Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lest Any Man Should Boast

"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
-1st Corinthians 1:31

On Friday nights I've been going with some classmates to the young adult's group of a nearby church. This is the church that nearly all of my close friends here at Loma Linda attend and it's pastored by a man who graduated from John MacArthur's Master's Seminary. Many things have impressed me about this church, not least being the young adult group and the level of discourse there. During the last few meetings the group has been watching a series on DVD by R.C. Sproul called, "What is Reformed Theology?" In these videos Sproul gives a concise and clear lecture on a topic in Reformed theology. I have been so impressed to see a group of people, mostly in their 20's, attentively watch videos on theology and then have intelligent discussions afterward.

Right now the group is in a part of the series where Sproul is going through the five points of Calvinism and on Friday the lecture was on the doctrine of Total Depravity, the "T" of TULIP. During the discussion afterwards a question concerning the applicability of the doctrine of Total Depravity came up and I was very impressed by what one of my colleagues in med school had to say. My classmate related the doctrine to our ability to love people who don't know Christ. He confessed that at times he had been tempted to see himself as better in some way than those who don't know Christ. He had been tempted to look down on those around him which would imply that he possessed some inherent quality lacking in the non-Christian of which he could be proud. My classmate stated that believing in Total Depravity undoes our ability to have such a pride.

I think my classmate was correct in his assessment. If our view of the fall leaves any room for some uncorrupted island of goodness affecting the will then it seems impossible that we would not be led to evil self-reliance and pride. It seems inevitable that we would be led into boasting about some unseen inner good within us which led us to choose Christ while those around us who weren't "as good" in some way didn't choose Christ. If there is some goodness in me which played a role in my beginning to see Christ as desirable and His cross as necessary for salvation then it is only natural that I would look down on the unbelievers around me who maybe weren't as smart or holy.

But the Apostle Paul makes it clear that this is not the nature of the gospel. He says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast(Ephesians 2:8-9)." We contribute nothing to our salvation and therefore we are no more worthy of being boasted about than the one who does not know Christ. Our only boast about any good thing we possess can only be a boast about the source of any good thing we possess - Jesus Christ.

I think we all have the desire to be prideful in comparing ourselves to others - I know that I do. But this doctrine of Total Depravity completely undoes any basis for human pride. So ultimately I think this doctrine does help us to "love our neighbor," as our Lord commanded. We can't view those around us as defective or deficient in some way that we are not. We can only view them no differently from ourselves as, "thirsty whelps of grace," in the words of a Laplander who came to know Christ during Laestadius' revival.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling;
naked come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
-Augustus Toplady


Reformation said...

Anglicans have very much to learn from R.C. Sproul.

robroy said...

Jumalan terve,

Enjoyed the essay!

"He had been tempted to look down on those around him which would imply that he possessed some inherent quality lacking in the non-Christian of which he could be proud."

This reminded me of a story related to me by an internist who came to talk to our CMDA med student section. It has made a big difference in my life and still convicts my heart daily.

The internist talked about receiving a phone call from the ER about three in the morning to come see a patient who was seizing and needed admission. When he got to the ED, the patient was an alcoholic who was going into withdrawals and reeked of his own urine and vomit. Now, the internist knew that by the time he got the patient stabilized and admitted, there would be no going back to bed. His day was going to be long and crabby. Freud talks about transference and counter-transference - feelings for which we patients have for the physicians and us for them. It is important to realize that we do have emotional responses towards patients - often internalized. In this case, the internist had lots: resentment, anger, contempt, etc. But what hit the internist was that Jesus had loved this poor lost soul so much to sacrifice Himself, how could the internist hold the alcoholic in contempt?

Actually, I really don't like this story. I do want to hold some of my patients in contempt. There is a very perverse but common pleasure in reveling in how much better we are then the drug seekers, drunk bar brawlers, etc. I am all too guilty. Unfortunately, whenever I am starting to get into my self righteous mode, the story comes to mind and "ruins" it for me!

Jumalan rauhaan,


Matt Perkins said...

Thanks for the great story! I'm glad you had a good experience with CMDA. I was involved with CMDA my first two years here at Loma Linda. As a third year I can relate to the story you told about feeling superior sometimes to patients. I'm on my psych rotation now and was rounding on a few borderline patients in the morning - it's so easy just to think of them as screwed up and wasting my time. I hope Christ's sacrifice will also "ruin" these times of feeling superior for me.
God's Peace!

robroy said...

Dear Matt, here is the story of my pych rotation:

Our first rotation, was at a lock down facility which was part of the VA in Waco. These were the paranoid schizophrenics that were a big danger to society. Pretty scary. Most of them had severe tardive dyskinesia (trying to "catch flies with their mouths") from years of neuroleptics.

The second two weeks were ambulatory care (depressed women who had jerks for husbands) and an inpatient facility at the tertiary care hospital. Our attending was a big Freudian. I was told that when we took a history, he wanted to know about first sexual experience, dreams, relationships with parents, etc. I got assigned this totally manic manic-depressive with whom I couldn't get a word in edgewise. She was the fastest, most tangential talker I have ever seen. My attending was pretty miffed with me because he couldn't do his psychoanalysis stuff with my very limited history. I don't think I got a very good grade on that part.

My last two weeks were at Fort Hood which has one of the largest collections of 18-22 yo's in the country. Just because of sheer numbers, they would have a few schizophrenic breaks per weeks. It was pretty sad. Mom and dad would send Johnny to boot camp to straighten out his social awkwardness and get a phone call that Johnny is now talking to voices and that he is getting a medical d/c and to come pick him up. What was really scary is that I could project Johnny 30 years into the future because I had seen him at 50 just a few weeks before. I hate schizophrenia. I really think that we should be able to figure it out.

I am currently the ENT for the local mental health hospital. There are lots of borderline manipulative types, schizophrenics, pedophiles, etc. I practice a lot of veterinary medicine which is frustrating.

But...whatsoever you do for the least of these...definitely gets me through any frustrations.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ!