God in their thoughts

When I first saw the article on polyamory to which Carl subsequently referred I was grieved by its tone of everday reportage, the normalisation of sin. It is no consolation to be tickled by the notion that Prof. Trueman was, until recently, on some kind of presidential prayer shortlist, and now, having got away with everything to even date, and due to one inadvertent and much-mourned counter-cultural slip, has been regretfully sidelined by the powers that be.

Just to make clear, it is not that the UK is suddenly being swept by a polyamorous tide: this perverted series of relationships is unusual and would still be, I think, distasteful to many - the debated gag reflex. But the casual manner in which the article on polyamory was written, the confidence with which this aberration was presented as something to be accepted, if not now then at some inevitable future point, betrays a deeper problem.

The foundation is laid for this normalisation of sin in deed by the absence, or outright rejection, of God and his word. The world is perceived and interpreted entirely by human wisdom in all its various and specious forms: "The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts" (Ps 10.4). If I may borrow a controverted term, it is a worldview in which there is no place for God and for his truth.

So, for example, scroll down - please do, it will spare you - to the bottom of that article on polyamory, and you will see the giveaway line. What is the attitude that lies behind the action? "'But we don't have a choice. We're in love with each other,' they chime." Love, you see, is this overwhelming force, this insatiable and unbiddable desire that carries everything before it, ungoverned and ungovernable by reason or principle, certainly not conditioned by any moral reality.

Or try another headline: Children need more exercise - especially girls, study says. I am not suggesting that girls should be denied exercise, but - again - what seems to be the working assumption of those from the Institute of Studies, or whatever it may be, who has produced this work, and which is communicated by the article? That we should expect a uniformity in our children, regardless of gender. No space is given for the possibility that boys and girls, equally created in God's image but distinctive in their differing sexuality, might play in different ways and to different degrees. No, in this brave new world all gender distinction is a matter for grave concern, as we set out to sublimate all notions of sexual identity into some grey and androgynous mass.

Or again, consider the Olympic response to Russia's anti-gay laws: "On the question of gay rights though, there is no room for error. What politician - even a sports politician - would dare to swim against the tide on an issue of such sensitivity?" It is now barely possible for us to hear of this without being urged to paint our nails in rainbow hues, or seeing professional luvvie and dahling of the nation Stephen Fry recommending some symbol of resistance, or hearing the talking heads trotting out the standard liberal cant. There is, you see, "no room for error" - who "would draw [sic] to swim against the tide on an issue of such sensitivity?" Who would make the crass mistake of actually believing that God's intention for his creation should intrude into this discussion?

Love, identity, rights, freedoms - all are defined without reference to or thought of God. I am not picking on the BBC, it just happens to be an accessible medium. The same underpinning attitudes and notions can be readily gleaned from almost any mainstream media source, whether portraying its version of fact or fiction.

(As an aside, the problem is not with an unrealistic depiction of common grace. Take for example, the detective who, despite the drunkenness and immorality of his or her private life, nevertheless manages to track down the bad guys and give them a fairly stiff talking to. This character is not presented to us as a sinner who accomplishes some good. Rather, the wickedness of the life is usually presented as something messy and miserable, at best a sort of morally neutral morass. Or perhaps we have a teacher, kind and generous, committed and earnest. They are also committed and earnest in their relationship with the person with whom they live, to whom they happen to be happily unmarried. That fact is simply normal. Although we are repeatedly invited to exist in a realm in which there is good and evil, there is no fixed moral scale, certainly no divine standard.)

The problem lies not primarily in the behaviour: the behaviour is the product of the conviction that drives it. Sin is normal, and the most gross sins are increasingly normalised, because there is no thought of God. The transformation that occurs in a converted man is the transformation that begins when he is confronted with God and his world is turned upside down. Only then is that world perceived, interpreted and approached rightly.

The task of the church, in this regard, is to call the world to its senses. When the Lord through Isaiah says to the people, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Is 1.18), he is not suggesting that he and the unrighteous set out to discover some mutually acceptable and impersonal standard by which they can chat through the issues, but rather calling men to the bar of divine truth to perceive and interpret things as they really are.

When we are exhorted to "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps 46.10) it might be considered a charge to stop squawking and wriggling, and to submit to the truth of God as he makes himself known.

This is anathema to a world that does not know God, but there will be no transformation of hearts until God is in the thoughts of men, not as a mere notion but as the reigning Lord of all. True reason does not judge God, but submits to him. I am not saying that there is no place for apologetics, but it must be an unapologetic apologetic. Like the humbled Nebuchadnezzar, sinners like us must come to "praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and his ways justice. And those who walk in pride he is able to put down" (Dan 4.37).

If we are to see sinners saved and righteousness advanced, we must strike at the root. The church must proclaim God in all his glory, truth in all its clarity, sin in all its misery, judgement in all its severity, Christ in all his mercy, redemption in all its majesty, and holiness in all its liberty. We must confront sinners with the Almighty and call sinners to the All-merciful: God must be in their thoughts.