This from Rod Dreher this past Sunday has me thinking about how we all are too prone to having our thinking held captive by the times we happen to live in.
I mean, look: we wonder (or rather, I wonder) why more people, especially Christians, aren’t standing up screaming bloody murder over the state-sanctioned, and increasingly state-enforced, chemical and surgical mutilation of children to attempt to change their sex. I’ve been thinking since the California news broke the other day, about the state aligning itself to seize minors from parents for the sake of transing them, that America must surely be lost. What kind of a people would allow that to be done to children and families? Well, look back on America at any time before the Civil Rights Movement, what we all allowed to be done to black Americans down South. What we all now agree was a moral outrage was either seen as good by some, or something we could live with by others. . . .
What a man from our town knows in 2023 is not the same as what a man of 1965 there would have known. We are all prisoners of time. I think it quite possible that forty years from now, old people are going to have to explain to their grandchildren how and why so many people did nothing while the medical establishment and activists were sexually mutilating children who were in no position to consent.
And you can flip it as well. Normal people from 1965 or even 2005 would think we have descended into evil madness by putting up with the trans predations upon children and youth. And they would be right.
It has to be said that these evil efforts to trans-gr**m children away from their parents and from how God created them come almost exclusively from Democrats and the woke. Those who somehow continue to support or vote for Democrats need to have a good long think about that and other issues. But I will leave that aside for now.
For none of us are exempt from being captured by the times. A light example: I was a teenager in the 70’s. And, yes, I thought the fashion styles then were just how to dress. I remember a tight fitting pair of white bell-bottoms that I wore as if that was normal. I joke that, because of the influence of 70’s fashions, it took me decades to learn how to dress. But that joke is the truth!
A less light example: in the Middle Ages and for some years after, it was acceptable and at times expected to burn heretics (although recantations were a more common aim and result). We look with horror upon burning heretics, even the actual ones. And we are right to do so.
But guess what? If people of those times would see how we so easily and intentionally consecrate willful heretics as bishops, even men who find “problematic” the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed, they would be appalled. And they would be right as well. But how many from either time see both the stake and the mitre for heretics as horrors?
Both the heretic burners and the heretic consecrators are blinded by their own times. The same could be said about those who manipulate or even mutilate children with trans ideology today and about those of times past who treated less masculine boys or less feminine girls with cruelty.
I’ve begun noticing that Scripture has some observations about how time can imprison our thinking. I’ve oft studied the episode of St. Paul in Athens in Acts 17 — it is such a rich passage with examples for us to follow in our learning and witness. But I had not much noticed the references to how time constrains our thinking until just the past few days.
For one thing, the men and visitors of Athens are lightly ridiculed for spending “their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (17:21 ESV) One could say they were the Greek version of the Church of What’s Happening Now although they were not Christians. They put entirely too much weight on new thinking and philosophy.
But before we laugh at them, those who pushed Marxism in the 19th and 20th centuries and who push Neo-Marxist Critical Theories today are much worse. At least the men of Athens were interested in listening to rather than cancelling opposing viewpoints. And Greek philosophy is far more rational than various Critical Theories; there is hardly any comparison. Nonetheless, the Athenians shared something with today’s woke and today’s Church of What’s Happening Now for that matter; both put too much weight on newer thinking.
Paul seemed to the Athenians to be teaching something new, so they had him speak in the Areopagus. In his address, Paul noted that God has “determined the times before appointed” for man. (17:26 KJ) Part of our finiteness is we are confined to time in our bodies and cannot see well beyond it without some wisdom and God’s help. Instead of giving in to our finite situation and making our times into idols by making them the measure of all things, men should seek to transcend their times — to “seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (17:27 NASB)
And God is merciful toward our finite, time confined state. “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent…” (17:30 NASB) It’s hard not to like how the King James puts it: “the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” The Lord well understands how time limits us and affects our thinking. So He is merciful. He broke into the imprisoning time of man by becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ. Then He called us to repent and to trust him so that He may remove the mind warping shackles of time and lead us out of time into eternity.
Some will respond to the God beyond time, and others will not:
“. . .because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (17:31-34 NASB)
The resurrection of the dead was absurd to the Greek thinking of the time, but some were still willing to listen, and some believed. Just about every time and culture is hostile to the Truth in some way, but the Lord saves men out of all of them. Today to say sin is sin seems not only mistaken but even bigoted and intolerable to many/most in today’s Western post-Christian culture, but the Lord is still delivering people out of our time. But how many are willing to see beyond one’s own time? To see that perhaps one’s own time does not possess the heights of truth?
To believe and walk in line with the Truth, one has to be willing to see and think beyond one’s time. Otherwise, one really is a “prisoner of time.”
And, by the way, that is exactly what the forces of evil, particularly totalitarians, want for you. To make you a prisoner of time is a chief way they seek to imprison you.
But time now dictates that I say more about that another time.
Photo: Getty Images
An earlier version appeared on my substack.