We May Be Pilgrims But This Ain’t Plymouth

With Noah we find a brief unmasking of the doctrine of election, regarding the unmerited favor in saving Noah and his family and the gathering from every type of creature of the earth. The widespread selection indicates mercy not caprice. Whereas God could destroy all because of their wickedness, dealing with mankind in a context of “in Adam” covenant infidelity-instead he plucks Noah and his family out in mercy and graciously protects them through the flood, bringing them out to a new land, a cleansed land, a hearkening back to paradise lost and a murky image of paradise to come.

This is the nature of a peculiar people, those saved not by any merit of their own but by the grace of God. Though belonging to a people broken and wicked, subsisting in the ruins of creation brought about by covenant infidelity, finding solace in the deluded superiority-idolatry-of human nature over evil; people caught up in a recapitulation of Babel, a movement back towards cultural and religious homogeny and hegemony. It is from these people that God chooses, that the Spirit calls through the preaching of the Gospel, that Christ unites to himself by faith. It is these people, chosen in mercy and grace, placed in the ark of the Church, to be kept by the Holy Spirit, in the midst of this present evil age until they depart it or it comes to a close who are the people of God, who live in a new covenant relationship with their Creator, experiencing what it is to be truly human, heirs of the promise.

Therefore, the Church and her Gospel is not a choice of collective resolve to simply live better lives as is the minimal result in Pascal’s Wager. Rather, it is the manifest statement by God that he has kept a people for himself out of the midst of fallen humanity. And it is not wickedness on the part of God to choose one and not the other, to choose Jacob over Esau-in order to show mercy to the former and judgement to the latter-because all have sinned, all are guilty before the law. It is his prerogative to do so-in point of fact, a God who displayed no justice in the face of transgression could not be merciful nor gracious. To do so would render the active and passive obedience of Christ to an exemplary model at best regarding the atonement, leaving the resurrection as nothing but a husk from which we must draw the kernel of our own moral and political liberation; leaving us as Pelagius, no savior and ultimately no God but our own will to power.

Thus, moralism/pietism strips Christianity of all that separates it from the other religions of the world, depleting it of all that is exclusively and externally redemptive, leading man back into himself instead of causing him to look outside of himself for reconciliation. For the only one he is beholden to, the only one he has sinned against, is himself, because God is merely the projection of his ideal self and so the Gospel does indeed become “seven steps to a better you”. Whereas, Christian belief or faith has traditionally and rightly been seen as that which is caused by God, moralism creates their god by their belief, relegating the Gospel to an action that they must live out in lieu of one that has been done for them apart from their consent and not categorized by the cultural mores of the day.

And this is the point, the Church is peculiar, it doesn’t belong here and has no need to either assimilate the culture nor be absorbed by it. The people of God must militate against this, convincing the more impressionable members of it’s community of this and simultaneously making it a credible representation to the culture at large. The modern Church is at many places at a point of crisis and it must decide whether it would be a peculiar people in covenant with God subsisting here as pilgrims in the midst of an evil age which is hostile to it or one of many “faiths” in the pantheon of mankind’s pursuit of deification.

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