Tearing Down the Temple

Reactions to reading the book of Romans

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Romans 1:18-24. The Unholy City—VII. Cash bond

It is far easier, not to mention, more effective, to appeal to one’s greed than to one’s honor. This is why a cash bond is universally preferred over a man’s given word.

Richard Whately once said, “Honesty is the best policy; but he who is governed by that maxim is not an honest man.” So, all of us can be, in some respect or other, coaxed into virtue (as well as something considerably less than virtue) by the belief that it is profitable. No reflective person would call such people virtuous.

John Donne wrote, “Our critical day is not the very day of our death, but the whole course of our life; I thank him, that prays for me when my bell tolls; but I thank him much more, that catechizes me, or preaches to me, or instructs me how to live.”

Who would pay for that today, or even offer thanks? All right, a few kooks might. In the main, though, our morality is motivated by the incentive system. In the City, virtue equals that which is profitable.

I want to make it clear that I am not arguing for the adoption of a noble ethic. Man’s notion of nobility is fallen and does not meet the standard of Christ. Nor does virtue equal self-sacrifice, (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2) though one can hear thousands of hours of sermons weekly that claim otherwise. All of these things add up to man’s ethics, not God’s.

The City governs morals because the City is corrupt. The City is the mechanism for corruption. A truly upright man would not survive a day in the City. We do, because we were brought up in a moral jungle, because the City has trained us in how to behave, and most of all because we are not upright. The corruption of the City impresses billions of co-conspirators; it will brook no rivals and no criticism. In the end, the City insists, we must submit to be its slaves, or we will be expelled, to die.



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