Thursday, September 15, 2005

Driving Miss Depravity

Every day I have to get onto the freeway between our political capital city--Pretoria--and our financial capital--Johannesburg--to get to work. It is a total of 44km (27.34mi) between my home and work. If I leave home at 06:00 I can get to work at about 06:45 to 07:00. If I leave home at 06:10, the time on the road suddenly lengthens into an hour and a half. Coming home I normally get to leave work at about 16:30 and it takes about an hour to get home. However, just the other day it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to get home.
However, I do not intend to bore you to death with how long it takes me to travel between my home and work.
Have you ever, and I assume it is the same all over the world, realised how ugly Miss Depravity displays herself on the road. We all have to get to work. We are all travelling in the same direction. There are thousands and thousands of cars moving in that direction. You would think that since we are all in the same boat (or car) that people would show some courtesy to one another and also not try to kill each other. Heck, no! Each of us thinks that he is the only one on his way to work and so drive accordingly. Here in South Africa, while travelling on a highway or freeway, it is advisable not to indicate your intentions to change lanes long in advance. You will be seen as an intruder in someone else's domain and any gap will be closed pronto! It is better to drive casually and when you see a gap opening to quickly flick on the indicator and to change lanes as quick as possible before the gap is closed by someone.
On the other hand, while driving, always keep an eye open for people who will swerve in front of you even when there is no suitable gap between your car and the car in front of you. Lane changes here seem to be some kind of death wish by many (not their own death of course!) or some kind of kamikaze mission! Two days ago on my way to work I had the fortunate experience of being fingered by some young know-it-all twit. The woman driving behind me was keeping fairly close to me with a gap that I thought was perhaps a few inches bigger than the size of a small car. Suddenly out of nowhere this young guy with his Ford Focus zipped into that gap and then proceeded to ride so close behind me I could hardly see the windscreen wipers on his car! I was in no way comfortable with him so close to the tail of my car and so I waved him off. I did not give him any common road hand "signals." I literally waved him off! He simply sneered at me and continued to stay so close. Next I started to slow down slightly. The thing to remember here is that I was in the right hand lane of a three lane freeway. This would be the equivalent of the left hand lane in the US. Here in South Africa we drive in the left hand lane and pass right on normal roads. Anyhow, there is a thick concrete barrier between the two sides of the freeway. The next thing he zipps past on my right between me and this concrete barrier on the no-go zone! After he passed me he proceeded by greeting me with all the common road hand "signals."
Now things like this happen all the time. One of my pet peeves is how people drive on our roads and it really freaks me out when people break the rules of the road to get ahead of others. Like waiting in line at an exit from the freeway in a line that stretches far back on the freeway. This is where many people, especially those with expensive cars, would simply drive past the line and push in somewhere close to the front.
Things like this really upset me. That people can disregard others so easily and show them no respect by simply pushing in or whatever!
I was thinking about this. Until it dawned on me: people simply cannot help driving like this! It is in man's nature to be like this. Being so selfish and rude while driving! This is simply how the nature of man displays itself. Anyone who claims that man is basically good must obviously have a chauffeur or use the train or a bus to travel. Once you have to drive yourself around, you will soon discover that man is basically sinful!
We find Adam, way back in the garden of Eden being told by God that he could eat from any tree in the garden "but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die" (Gen. 2:17). In that same day, after God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, the serpent (the devil) came to Eve and started his life-long mission… to tempt us away from God and His Word. The devil came with one of his greatest temptations… that we could be like God. Almost every cult today has this idea in its teachings. Even within the ranks of Christianity today, there are those who teach that we are "little gods." Anyhow, Adam and Eve ate and sin entered the human race.
"But the matter did not stop there, for by that first sin Adam became the bond-servant of sin. That sin carried permanent pollution with it, and a pollution which, because of the solidarity of the human race, would affect not only Adam but all his descendants as well. As a result of the fall the father of the race could only pass on a depraved human nature to his offspring. From that unholy source sin flows on as an impure stream to all the generations of men, polluting everyone and everything with which it comes into contact."[1]
Adam sinned as the representative head of the human race, and in this way the guilt of sin is imputed to us all. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
Because of original sin (that which Adam brought upon us) we have become totally depraved. Total depravity is often misunderstood.
"Negatively, it does not imply: (1) that every man is thoroughly depraved as he can possibly become; (2) that the sinner has no innate knowledge of the will of God, nor a conscience that discriminates between good and evil; (3) that sinful man does not often admire virtuous character and actions in others, or is incapable of disinterested affections and actions in his relations with his fellow-men; nor (4) that every unregenerate man will, in virtue of his inherent sinfulness, indulge in every form of sin; it often happens that one form excludes the other. Positively, it does indicate: (1) that the inherent corruption extends to every part of man’s nature, to all the faculties and powers of both soul and body; and (2) that there is no spiritual good, that is, good in relation to God, in the sinner at all, but only perversion. This total depravity is denied by Pelagians, Socinians, and seventeenth century Arminians, but is clearly taught in Scripture…Rom.7:18,23; 8:7; Eph. 4:18; II Tim. 3:2-4; Tit. 1:15."[2]
When it comes to this total depravity
"We are all sinners by nature, therefore we are held under the yoke of sin. But if the whole man is subject to the dominion of sin, surely the will, which is its principal seat, must be bound with the closest chains. And, indeed, if divine grace were preceded by any will of ours, Paul could not have said that "it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do" (Phil. 2:13). Away, then, with all the absurd trifling which many have indulged in with regard to preparation. Although believers sometimes ask to have their heart trained to the obedience of the divine law, as David does in several passages (Ps. 51:12), it is to be observed, that even this longing in prayer is from God. This is apparent from the language used. When he prays, "Create in me a clean heart," he certainly does not attribute the beginning of the creation to himself. Let us therefore rather adopt the sentiment of Augustine, "God will prevent you in all things, but do you sometimes prevent his anger. How? Confess that you have all these things from God, that all the good you have is from him, all the evil from yourself," (August. De Verbis Apost. Serm. 10)."[3]
To this Grudem adds
"Not only do we as sinners lack any spiritual good in ourselves, but we also lack the ability to do anything that will in itself please God and the ability to come to God in our own strength. Paul says that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8). Moreover, in terms of bearing fruit for God’s kingdom and doing what pleases Him, Jesus says, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). In fact, unbelievers are not pleasing to God, if for no other reason, simply because their actions do not proceed from faith in God or from love to him, and "without faith it is impossible to please him" (Heb. 11:6). When Paul’s readers were unbelievers, he tells them, "You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked" (Eph. 2:1-2). Unbelievers are in a state of bondage or enslavement to sin, because "every one who commits sin is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Though from a human standpoint people might be able to do much good, Isaiah affirms that "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Isa. 64:6; cf. Rom. 3:9-20). Unbelievers are not even able to understand the things of God correctly, for the "natural man does not receive the gifts [lit. ‘things’] of the Spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14 RSV mg.). Nor can we come to God in our own power, for Jesus says "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44)."[4]
Mankind has come up with the humanistic notion that there is a spark of "good" in each of us, and it has become so pervasive that it has crept into many Christian theologies. However, Scripture stands at odds with this humanism:
Jer 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (NASB)
Ps 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth. (NASB)
Ps 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (NASB)
In the New Testament Paul continues with this total depravity of man. Does he start his gospel message in Romans with "Jesus loves you more than you love yourself?" No! This is what he wrote in Rom 1:21-25:
21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (NASB)
Paul continues to show the total inability of man to seek after God in Rom 3:10-18. James White has this to say about this passage:
"This litany of quotations [from the Bible] is specifically designed to have one effect: to shatter, destroy, and obliterate any last shred of self-righteousness that might remain after the preceding arguments have been understood. These testimonies are fatal to any kind of "optimistic humanism." Outside of God's grace, man is a corrupted creation, violent, hateful, without understanding, without fear of God. Rather than finding in man "seekers" who simply need a "nudge" in the right direction, Scripture tells us that man does not understand and does not seek after God. Man is deceitful, even with himself, and is quick to curse God. Total depravity painted in the most vivid colors."[5]
Man is spiritually dead and desperately needs new life. Death came into this world through sin, and death so spread to all men. (Rom 5:12) We cannot escape the fact we are slaves of sin, and slaves do not have any rights against their master. What kind of choice is left to a slave? A slave has NO choice! The person without Christ is dead in his sin, dead to God, and we know that dead people cannot move themselves to life. Just as Lazarus had no ability to bring himself back to life, and also had no choice in the matter if someone else brought him back to life, so we have no ability to choose God and spiritual life, and no choice as to whether to accept or deny the life God graciously chooses to give us.
Although man is spiritually dead, it does not mean that he is spiritually inactive. He is active, but active against God in his rebellion and suppression of the truth. He is still active in his sin, to which he is a slave.
5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:5-8 NASB)
So, people are depraved, and it really shows on the roads. I suppose they don't know about driving Miss Daisy. They only know about driving Miss Depravity!
When I think of the bad driving and rudeness on the road in this light, of the depravity of man, then it moves me toward pity and also prayer.
With the sin nature so rampant on our roads, what can we expect?
Just thinking...
End Notes
1. Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology - NEW EDITION - containing the full text of Systematic Theology and the original Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology, Systematic Theology, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996, p. 221.
2. Ibid., p246
3. Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated by Henry Beveridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1989, Book II, Chap II, Section 27, p. 246.
4. Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology An introduction to Biblical doctrine, ZondervanPublishingHouse, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994, p 497.
5. White, James R., The Potter' s Freedom, A defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen but Free, Calvary Press Publishing, Amityville, NY, 2000, p.82.

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