Wednesday, March 12, 2008

moralism doesn't work

I've been watching the train wreck that is Eliot Spitzer's life today and asking,

"What was this guy thinking?"

This guy looked like he had it all . . . governor of New York, beautiful wife, three daughters, a promising political career . . . and yet he schemed and plotted to throw it all away.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer Resigns Effective Monday

He was known as a "moral crusader" and campaigned on the promise that he would continue to root out graft and crime in New York.

We are all capable of something like this. None of us is beyond this.

I think it's one more sad and poignant demonstration that moralism doesn't work. Sin is so, so powerful in our lives. When we suppress our passions in one area, they pop out in another. Moralism, by itself, nurtures pride in the center of our hearts. Pride goes before a fall. Pride makes us irrational in our reasoning. Sinful passions cannot be suppressed they can only be expelled by greater affections.

I think the pharisees in Jesus' day are another great example of this. They said their prayers, they were meticulous in their religious obervance, they piled rules and tradition on top of God's laws . . but they exploited defenseless widows and the poor. They were pious and proud and plotted the death of Jesus, who they perceived as a threat to their power and position among the people.

But we like moralism. It's measurable. It's quantifiable. It's neat and tidy. It's safe. It makes us feel good about ourselves and better than others.

Beware of the leaven of the pharisees. Beware of moralism.

Only the Gospel can really change our hearts. Only the grace of God can create in us grateful, joyful, humble obedience. Only the Gospel.

Makes me think of the opening section of Thomas Chalmer's "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection:

A Moralist Will be Unsuccessful in Trying to Displace His Love of the World by Reviewing the Ills of the World. Misplaced Affections Need to be Replaced by the Far Greater Power of the Affection of the Gospel.

THERE are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world - either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon not to resign an old affection, which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one.

My purpose is to show, that from the constitution of our nature, the former method is altogether incompetent and ineffectual and that the latter method will alone suffice for the rescue and recovery of the heart from the wrong affection that domineers over it.

Christ and the Gospel is the only affection strong enough to restrain our sinful passions. Moralism simply does not work over the long haul.

1 comment:

Brian Wong said...

Great post, Pastor Tim! I've sat and thought the same thing to myself. Moreover, what's his wife thinking? Or his daughters?

Thanks for the reminder that none of us is beyond this. That was a painful but poignant reminder of Romans 3:10 and 3:23. We're all sinners before a holy God, and none of us is righteous.