Let me tell you a quick story, during a gang war, the names have been alliterated to protect the guilty. Two members of the same gang have a dispute about who can have a sexual relationship with one of the women (lets call her B). One of the two gang leader’s senior lieutenants (we will call him AC) leaves in a huff, and the gang’s leader (we will call him AG) finds himself in serious trouble. One of the AC’s underlings (we can call him PA) feels sorry for his former friends; PA joins the next fight, is killed and so AC then challenges Hector, a leader of the rival gang. During that fight AC kills Hector and to show his contempt and superiority mutilates Hector’s body.
No, this isn’t the plot of a new Hollywood gangland movie, these are actually some of the major plot points from Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, a tale set near the end of the Trojan War. The humans (as well as the Olympian false gods) are rich in humanity, the same humanity we see around us today. It both intrigues us and when we stop and think, repels us.
Last year, while listening to Homer’s Illiad and Odyseus on my commute home from work, it struck me how little human beings have changed; in fact, what has really changed about humanity is the quality of his tools and weapons, nothing major in mankind itself is all that different. This is why so many Hollywood movies regurgitate older stories in new (or blatant) rewrites – the old themes still hold true.
Often we see people making the argument that Christian moral strictures are old fashioned, out of date, out of step with the times, and other arguments rooted in a “chronological snobbery” (as C S Lewis might put it). This viewpoint in and of itself assumes what my reading of the Iliad refutes: it assumes man has truly progressed from his lusty days of bloody conquest. In fact, much of what we see today is not a question of moral progress, but regression to the mores of the blood-drenched civilizations of the past. Whether we call it “exposing an infant” or “aborting a fetus” (our habit of using scientific jargon to avoid confronting our consciences by the heinousness of the act of murder we are committing), ultimately it makes little difference, both are murder; in both cases, our common humanity is unchanged from pagan times.
The problem is that too many moderns don’t consider the point of the Old Testament law. The law according to Paul is not intended for self-reformation, and according to James, it is a mirror to expose the real wickedness that is within us. The law confronts us with our need to change.
This, I think, tells us why the emerging church in their attempt to make Christian morality culturally acceptable by pleading for tolerance of homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, or abortion miss the mark so profoundly. In their attempts to make Christianity relevant to modern prejudices, they have ultimately nullified the very thing that makes the law relevant, its pointed barb at the unregenerate heart. They view the law in terms of establishing principles for an acceptable or unacceptable moral life rather than a measuring stick to demonstrate our unacceptability to God.
The question is not whether Christian moral principles are outdated, the Bible is not outdated because it speaks to the unchanged human nature within us all. The real question is, do we consider God to be our authority or men to be our authority? All to often, this is precisely the issue that confronts us, and sadly many churches seek to side with man, not God. This is why some “evangelical” churches and leaders have been more open with same sex marriage, etc. Of course, this is not really new – the early church had those that sought the world’s approval by conforming Christian thought to that of Plato, but that is a story for another time. Of course, if Jesus is resurrected from the dead, then these churches have their priorities backwards, and are committing theological treason.