The realism of Scripture

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Eph. 2:1

We are living in an age in which each advance in technology overtakes the last in breathtaking rapidity. It’s amazing what we can do now that just a few years ago would have seemed impossible. And it doesn’t look like there is any end in sight. Human progress is seemingly limitless. And yet, with all the improvements in lifestyle, humanity remains inhumane on so many levels. The nightly news hasn’t gotten any better. It seems that what we gain in one area, we lose in another.

Now I’m not saying that I would rather live in the 1950’s. There was inhumanity there, too. It was not the Golden Age so many people think it was, especially if you were an African-American living in the South. In the first half of the twentieth century, history recorded the advance of Nazism and Communism and two World Wars that cost millions of lives. In the second half, we saw the Cold War and a world living under the specter of a nuclear holocaust (which hasn’t gone away to this day). In the twenty-first century, it’s not much better. We have spent most of it fighting a long war against terrorists. There are still wars and rumors of wars. There are still people dying from hunger. There are still people suffering injustice. There are still people living under brutal regimes. In our own country we are watching freedoms we cherished slip away as our culture changes its values. And there is the horror of abortion, which still hasn’t gone away (despite the repeal of Roe v. Wade) and doesn’t look like it will any time soon.

What makes it even worse for followers of Jesus is that in the West we are seeing the decline of Christianity as the culture increasingly embraces its post-Christian identity. Today, we are standing on the other side of Christendom. St. Augustine saw it going up as the Roman Empire went down. We are seeing it go down as a new paganism rises out of the ashes. There are a lot of reasons for Christians to be depressed.

And yet, this is where the realism of the Bible is so helpful. It tells us that the basic reason why technology doesn’t change the inhumanity of man is that technology doesn’t even touch the basic issue. It tells us that no matter when you live, there will always be injustice, inequality, and inhumanity. It reminds us that the past was not a golden age because man essentially was the same then as he is now. And it reminds us that unless our Lord returns, the future isn’t going to erase the fundamental problem with the human race: human depravity and sin.

Inside the realism of Scripture, however, there is also optimism. For the Bible tells us that the fundamental problem with men and women will never essentially get worse. It is not worse now than it was in the past and it will not be worse in the future than it is now. Certainly, its manifestations can be worse at some times and in some places than others. But that does not change the fact that underneath the changing landscape of human tragedy in history, the corruption of the human heart has been constant. The reason for this is, according to the apostle Paul, that mankind is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). You can’t get any worse than dead.

But this is good news because that means that the prescription the Bible gives for human sinfulness is just as good now as it was in the first century. According to Paul, God has extended his power in raising people who are dead in sin up from a spiritual grave to give them new life and new hope. He has just reminded us of the power of God that raised Christ from the dead (1:20), a power that is now at work in believers (1:19). Now, in chapter 2, the apostle is going to remind us that God was at work in us even before we became believers. For being dead in sin, we also needed to be raised from death, and it took the power of God to do it: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (2:4-5). Technology can’t add to the power of God. Human ingenuity can’t add to the power of God. Human advancements of any kind can’t add to the power of God. But God doesn’t need our help in giving new life to those who are spiritually dead. And he is just as powerful today as he was thousands of years ago. “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). In other words, history neither changes our basic need nor the potency of the cure. People need to be saved, and they are saved today exactly as they were 2000 years ago: by God.

By: Jeremiah Bass