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2.05.2005    |    The Perfectability of Man
The perfectability of man is a constant theme of the various pagan -isms that have plagued men for as long as we've had the ability to construct words ending is "ism." Marxism, fascism, feminism, vegetarianism, you name it-ism, all have their theme as perfecting something or everything about our dear little lost selves. Many isms, of course, have good objectives and sometimes good motives. It is in their attempt to remake men in whatever image of perfection that they've conjured where they always fail.

Why do they fail? Because of who we are; because of how we were made, and Who made us.

So, what about Jesus Himself telling us to be perfect? Matthew 5:48 (KJV):

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Hey, since our Lord is the one who is saying this, who are we to not take His direction? Well, let's just call this call to perfection to be a goal, that perhaps some will reach when we stand before His throne for judgment. Certainly not a microsecond before.

Some folks even end up believing their own press releases about how good God has made His creatures (e.g. progressive Quakers). Even the Psalmist gets into the act, in, for instance, Psalm 8:
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet
Ah, that famous quote, "a little lower than the angels." Well, that's pretty high, isn't it? Isn't it? No, not really, answers the really annoying voice of reality.

Man is a fallen creature, beloved of God to be sure, but pitiful in his failures. The basic problem with any -ism or theology that asserts our species may attain perfection is that it ignores the very story of our creation in Genesis. And it denies the saving grace of Christ. If we may become perfect, why did God need to send His Son to die that heinous death on the cross? Well, He did, because He needed to. The thing speaks for itself -- our Maker knows what we need, better than any of us shall ever know.

Just look at the text, the record we have in Scripture. The history of God's attempt to corral his stubborn and stiff-necked people results in little things like, oh, basically wiping out almost all of humanity in the Flood. Like the slaying of untold thousands who disobeyed His commandments. Like giving those who persist in idolotry over to the swords of the righteous (cf Joshua).

Note to any fundamentalists out there: take this as literal or allegorical; the result's the same. We can argue about the reality of the Flood as a discrete historical event later.

The prophet Isaiah got it right, when he tells us of Morningstar, a/k/a Lucifer: From Isaiah 14:
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
Now, Isaiah may, or may not be referring exactly to Old Scratch his own ugly cloven-hooved self. Perhaps this is a type for any tyrant -- in Isaiah's case in the coming Babylonian exile, the king of Babylon. Could God have inspired Isaiah to warn us of ourselves? Not to think that we may "ascend into heaven", or that a mortal ruler should "exalt [his] throne above the stars of God." Yet is this not the very thing that political isms, such as communism, lay claim to?

This kind of arrogance is far too easy to see in the here and now. It especially is present in any secular enterprise that claims to know what is best for all the people, without the humility that necessarily comes from knowing that we are but dust, and, as our American founders said, make "an appeal to Heaven."

We may be saved; many shall not be. None of us will ever be perfect; that job was taken by a carpenter's son.


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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.