"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

More Civilized Sins

2 Timothy 3:1-7 NIV But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, wicked, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.
        What a litany of character faults to which we may look forward in the last days. Considering how contemporary the list seems, we may well be in the last days even now.
        These aren't the tribulations some expect after the church's rapture. I see nothing in this list of bowls of God's fury, a darkened sun, plagues or horsemen. What I see is a list of "faults" one might find in many of Christendom's congregations today … faults routinely tolerated even among the saints in leadership.
        "Can't love others if you don't love yourself." Pop psychology and group "sensitivity" didn't die in the '80s. Many congregations and seminaries actively espouse such principles as positive confession, assertiveness training, and seed-faith promotions.
        That leads into the sin of loving money. Seed-faith asserts platitudes such as "you can't out give God," which is quite true when not followed with "our address for contributions is …." High-living "televangelists" and alleged healers have become cliché, and provide anti-religious zealots with plenty of ammunition for their attacks.
        Boastfulness and pride tend to be somewhat understated in the church, but very much alive among many testosterone-enriched youths. Of course, pride is no respecter of "gender," with young women's keen-edged tongues surgically dissecting other girls. And this category naturally leads into the next series of tolerated sins with no age-related expiration dates: abusiveness, disobedience, ingratitude, fowl temper, lovelessness, unforgiveness, slander, instability, rashness, hedonism, conceit and arrogance. This infernal list leads into "having a form of godliness but denying its power," the culmination of societal sin that is reserved for only the most subtle, committed masters of hypocrisy. If we are desperate enough for controversy to attend interdenominational debates(Please note that a minor transposition of letters in "denomination" produces demonination. Curious coincidence.), we will witness the "having a form of godliness but denying its power" argument in all its trite glory. Religious debaters love it because it is so wonderfully generic, but the Apostle Paul had one specific offense in mind: promoters of the Gnostic heresy who prided themselves in their esoteric knowledge, through which they believed they would ascend to Enlightenment. But even that specialized sin reflects the broader sin of pride.
        Humanity has always taken perverse pride in its genius for creative sin, so any list of sins is guaranteed to omit several equally egregious moral gaffes. It is enough to recognize the "Human Condition" in all of them, and to realize that no one is immune from their deadly snare.

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