Sinful passions? Just how much stimulus is needed?

Mark Galli describes Why the Bible is Not a Book of Moral Laws. Contrary to popular belief, it’s the startling gift book. He touches on the nature of Christianity, spreading the word, and the state of grace but the message also has implications for the imposition of values and behavior standards.

If one thing is clear in Scripture it is this: The law cannot justify us. Trying to submit to it, or trying to make others submit to it, only makes things worse. In fact, proclaiming the law and its authority—even its biblical authority!—will work the exact opposite of the effect we intend. As Paul put it, law only arouses our “sinful passions” (Rom. 7:5). Tell me I have to do something, have to submit to some standard or law, and I only want to rebel. That’s what the Bible teaches about human nature. And our experience with law confirms it every day. So the more we use the Bible as a legal bludgeon, the more people are going to rebel against it.

the first point of biblical faith is not law but grace, not obedience but forgiveness. The Bible’s authority is not grounded in its commands and doctrines but in its startling message of good news. If you start with the demands of doctrines and ethics, you end up with a fearful and unforgiving church, and a God nobody wants anything to do with. But if you start with that wonderful message—that God has provided a Savior for us, the morally unmoored!—then all manner of doctrines and ethics naturally spring forth, doctrines and ethics that foster freedom and life.

Consider these ideas in light of the recent efforts to prohibit cell phone use while driving or the court’s OK of Sharia law in Oklahoma. It is one thing to force one’s standards on others and it is another to lead them to righteousness. There is a need in society to ‘force’ certain behavior standards and deal with the response. What is a concern today is a two pronged attack on Christian and Biblical values. On one side there is the Sharia law thing and on the other is the removal of anything with the taint of Christian or Biblical sources from public property. These efforts are stimulating a response that creates social frictions. So far, it hasn’t lead to mass murder and terrorism, but there is reason to be concerned about just how far it can go before the response does rise to a level to match the stimulus. Just what will be the “sinful passions” that arise from church burnings and the persecution of Christians in Africa and the mid-east; from the repression of free speech in the public square; and from the ridicule of belief in the major media?

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