The fundamental divide in this world is between living under the reality of a transcendent, Creator God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit over all or not. There is either a holy, just, and personal God to whom all things owe their existence and to whom they will answer or not. This is a first order concept and a primary presupposition that effects everything at some point in some way. And therefore, this is the most significant distinction to make when it comes to any kind of political discussion. It is the watershed issue. There may be many disagreements on either side of that divide about how it applies exactly, but there is a gravity pulling in one of two directions, depending on which way you go. There is either a gravity of humility, teaching men to look up because God is over them, or else there is a gravity of pride, teaching men to look down because there need not be anyone over them.
These two very different conceptions of the world will necessarily develop two very different notions of justice. One looks up in humility, recognizing that our justice, if it is to be any good at all, must in some way reflect the order and righteousness of the God of Heaven. The other looks down on all men as a mass to be herded and organized by whatever theory is in vogue today, whatever scheme will tend toward the goals that have been agreed upon at any given moment, which of course can and do change from moment to moment. While our understanding of the justice of God may alter from time to time, God’s justice itself never changes. It is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
While this notion that there is a God over us, and His standards of justice and truth are fixed and immutable does tend to create humble men – all by itself, there is still a problem. Fallible men, even well-meaning, fallible men, don’t get justice right. We are not righteous in ourselves, and while we may get some things right, it’s always a mix.
So those on the other side of the great divide, point this out and say, see? What difference does it make if you claim to have a standard if you can’t get the standard right? We’re all fallible and make mistakes, so whose to say? And besides, you claiming that you’re right in the name of God is a lot more dangerous than me claiming I’m right in the name of what makes most sense to me today. And there’s a surface level plausibility to this claim. It can sound all kinds of humble to say you’re just working off your common sense and it can seem arrogant to claim the authority of God for everything, especially if there’s a decent chance you might be wrong.
But the problem is that you cannot actually banish absolutes from this world, anymore than you can banish God or some placeholder for Him. Just because your appeal is no longer to God in name doesn’t mean you have successfully rid your arguments of God in fact. Unless someone is willing to collapse into complete solipsism and nihilism – we can’t know anything and everything is meaningless, everyone still wants to live for something: good will toward men, happiness, justice, equality, whatever. But whatever that standard is, that is your god. And right on schedule that god begins acting like a god. But now instead of the life-Giving God of Creation, the saving God of the gospel, you have an inert idol for your god. You have vague notions and impressions and sensations that you call “freedom” or “equality” or “happiness,” but since they are vague and shapeless, their demands can be twisted and morphed into anything. This is how we’ve gotten to the point where courts can order boys to be allowed to be dressed as little girls, and this is called equality, justice, and love. This is how businesses can be ordered shut down unilaterally, and this is called equality, justice, and love. But this is manifestly not humility; it’s sheer arrogance and tyranny.
In other words, it really does all come down to whether the Triune God is over us or some false notion of god in us. Either God is outside of us, and He draws near to us in His mercy and reveals Himself to us in His Word, or else people will deify themselves. Believe in yourself, follow your heart, and let’s all just come together in peace and harmony are all some version of let’s make ourselves into god. And having done that, we will make up whatever definition of justice, truth, equality, love, or harmony we like.
All of this leads to diametrically opposed notions of justification. To be justified is to be declared “in the right,” innocent of all charges. And communities are always bound up with varying doctrines of justification. Communities develop around what people believe is the right way to live or work or eat or educate their children. If God is the One who justifies, this leads to a particular kind of community that loves one another but is actually and increasingly free. But if man is the one who justifies (since he has made himself a god) this leads to an entirely different kind of community, one enslaved by fears and threats.
When people think they are gods, they are inevitably at war. Polytheistic societies have always been full of waring gods. This is why pure democracy is inherently unstable, and it almost always quickly degenerates into an aristocracy and soon enough a dictatorship. But in the meantime, if you have no justification from God, you are left with seeking justification from man. Thus, even though other people pose a threat and rivalry to our godhead, humanists need other people to feel justified. This is not real community, but it is what every Christ-less community must reduce to ultimately. It is not a true community of love, forgiveness, and freedom. It is a cold war of threats and manipulations covered over in the veneer of caring and love. Do this and prove you care. Do this and prove you really love your neighbor.
In the face of these false gods providing false justification and a false sense of community, God has declared sinners righteous right smack in the middle of history for the sake of Christ alone. But then God turned those same sinners loose to build and invent, to rule and discover, to execute justice and preach this gospel, knowing full well that they will get parts of it wrong and backwards and upside down. And this is what the world hates. It hates God’s grace. This grace covers His people all the way to heaven, forgiving all their sins, allowing them to see many of their mistakes along the way, and making them more and more like God all the way. For free.
But the really wonderful thing is that this means that while God has declared sinners perfect and has begun the good work of actually making them perfect, God is not at all a perfectionist. This is the scandal of grace. The perfect God of heaven has turned sinners loose in this world with His name on them and under His complete blessing. The world is embarrassed by this. But God is not embarrassed by it in the slightest. He is proud of His people. He is pleased with them.
All humanistic schemes are basically perfectionistic at heart, which is to say that they must ultimately collapse into totalitarian regimes. They have no true grace because they have no true Savior.
Humility under God is a high standard, but it’s the high standard of grace. And while it does aim for perfection and excellence in all things, it is astonishingly patient and not perfectionistic in the slightest because God really is patient and kind. Pride puts on a great show of high standards, but it is the high standard of pure arrogance. It’s puffed up and self-congratulatory and has a five second fuse.
So this is the charge. God is in heaven. His Christ died for your sins, and He purchased You for eternal life. Believe this all the way down to the ground. This grace is entirely free, and it teaches you to hold your head up high, to look up, because God is over You. But He is also over city council, over the mayor, over the governor, over the nation, over the election, and over the whole world. But He is not over us like some kind of dictator. He is over us as a beaming Father, putting all things to right. All things belong to Christ, and therefore, all things are yours in Christ. You are free, so live in that freedom.