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Being like this

15 July 2011 by FX Turk

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

Can I admit something here? This is my favorite topic in the whole catechism.  Well, "favorite" is a weird word for this, I admit it.  Besides the Gospel and Jesus and the Church and so on, this is my favorite topic in the catechism to talk about with unbelievers because it's a place where they have no place to hide, and frankly neither do we.

Look: this is the topic that proves out a lot of things about the way things work in this world. The Gospel doesn't prove out how things work -- the Gospel is sort of in spite of how things work. You can't expect or explain the Gospel except with a real God who is personal and intentional and loving.

But this topic here -- this is the question which every non-Christian and every Christian comes back to almost daily: why does it have to be this way?

Yeah, us Calvinists: we have to frame it as a systematic question with all the categories squared up like a set of box-cut corners. But anyone you meet has this question practically on the tip of their tongue: why does it have to be this way?

That is: Why did Leiby Kletzky have to die on his first day walking home from day camp - the first time his mother let him walk on the streets of NYC by himself? I mean: he was 8. And he was cut to pieces by a man who didn't even know him, didn't even want anything from him, didn't even mean harm to him at first (or so it seems).

Why does a 15-year-old-girl get murdered on vacation with her family?

This is the foundational question of everyone who isn't a sociopath, who isn't living in an emotional or relational box: why does this stuff happen? Where is God, Gospel person: where is God in a world where every manner of evil, from the mocking of children to the murder of thousands, is allowed to happen?

Listen to me carefully, dear reader: it is not merely allowed to happen. It happens for two reasons, which is to say two intentional purposes.

The first is because people are under a punishment from God. I know it's not popular to say it. I know it makes Francis Chan uneasy to come to grips with the fearsomeness of God's justice. I know you personally probably didn't tune in today to get a dose of the old-time religion, but facts are facts: the only foundational explanation for the evil in this world is rooted deep in the fallenness of this world as human-kind's punishment for sin.

And it's right, by the way, to hang that on Adam in one sense, but you have read the book of Romans, I am sure: we have this punishment on us because we are just like him. Whether we have the law in a book or in our conscience, we are the ones who do evil things -- so the world we live in is full of the evil we do.

It is what comes out of a person which defiles that person, and the curse just wells up from inside us. So the first reason the world is like it is is because we are under God's punishment for being like this.

But the second reason is less theoretical and more practical: the world is this way because we like it this way. This is a terrifying thought -- and it may never have occurred to you. I can beat you up with another part of Romans to prove it out to you, but why go that far? This is something nobody needs to be tricked or educated into believing.

Just think about the last time you did something you know was wrong -- and don't give me that laughable platitude that you never really do anything wrong. Really? Never angry and rash, never jealous or envious, never disobedient or false in any way? I don't believe it, and you know you don't believe it -- so let's cut past that lie (see: not even out of the gate, and you're lying) to the point.

When you did that thing you know is wrong, did you want to? I mean: didn't it seem right and proper and maybe just and pleasing to you? You wanted to do what you did. That is: that's the kind of place you wanted to make the world right then.

So believe it: complaining about this world and its state when this is how you want it to be is more than a little despicable. It's a lot more than that.


Rachael Starke

"...that's the kind of place you wanted to make the world right then."

That phrase is equally devastating to my brilliant atheist techie friends, and my equally brilliant young daughters. And also to me, given that I read this not two minutes after giving my poor husband what for for no heavenly reason.

FX Turk

He told me to write that to you specifically.

That's the kind of world he wants to make it right now.

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