Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A collapse of leadership -- as Sophia warned us about

. . . In Proverbs 1:20 - 33:
20 Wisdom [Gk: Sophia] cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you turn at my reproof,[a]
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.
32 For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” [ESV]
  Here, we see a picture of a city in trouble. 

Sophia -- wisdom personified -- is about to give a final warning, and she goes about like a town-crier, calling people to the gates; the traditional place for merchants, movers, shakers, decision-makers, courts and rulers to meet. That's where she makes her speech.

In the implied presence of the elders in the gates, she speaks to the city in grim rebuke.

The diagnosis addresses three influential groups: the simple, the mockers, the hardened fools. For the first, she points out that it is wrong to be simplistic and lazy-minded in the face of the complexities of reality, that just sets you up to fall into traps and troubles. The second group have taken a further step down the road of folly to ruin: lacking the fear of God, they mock sound insight and counsel, to try to discredit sound teachers sent by God. The third, are the confirmed, hardened fools who resist correction and are hostile to knowledge. Indeed, they hate sound knowledge, and of course sound teachers who will not tickle their ears with what they want to hear.

A city -- and I daresay, a nation or a civilisation -- in such hands is patently on a march of folly; on, a road to ruin:

That's why Sophia now sounds almost cruel: when the calamity comes, it will be my turn to laugh. 

Or as Solomon famously put it in Ecclesiastes:
Eccl. 7:It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
    so is the laughter of the fools;
    this also is vanity.
The fools -- 3,000 years ago or as close as your favourite Cable TV news channel, or on your verandah, or in the street or the office water-cooler, or the election meeting or debate, or the pages of the newspaper, or even the board room -- may laugh and mock for now, and twist and spin, and cleverly lie and deceive; but all the while they are only thorns crackling away under the pot that is cooking supper. 

And when the end of the day comes, that crackling will have long since turned to ashes when the family sits down to the day's stew or soup.

Yes, a march of folly may seem successful at the first, and s/he who warns of where it ends can be made to seem to be ridiculous, someone to be dismissed with a barbed quip and mocking laughter.

But all along, that laughter is as thorns crackling in a fire under the pot of reality.

And of course, Sophia is showing us that there comes a point of no return, when a march of folly takes us to a crumbling cliff's edge, and it gives way underfoot. When that happens, consequences have to be faced, personal, community, national, civilisational.

Along the way, we see also the solution to one of those dark, wise sayings in the Proverbs, a seeming contradiction:
Prov 26:Answer not a fool according to his folly,
    lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    lest he be wise in his own eyes . . . .

12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him.
In short, one should not become like a fool when one answers one. Instead, he should be answered as his folly deserves, exposing and correcting its error so that he (or at least onlookers) will not become so deceived that their folly seems wisdom to them.

No wonder, Sophia points out the end of such a march of folly: death, destruction, calamity, ruin.

She counsels instead, that we should heed soundness so that we may go in another, saner, safer way.

And that brings me to my concerns as outlined in the place-holder note I wrote yesterday:
I will come back when I can to argue this case, that we are seeing a breakdown of moral, spiritual and intellectual fibre in our civilisation occasioned by the rotten fruit of turning our backs on God. DV, later today. Exhibits A and B, of course, will be the two main US Presidential candidates. For a preview of my line of thinking, please read Prov 1 from v 20 on.
I am of the considered view that for decades -- and in some quarters, centuries -- our civilisation has increasingly turned its back on God, and has instead walked in ways of apostasy and folly, leading to ruin.  This march of folly has eaten out the moral, spiritual and intellectual fibre of our civilisation. And, that is the context for, for instance the sort of silly season we see every four years on our TV screens as the next Presidential Election of the USA plays out across the scope of half a year or more. 

So, it is no surprise to me to see the want of moral fibre in the major candidates, or the blatantly dishonest manipulation in the media, or the shadowy agendas that lurk behind the slogans, adverts, street activism, debates, news, punditry and more.  Perhaps a hundred billion dollars is being spent to manipulate the public and by and large to advance an anti-Christ agenda posing behind would-be political messiahs. 

(Yes, I have just named a spirit at work in what is going on.)

Now, the USA is the leading nation in our civilisation, and where it is going has strong influence on where we are going; especially here in the Caribbean. Indeed, it is the primary source of the tidal wave of de-Christianisation from the North that has been pounding on our region's shores ever more powerfully since the turn of the new millennium:

That is why I have long been of the view that we need to understand that and prepare ourselves to withstand the pounding, then restore our strength and surge forth under our own calling from God.

We need to realise that after the so-called sexual revolution in the 1960's, demonic chaos, defiance of decency and perversion have spread far and wide among elites and across the whole civilisation. With the plague of addictive porn just a click away. That is why it is no surprise to see the potty-mouthed boasting of sexual conquest, the disrespect for marriage, the perversion, the enabling of infidelity, the intimidation of inconvenient victims, the trotting out of dubious accusers as part of the "October surprise" game, and more.

The utter breakdown of leadership, soundness, wisdom manifest in the ongoing US Election cycle is a big red warning flag.

Meanwhile, sobering policy challenges and a dangerous geostrategic situation spin faster and faster, out of control -- by and large, unheeded:

I have already said, that I expect much worse to be coming, as the big media guns are turned on the Christian faith in an attempt to utterly discredit it and sweep it to the far margins of our civilisation.

The question is, how are we to respond.

First, as above, with the voice of Sophia in sober warning, identifying and exposing what our civilisation faces due to its march of folly.

Second, I think a modified form of the seven mountains of influence analysis of the "gates" of a culture, give us key insights -- to the point that it is worth putting it up yet again, for reference:

Then, let us take a prophetic viewpoint, informed by Daniel 2:

Despite the rise and fall and dirty power games of men, God is still in ultimate control and he is building his eternal Kingdom. So, let's look at the seven mountains theme from a different angle:

We are called to discipleship, and we are to take seriously the force of the operational form of the church's mandate and call to transformational discipleship under the fullness of Christ:
Eph 4:10 . . . He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 

 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 

18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 

 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
In Christ, the Rock has already struck, and the waves of impact are spreading out through the gospel, the service of the church and discipleship. As we mature in godly knowledge and the life of the truth in love, we will not be vulnerable to manipulation and deceptions and clever corrupt schemes. We will not walk in the futility of the gentiles, we will not be caught up in marches of folly. Instead, we will undergo godly, morally upright transformation.

Unfortunately, too often, this does not ring true of Christians, or the church as a whole, today in our region and in the wider civilisation.

That is a sign that we are in serious trouble and must repent, starting the process of renewal, revival and reformation; yielding fruit of salvation, blessing and transformation.

And so, as we see ourselves in the mirror of how we have been caught up in clever, manipulative, foolish schemes and ways, we hear again Sophia's call to wisdom. As first, a call to repentance.

We know where marches of folly lead.

So, the question before us is, will we repent? 

Even, on the crumbling brink of a cliff of civilisational ruin?

Time, is short. END