Andy Stanley and Beto O’Rourke have beckoned us recently to consider an untethered walk through the chasms of darkness that are the contemporary world.
“Participants in the new covenant are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles,” Stanley has opined. “Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
The strong principles that have kept civilization from spinning off into chaos are, according to Andy Stanley, apparently applicable only to non-Christians. This presumes that those in new covenant relationship with God through Christ have gone beyond the need for the tethering power of the Law. There is a whiff of Gnosticism here: a special elite exists above the Law because those in the new covenant no longer need the restraint.
As a new covenant-follower of Jesus Christ since 1956 and a pastor since 1973 I have observed neither personally nor in the pastoral counseling room that we can unhook from the Decalogue.
I appreciate Andy Stanley’s call to the highest, and understand first-hand the extravagance of God’s grace, but also comprehend why Proverbs 22:28 warns that we should not move the “ancient boundary which your fathers have set.”
People in Jesus Christ and the new covenant are positionally perfect, and therefore have no fear of the judgment. However, in the grit of life in the rancid atmosphere of the fallen world, the flesh still needs restraint.
And so do nations, midst the spiritual, intellectual, political upheaval of our time.
Which brings us to Andy Stanley’s partner on the untethered spacewalk.
Beto O’Rourke, as a faithful left-progressive who eschews dogmatism except for the creeds of the progressivist cause, thinks the nation itself may need to cast off the tether of constitutional principles.
Reading Stanley’s words, and a recent Washington Post interview with O’Rourke, made me think of imaginary astronauts trying to maneuver outside the space station without the tethers that keep them from becoming human satellites in perpetual free-float around the earth.
At some point on an untethered spacewalk the oxygen runs out.
Beto O’Rourke is a former El Paso congressman who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz last fall. Having lost that bid he is now exploring a presidential run. Beto told Post interviewer Jenna Johnson that it’s questionable whether the United States can “still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago.”
The place where those principles were set down is the Constitution of the United States.
In my imaginary spacewalk scenario, telemetry monitors aboard the space station have detected what appears to be a weakening in a vital joint. Structural cohesiveness may be compromised. But no one is sure. Someone must go outside the spacecraft and eyeball the worrisome seam.
Andy Stanley and Beto O’Rourke volunteer for the mission.
They slip out into space, secured to the orbital station by firm tethers. But there’s a difficulty: the potential problem-joint is on an awkward section of the spacecraft’s skin. The astronauts stretch to get an adequate view of the possibly deteriorating joint, but the tether-lines are too short by several feet.
The spacemen are unable to get a good look at the joint and make a pragmatic decision—free themselves from the restrictive tethers.
There are plenty of protruding parts they can grasp as they inch their way around the space vehicle. But then comes another crisis when the last crossbar they can cling to is still a few feet from the area needing inspection.
So, one astronaut tells the other he will hold the crossbar while his associate grasps his hand and floats over to the apparently weakening joint.
The imagery makes me dizzy just thinking about it.
So does the very thought of being untethered from the Ten Commandments and the Constitution. I do not equate the two. One is not amendable, but the other is. Nevertheless, both are indispensable in sustaining civilization in a world where the core battle is between cosmos, the order of God’s Kingdom, and chaos, the disorder of the chasms of darkness ruled over by the prince of darkness.
Russell Kirk well described the untethered world when he wrote: “Rousseau (the Enlightenment-era philosopher hailed by many secular progressives) and his disciples were resolved to force men to be free; in most of the world, they triumphed; men are set free from family, church, town, class, guild; yet they wear, instead, the chains of the state, and they expire of ennui or stifling long lines.”
It would be foolhardy to go spacewalking with those who want to remove us from the tethers.
Wallace Henley, a former White House and Congressional aide, is senior associate pastor at Houston’s Second Baptist Church. He is Founder of Belhaven University’s Master of Ministry Leadership degree. Henley is co-author of God and Churchill with the late Jonathan Sandys, Sir Winston Churchill’s great-grandson.