversed.

The balance of power in politics is strangely like predation in the animal kingdom. Predators are just fast enough to catch some prey some of the time while the prey are just fast enough to elude some predators some of the time. So the struggle remains in a state of perennial equilibrium.

Both sides are so evenly matched that it’s hard to establish a beachhead. It’s always washed away in the next high tide. It takes faith to persevere—which is why the faithful persevere.

Before we move to recriminations, we should single out a few heroes in this campaign. Justin Taylor and his guest bloggers did their best to expose the past record and future agenda of Obama. Did their best to promote the cause of the unborn. As did Jeremy Pierce. And Doug Groothuis. We could add Albert Mohler, Wesley Smith, and the Bayly bros. to the roster of those who fought the good fight. As well as lesser-knowns like Jim Ryan at Philosoblog.

Joe Carter did his best for Mike Huckabee.

For his part, John Mark Reynolds has good days and bad days.

There will be a lot of post-election finger-pointing, and that’s good thing. We need to identify if and where we went wrong. Learn from our mistakes.

The hall of shame includes fifth column bloggers like Lee Irons, Victor Reppert, and Jason Stellman.

As Scripture makes clear, this world is a battlefield between good and evil. This isn’t hyperbole. It’s the real thing.

It’s a battle with many fronts: between angels and demons, men and demons, men and other men—as well as the battle within each man. It’s a battle with a political front as well as an ecclesiastical front. A military front as well as a spiritual front.

Like any war, it has its share of gray areas. Moral ambiguities and pragmatic choices. But everything is not drawn in shades of gray. Some issues are pretty black and white.

Like any war, different people play different roles: soldiers, spies, collaborators, propagandists, strategists, tacticians, &c.

It’s a war in which everyone must take sides, and everyone does take sides. Not taking sides is siding with the dominant power.

Some professing believers make glib statements about how God is not a Democrat or Republican. I notice that most of the folks who say that are registered Democrats. So their actions are not as nonpartisan as their words.

The claim is a diversionary tactic and straw man argument. I know of no Christian conservative who labors under the illusion that the GOP is a morally or theologically pure.

But whether you vote or don’t vote, vote for an electable candidate, or cast a protest vote, that’s a moral decision, a moral action. And it’s either consistent with Christian values or inconsistent with Christian values. In some cases, there’s more than one morally licit option open to you.

God is not a political partisan, but, for that matter, God is not a human being. He doesn’t same roles and responsibilities that we have.

But God take sides. There are moral and theological issues which involve a clear-eyed choice between light and darkness. Dusk is not the only hour of the day.

During the primary season, a number of evangelical leaders threw their support behind Mitt Romney. That was a fatal miscalculation, both on principled and pragmatic grounds.

Republican primary voters also did the cause a great disservice by nominating McCain.

As for McCain himself, he missed many opportunities, but while I dislike McCain, I can’t blame him for the loss. He is who he is. He’s not a very adaptable or eloquent candidate. But that’s not a character flaw. It simply reflects a lack of natural talent and political savvy.

Even though he’s not a skillful speaker, he won all three debates. But it didn’t make a difference.

The lion’s share of the blame belongs to Obama voters. Gullible voters. Evil voters. Lazy voters. Greedy voters.

Elections are ultimately a referendum, not on candidates, but on the electorate.

There’s a danger is getting what you wish for. The liberal media did it’s best to suppress his real views and checkered career. But that won’t go away. That’s going to dog him throughout his first term. What was suppressed will be peeled away, a layer at a time.

And Obama has another challenge ahead of him. He’s been coasting to victory on rose-strewn path of flowery rhetoric. Now he has to turn the briar patch into a rose garden. Transmute his fragrant words into hard, tangible reality.

We’ll see how well he copes with domestic and foreign policy challenges. It’s hard to be the Messiah. History is littered with the mortal remains of Messianic impostors. Cults are pretty on the outside, but ugly on the inside.

I lived through the millennial haze of the psychedelic Sixties. The dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Love beads and peace signs. Strawberry fields forever.

What we got instead were poppies and marijuana. Weeds and Belladonna.


  1. Steve wrote:

    “The lion’s share of the blame belongs to Obama voters. Gullible voters. Evil voters. Lazy voters. Greedy voters. Elections are ultimately a referendum, not on candidates, but on the electorate.”

    I agree. And after the individual voter, much blame is due to parents, pastors, and others in positions of authority and influence who don’t teach what they ought to teach or set the examples they ought to set. Parents don’t know much about philosophical, moral, historical, or theological issues themselves, and they don’t make much of an effort to teach such things to their children. They seem to be more concerned with living the American dream than living as a Christian. Churches are giving out far more milk than meat. The public education system expects high school students to be able to understand everything from geometry to physics to American history, but churches think it would be expecting too much of adults, much more so children, to teach them something like theology or church history beyond the most basic levels.

    McCain and his campaign made some mistakes that should be criticized. The same can be said of the Republican party and others involved. But they’re not the ones most responsible for what happened. The problem and the solution are more at the individual level than some people want to believe. Running a better candidate next time, coming up with better television ads, or improving voter turnout will produce better results, but it won’t get to the root of the problem. I’d like to see less criticism of people like Bush and McCain and more criticism of the individual Obama voter, individual parents, and individual pastors, including many conservative parents and pastors whose negligence is producing people like the Obama voters.

  2. I totally agree with Steve and Jason. My generation has been raised in ultra-statist schools. We had very passive fathers and ungraceful mothers. We attended weak churches and were discipled by people in our own age group. Now we are turning out to vote. I think this will put an end to RINO's, but it is going to take A LOT of work to bring back conservatism.

  3. "The triumph of evil" (blog post title)

    Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. (Rough Paraphrase)

    "Elections are ultimately a referendum, not on candidates, but on the electorate.”

    There's not enough good men and women in the electorate. And this declining trend has been happening for a long time and looks to be accelerating even faster.

    Sigh. There were a good number of weeping prophet Jeremiahs warning against the moral decline. Their message was more than offset by appeasing shepherds who worked to blunt or dismiss the words of warning.

    God gives more mercy and grace than we deserve.