Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The secular approach to hypocrisy

Disclaimer: I'm a Protestant; ergo I think that the Roman Catholic church has erred, not only on minor questions, but on those essential to the gospel that brings salvation itself. So, the aim of the following is certainly not to defend errant priests. It is part of the Protestant critique of Roman Catholicism's lack of faithfulness to Scripture, that by forbidding marriage to those to whom God did not forbid it, it exposes them to unnecessary temptation which (in a fallen world) is often going to have bad consequences. Right, now down to the point.

Many recent responses to the downfall of Keith O'Brien, formerly Roman Catholic archbishop, well illustrate the secular approach to hypocrisy.

O'Brien spoke out against the normalisation of homosexual relationships as if they were equivalent to marriages. He also spoke out against homosexual activity in general, as a moral evil. It turned out that he had himself indulged in such activity from time to time.

The latter part of that is certainly hypocrisy. The Bible, whilst teaching that all mankind are and continue to be spiritual failures, also requires that spiritual leaders are not themselves those with a lifestyle of major sin. And there are some sins which can bring permanent disqualification from public Christian leadership. Indulging in homosexual activity whilst in the ministry would be one of them. So, O'Brien was a hypocrite. He should resign; he has resigned.

The world can see that there has been hypocrisy. They now pour their opprobrium on O'Brien, for partaking in that which he reprobated. But what, when they've finished doing that, do they offer as a solution?

Note also that some of which the world called hypocrisy was not hypocrisy. There is no hypocrisy involved in experiencing same-sex attraction, whilst believing that that attraction is an effect of being a fallen human being, and that to indulge or act upon it would be sinful. There is no hypocrisy in believing those things and preaching them. There is no hypocrisy in preaching that homosexual inclinations are evil, just as heterosexual temptations towards adultery, fornication or various forms of depravity within a marriage are also evil. Avoiding hypocrisy does not mean that our lives, desires and theology line up perfectly. There is no hypocrisy involved in pointing out that sodomy is not a basis for marriage, unless you yourself are also making legal arrangements to contract such a "marriage" at the same time - and there's no evidence that O'Brien was doing that.

Furthermore, the solution to hypocrisy is not to abolish a category of moral evil. Because O'Brien did not practice what he preached, does not mean that not preaching it is the only available solution. He could also not practice it, even whilst experiencing the temptation. Or, he could cease to masquerade as a Christian leader whilst doing so.

If he opened the Scriptures, he would find that not the merits deposited in the church of Rome, but the finished and final work of Jesus Christ was able to bring him a supply of grace to fight and overcome temptation. The world is using O'Brien's hypocrisy as a stick to beat Christians with - we should all shut up about the topic that the world won't shut up about, because otherwise they'll accuse us of hypocrisy. It's true that the world, when it abolishes moral standards, can no longer be accused of hypocrisy, per se. Hitler could not be accused of exercising a double-standard towards the Jews, because he both practised and preached their destruction. But how is that good? What is good is to both preach against and not practice sin.

It is better to have a world in which people realise that their are standards, and are then ashamed when they take a bold stand for them whilst not personally practising them, than a world in which people claim that there are none. The former world has foundations that can be built upon; the latter is godless anarchy. When crying down hypocrisy, the world should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath-water. In the case of sexual standards, that is precisely what the sexual revolutionaries intend to do. Don't be fooled.

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