“…abide in my word.” John 8:31
John 8:31 In Light of Society’s Departure from God
Many modern translations render the word “abide” by “hold to.” I think the NKJV translation is closer to the mark. “Abide” means to “to continue to be present [in].” To put this idea in the negative is “equivalent to not to depart, not to leave.” So, rather than our holding to something, this text exhorts us “to keep ourselves within the sphere of being influenced by Jesus’s teachings.”
All the world has slipped beyond the pale of Jesus’s teachings, it seems. In any discussion in the public arena, the only wrong answer to any moral question is the one given by Christianity. Society is tolerant of every opinion except that of the Christian. As Christians, we need to keep ourselves under the influence of and within the sphere of Jesus’s teachings. His is the morality we need today! His teaching is what is missing from the discussion.
In this post I want to look at the result of uncoupling freedom from morality. What happens when we do not abide in Jesus’s word?
William Butler Yeats’ Poetic Vision
I don’t like to quote long portions of material in this blog, but William Butler Yeats poem, “The Second Coming,” is the most quoted poem of the Twentieth Century. Yeats saw that absolute autonomy produces moral and physical chaos. I can’t say that he saw the solution, though. (Yeats is hardly a paragon of orthodoxy! However, common grace means he saw dangers beyond his own belief system.)
Portrait of a young William Butler Yeats (Image Public Domain)
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I won’t quote the entire poem since the latter part is difficult even by Yeats’ poetics.
In the first part of the poem, Yeats uses imagery drawn from falconry to illustrate what happened to Europe after WWI. The trained hawk has flown so far from the falconer, it can no longer hear its master. The imagery is applied to society in Europe after the devastation of war. Nations are no longer able to view their past foundations as having any modern application. Anarchy creeps over the continent and passion takes the place of principle. It is indeed a bleak picture! (See “Second Coming” below)
Robert Bork’s Assessment
It gets much worse after WWII, Korea, Vietnam and all the other “conflicts” in the Middle East. Robert Bork adds:
Passionate intensity [has been] uncoupled from morality [and] has shredded the fabric of Western culture. The rough beast of decadence, a long time in gestation, having reached its maturity in the last three decades, now sends us slouching toward our new home, not Bethlehem but Gomorrah” (see “Bork” below, p. vii; “slouching toward Bethlehem” is a reference to the second half of Yeats’ poem).
Judgment takes on Apocalyptic Dimensions
We see chaotic judgment in the Revelation of John. “The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the Four Horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.” Revelation is not a newspaper account, but it is a message to us that God is in control and He will judge sin.
What we have in the vision of Revelation 6 is a picture of the effects of God’s judgment on the world as a result of war and anarchy that follows.
Above is “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” an 1887 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov. Depicted from left to right are Death, Famine, War, and Conquest. The Lamb is visible at the top.
Uncoupling freedom from Biblical morality lets loose this chaos and causes us to “slouch toward Gomorrah!” Far from bringing greater freedom, immoral behavior looses chaos in every area of life and leads to greater slavery to sin.
Bork, Robert H. (1996). Slouching Toward Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
Second Coming (written poem), The. (2018). Accessed 29 August 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Second_Coming_(poem)
Yeats, William Butler. (2015). “The Second Coming” (audio recording). Accessed 31 August 2018 from https://youtu.be/6M5QXiz20kE
© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved