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A meditation on our moral struggle/ enslavement in the face of knowing the right

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One of the most humbling aspects of the human dilemma is that too often we consent to the right but find ourselves trapped in or at least struggling with the wrong. This is discussed in Rom 7:

Rom 7:21 . . . I find it to be a law [–> of reliable observation, a law of human nature] that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. [ESV]

Here, we begin with a painful reliable fact: moral struggle. We consent to the right but often find it a struggle to do that right. Too often, a failing struggle.

The apostle then resorts to a grim image that we are told comes from a peculiar roman practice. Binding a murderer to the corpse of his victim, as a means of execution by infection. The implication is, who will rescue (undeserving) me? The answer comes back, Messiah, through the grace of God in the gospel.

It is worth pausing to again note just how inescapable the seven-plus first duties of reason are:

We can readily identify at least seven inescapable first duties of reason. Inescapable, as they are so antecedent to reasoning that even the objector implicitly appeals to them; i.e. they are self-evident. Duties, to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to neighbour, so also to fairness and justice etc. Such built in law is not invented by parliaments or courts, nor can these principles and duties be abolished by such. (Cf. Cicero in De Legibus, c. 50 BC.) Indeed, it is on this framework that we can set out to soundly understand and duly balance rights, freedoms and duties; which is justice. The legitimate main task of government, then, is to uphold and defend the civil peace of justice through sound community order reflecting the built in, intelligible law of our nature. Where, as my right implies your duty a true right is a binding moral claim to be respected in life, liberty, honestly aquired property, innocent reputation etc. To so justly claim a right, one must therefore demonstrably be in the right. Thus, too, we may compose sound civil law informed by that built-in law of our responsibly, rationally free morally governed nature; from such, we may identify what is unsound or false thus to be reformed or replaced even though enacted under the colour and solemn ceremonies of law.

That is the backdrop for the great escape:

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a]

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

This is of course the challenge of spiritual rebirth in Christ through penitent faith and transformational growth through the life of spiritual renewal and growth as a disciple.

Perhaps, Titus 2 captures this exceptionally well:

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

What relevance is this? First, it calls us to attend to eternity, and to the needs of our spiritual nature, with moral struggle as a key diagnostic. Yes, many are inclined to brush these aside, nevertheless, quietly, there they stand. We would be well advised to heed the call of the Spirit.

Second, such points to the only realistic path to reformation and positive, heart-softening transformation: counter-culture that salts and lights the wider community. Here, Eph 4 is highly illuminating:

Eph 4:11 And he [the one who came, descending and ascending in rder to fill all things, cf vv 9 – 10] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers,[d] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[e] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ

Here, we see Christ giving spiritual leaders who equip us to function as a mature church, a manifestation of Christ’s body in its fulness. Where, such a church should consciously see itself as an embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven amidst a world in chaotic turmoil caused by rebellion, a bastion of the truth in love. As one result, those who are mature have discernment so they are not easily caught up in the spin, gaslighting and con games of any given age.

Accordingly, the Apostle continues:

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Side-note: it is unsurprising, then, to see resistance to truth, benumbed, callous addiction to en-darkening lies and to to wrong. Something has to wake us up, rebirth.

This points to a spiritual agenda for church and community, as transformation begins to shift the balance of factions:

In turn that calls for us to refocus the Heb 6:1 – 2 foundations:

These, collectively, are transformational. END

Another excellent post. Thank you Kairosfocus, Querius and ET. Truthfreedom
Kairosfocus, Wow, what astute observations! So, after reading your post several times, I asked myself where the American mob is headed now. My conclusion is that they want to suffer penance under a brutal dictatorship enveloped with empty platitudes and promises. They desperately need to receive absolution in sack cloth and ashes on the smoking ruins of American cities surrounded by the bodies of 100 million Americans whose blood sacrifice they feel will be sufficient to cleanse their sins, real and imagined. In return, they will finally obtain a wealth of glittering karmic indulgences to be able to self-justify their pointless lives and deliver an unassailable, nihilistic self-righteousness. The good news is that the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ are still extended to them as the sacrificial Lamb of God. He’s saying to them, “Come to me. It is already finished.” My desire is to focus on the motivation of as many individuals as possible, pointing them in the direction of forgiveness and inner peace.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Thanks again for your reply. -Q Querius
Q, those are valid points indeed. I notice, though that c 61 AD, Paul was brought up before Nero's court as an appellate prisoner. Had Nero still had the advice of Seneca seriously in heart, had he been more like the Pharaoh Joseph encountered, there was a kairos. Instead, he was of the spirit of Nimrod and was sinner in chief characterised by Rom 1. The corrupt, depraved, perverse elites failed at the door of a tremendous opportunity. Imagine, a Rome that took to heart the counsels of the gospel, c 61 AD -- instead, what we had is the needless shipwreck of Ac 27 writ large. With the same man's counsels and warnings being brushed aside by corrupt elites. So, the church's challenge was to be the good man in the civilization-consuming storm to follow. Knowing Luke's style, that significance was patently intended. The echo today is manifest. As I have repeatedly pointed out, our civilisation went through a breakthrough to a new political space between c 1450 and 1650. Print, vernacular Bibles (notice, the first book printed!), growing literacy, discovery of the Americas and linked rise of a global trade breakout from Islamist siege, the spreading of bills then newspapers, the ferment surrounding the Protestant Reformation, the line of thought from Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos to Rutherford's Lex Rex, the English Civil War and more all opened up a rising, middle class based, informed public. (And no, the focus has to be on Northern Europe in the Protestant and especially Anglophone space; that is where the breakthroughs occurred. And we must reckon with how slowly things changed then.) This is what enabled democratisation, over the next 150 years, in a context strongly influenced by the Glorious Revolution after a generation of unsettled politics in Britain, Locke and then generations of Evangelical awakenings. It is in that window that Constitutional self-government of democratic character with liberty and justice as pivotal values driven by the vision of built in moral government and rights endowed by our common Creator became feasible. In that window, subjugation under a largely unaccountable elite discredited itself. Thus, democratising forces led to liberation, including the rise of a broad, deep rooted movement against that universal horror, slavery. And for a long time, that opening up was valued and seen as the radical, transformative innovation that opened up a new space that through cultural buttresses rehabilitated democratic self government. That same consensus is what came under assault through radically secularist, often evolutionary materialistic humanism and through the Marxian vision of ruthless power struggle. Law shifted to a fundamentally nihilistic base, legal positivism. And now, the Christian faith and Gospel ethics influenced civilisation are under cultural siege, often being equated to nazism imagined as the natural state of "the right." Astonishingly, Marx's graveyards have been forgotten, being deliberately suppressed by those who have seized cultural high ground. And we had better realise that culture form marxism and associated so-called critical studies/theories despite advertisement about liberation are a return to the dynamics of ruthless subjugation under unjust oligarchies and autocrats. Further to this is a cultural myth that the Christian faith thrives best under purifying persecution. This is grossly wrong because of our ignorance of the fate of the Orthodox world. Under a sword imposed radical ideology that slandered and marginalised Christianity, the former heartland of the faith has seen it ghettoised and subjected to over a thousand years of apartheid-like dhimmitude. The result has been containment, gradual stifling, undermining and erosion. I have no doubt those who we are up against have studied that example carefully indeed. Why do you think suddenly to be Christian is to be a nazi? That lie, must be shattered and exposed as demonic slander in the teeth of readily accessible evidence. Defund/abolish the police is even broader, anti civilisational misanthropy. The obvious intent is to disarm then remove the vestiges of protection through laws. law enforcement and courts committed to the now classic, Jeffersonian-Blackstonean-Lockean-Rutherfordian vision of liberty and justice anchored on naturally evident creation order moral government and rights. We must stand with grim resolve now, or liberty is lost as we will be subjugated under the heirs of Nimrod and Nero. We have been warned, do we have the courage to stand up for the imperfect in the face of the outright demonic? That is our test. KF kairosfocus
Good points, Kairosfocus. I was just thinking . . . Today, as in the first century, Christians really don't have much power to affect the comfortable travesties of the powerful ruling elite, both political and economic. But, notice, for example, that the Apostle Paul didn't involve himself directly in a campaign against the institution of slavery but worked indirectly and diplomatically with Christians--Philemon in this case. Unlike organizations and institutions that can be infiltrated and hijacked, individuals can take the initiative to directly interact with the individuals who are suffering. For example, I know individuals who faithfully provide encouragement, good advice and mentoring, instructional help, and tangible aid to individuals in extreme financial poverty, slavery to drugs and alcohol, prisoners and parolees, and at-risk kids in school. Christians can also model the behaviors taught by Paul against all discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, and social status. Paul's letter to Philemon from which you quoted is a good example of how he dealt with slavery. In contrast, most of us remember the scandal subsequent to the 911 attacks of how the American Red Cross callously misappropriated the massive donations from empathetic and generous Americans. So in answer to critics who demand to know why Christians didn't do anything to end slavery, my response is that Christians accomplished a lot, but in most cases, only God knows who they are. -Q Querius
RP's hero responded but with typical lies and cowardice. My response to that: I have taken evolutionary courses in college. I have taken biology courses in college. It is very telling that you failed to link to the alleged scientific theory of evolution. ID is NOT anti-evolution. ID only argues against blind watchmaker evolution having sole dominion over evolutionary processes. I left a review of your asinine book over on Amazon So clearly you are the ignorant one, here. Your simple challenge proves that you don't know anything about ID and science. This is being cross-posted over on an ID blog Uncommon Descent ET
Let's see if RP's hero posts my response to its trope. A dialog has started. The following awaits moderation:
There isn't any scientific theory of evolution. So that would be a problem for you. Genetic entropy explains the appearance of malevolence in design. The fact that the universe was intelligently designed for (scientific) discovery (see "The Privileged Planet") explains the appearance of malevolence in design. It is an impetus for research and exploration. There is a reason why technology grows so fast during war- the need is the impetus to improve. What your side can't do is explain the appearance of life nor viruses. You have nothing to account for the coded information processing systems that rule biological life. Your entire premise is a hoax. If you had evidence against ID you would win a Nobel Prize for being the first to demonstrate nature can produce coded information processing systems. Your evidence against ID is just one strawman after another. Good luck with that.
RP, on what basis does your "centre-left atheist humanist" evaluate malevolence vs benevolence? That is a first clue on the radical incoherence of atheistic systems. The problem is, evil is privation, frustration, perversion of the good out of its fit end, so it is an ontological parasite not a root source. Until you root the good you have no proper account of the evil. And yes, evil designers are very possible, ponder those who used good timber, steel, concrete etc to create an Auschwitz, tying it into another good diverted, the European rail road network. Just so, it is perfectly possible for viruses to be created for evil ends, which is one of the whispered suggestions afoot during this pandemic; though I suspect entropic decay has more to do with this and many other viruses than anything. And of course, viruses may actually be useful as tools for design of life forms. Meanwhile diversion from gospel ethics of moral liberation proceeds apace. KF kairosfocus
LoL! @ RP! RP links to another clueless loser spewing trope. Is that trope supposed to mean something, RP? ET
https://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com/2020/07/how-malevolent-designer-beats-medical.html Retired Physicist
Q, I think the general issue of subjugation and domineering control is much broader than the 20 - 40 millions estimate of the formally and informally enslaved via debt, intimidation, sexual bondage and playing with passports or illegal immigrant status etc. The history shows that emancipation is directly connected to buttresses of freedom and stable self-government; which were in material part put there through the working out of the freedom principles of gospel ethics. Something, that is being suppressed in the concerted effort to portray the Church and the Christian faith more broadly as christofascist, theocratic, tyrannical enemies of freedom. Perverse libertinism, surprise -- not -- is yet another Christian heresy. Arguably, so is Marxism with its spirit of antichrist Nimrod-like political messianism and linked idolatries and ideologies. So, the fight to re-establish the buttresses of freedom is a fight against broader subjugation and narrower formal or informal enslavement. Not to mention, genocide of our living posterity in the womb. KF PS: Let me add, some freedom principles of gospel ethics:
1 Cor 7: 21 Were you a bondservant4 when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants5 of men [--> freedom in Christ and its extension to social freedom] 1 Tim 1: 8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers [--> with emphasis on abduction or a fortiori similar entrapment],2 liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound3 doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. 1 Cor 6: 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous2 will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,3 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [--> liberation from moral enslavement through addictive sins] Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,6 which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [--> liberation from en-darkenment, benumbed conscience and addiction to enslaving sins] Rom 8: 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.1 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you2 free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,3 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit [--> freedom through Christ and the power of the Spirit, liberating from bondage to sin, being tied to the body of this death] 2 Cor 3:17 Now the Lord4 is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. [--> Identifying the Spirit of Liberty himself; it is a demonic lie that God is a slavemaster writ large] Gal 3: 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave7 nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. [--> how law without breakthrough enslaves in a trap of condemnation, now equally liberated from. Nomos here is particularly Mosaic but this directly extends to common-knowledge, conscience attested first duties of the built in, morally governing law of our nature as rational, responsible creatures] Philemon 2 and Apphia our sister . . . . 15 For this perhaps is why he [Onesimus] was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant3 but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. [--> equality in Christ extends to emancipation, cf the historic mottoes of the antislavery society]
Interesting. Let me expand on the consequences of our moral struggle beyond ourselves individually. There are increased moral pressures from power and from opportunism. CEO resignations as a consequence of sexual harassment charges are a good example. Evil is also easily spread and amplified. For example, a little carelessness on the part of one person can result in tragedy for someone else. There's a butterfly effect in our attitudes and actions on others. And finally, the accumulations of even small moral defects in aggregate human activity can have dramatic consequences that cannot be pinpointed to any single egregious act. These consequences generally get worse over time. Here's an example. It's estimated that about 25 million people are currently exploited in forced labor worldwide. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang--en/index.htm Forced labor includes the manufacture of popular clothing, footwear, and electronic devices as well as sex trafficking and mining. This number is roughly the same as the estimated numbers of people enslaved from the 1500s to the 1800s, including those in the U.S., South America, the Caribbean, North Africa, and the Ottoman Empire. So, here's your moral question. You are benefiting from slavery when you buy certain products at a reduced price. Are you doing anything to stop this slavery? -Q Querius
A meditation on our moral struggle/ enslavement in the face of knowing the right kairosfocus

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