Here are a few thoughts relative to our age.
In every era, every doctrine, and all of theology are recapitulated, but every era is especially spoken to by some portion of Scripture as well. We have now “outworn” Luther’s doctrine of justification. I do not mean that justification by faith is not true. I rather mean that it does not touch the “felt need” of the age. Another door in to the Kingdom is now necessary.
I have toyed with a historical application of the so-called ordo salutis of Paul in Romans 8:29-30. I am not sure I can exactly fit this, but I have an end point that I am trying to get to.
The collapsing Roman Empire was spoken to especially by Augustinian predestination. Predestination freed men (and women!) from the paralysing power of fate, of the stars, of the inevitable. Predestination paradoxically, created free men and women, free citizens.
Then, the tribes were “called” and spoken to all together. They were all called by one Father, and one Chief, and were called to one blood sacrifice at one table. Calling created bonds of love between the tribes (something that was impossible
Luther discovered justification, and the paralysing power of guilt was overcome, and all of Europe’s powers were thus released to create a great civilization.
We could briefly cheat and add one that Paul maybe implies, but does not state. The era of the Puritans (which lasted through the age of Spurgeon anyway) was the age of “Sanctification.” It has always seemed to me that sanctification was the great Puritan emphasis beyond the Reformation and Justification. And as a subset, as a kind of Puritanism, the Methodist emphasis on “ye must be born
again” also fits. The feeling of degeneracy (the degeneracy that so marked the Restoration era and effected all, rich and poor alike) was so powerful that to be “regenerated” by being “born again” spoke to en entire era, all the way through the Victorian era.
Now, we are in the era of the democrat. As Allan Bloom said, in democracies, all men at least slightly despise themselves. “Self esteem” is only a problem for democratic man. aristocrats could not even conceive of the problem, and peasants are rooted and know quite exactly well who they are and where they fit. Only democratic man spends most of his life trying “to find himself” and then on top
of that, if he ever does find himself, it is a huge task to much like what he finds. Being equal means I am saddled with constant envy, which all moralists have always known is the most painful of sins. As C.S. Lewis shrewdly observed, “Only two sins have no corresponding pleasure associated with them–cowardice and envy.” Hence, democracy is the most irritated and repressedly non-pleasant of all regimes (outside of open tyranny), and the only outlet is to live in a constant state of offense. It is psychically miserable, and everyone is rubbed raw, and there are no teeth in the gears (they have all been irritated and offended away) so the wheels cannot engage each other, but just interface and turn round and round (democracy is very lonely). Viva la difference is turned into an offense instead of being the foundation of what is interesting and pleasurable and what creates relationship
The answer for self despising democratic man (and woman) is the last stage in the ordo, glory.
What does it mean for democratic man to be given glory and to live in glory? Or, as an example of this working itself out, we are now “Israels” (which means, princes who have authority with God, and are even given permission to command God–A New Testament application, for instance, “If you command this mountain to be cast into the sea…”). Whatever Jacob’s virtues, it does seem to me that
Jacob always had a “self-esteem” problem. Daddy always liked big brother best, and he must engage in trickery with Mommy to get what is coming to him. However righteous he is, he is not happy (and I do not think his deceiving actions are unrighteous). His status is
one of a “heel grabber,” a usurper, one who lives by deceit. It may not be unrighteous, but it is not much fun, and it is awfully hard to like yourself when you have had to deceive your poppa. His new name is glorious, and he becomes one who can effortlessly command rather than grab a heel. Even Uncle Laban and big brother are going to have new attitudes and have some respect. He is now beginning to shine.
Small, equality obsessed, envious, irritable English and American, and Canadian and Australian democrats, who do not like themselves, and compensate by living in a constant state of very unpleasant offense, need glory as much as Luther needed justification.
Is it the next step?