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I am taking a class at Oak Brook College of Law called Life Principles for Lawyers. In this class, we are studying Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar material. You can look it up if you’re interested; here I only want to talk about the Reprobation chart. (Please forgive my handwriting. I am a better typist than I am a note-taker). It looks like this:
This chart purports to show how a person progresses from the beginning of an idea or desire into full-blown reprobation—that time when the person’s conscience is “seared” and he no longer feels anything but happiness in committing a particular sin.
Let’s say that I begin at the bottom. I see a movie that shows bank robbery, and I think how fun it would be to rob a bank and have all that money. I am at level one. I am curious.
As I think about robbing a bank, my conscience is awakened (step 2). I fight against that for a while, but then I start in to thinking about the money in earnest. I am at step 3, sensual focus.
Now I begin to question Scripture. I say the law was fulfilled in Christ and I am no longer bound by it. Thou shalt not steal doesn’t apply to me. I am firmly on the fourth step. Now I move to step 5, violating conscience, by scoping out a few banks and maybe robbing the Walgreens just to get a little practice before moving on to banks.
(They don’t catch me because I wear my “thin suit” and thus don’t fit the description of the fat lady who had to squint at her stick-up note written on the back of her hand so she wouldn’t forget what to say.)
Guilt awakens, step six. I feel bad. I feel really really bad that I took advantage of my thin suit and robbed the poor night checker.
Step 7. I respond to my guilt by crying, throwing up, thinking about calling the police. I seamlessly move on to Step 8, incomplete repentance, by crying and praying all night long. It’s incomplete because I don’t drive to the Sacramento PD and turn in the money and myself. I keep the money. I spend the money. I like the new purse and shoes.
However, in order to salve my conscience I involve myself in (step 9) religious compensation—I start attending Wednesday night “6:13 Prayer Meeting” at my church and maybe even sign up to help with VBS. I stand there smiling and handing out juice boxes. My guilt is somewhat assuaged, especially if I used some of the “take” to buy the juice. Juice in individual boxes is expensive. Good thing I robbed the Walgreens!
Without missing a beat, step 10, frustration over my drive to steal kicks in. I enjoyed that money. I want more. Plus, the thrill of the criminal outing.
I re-examine Scripture (step 11) and focus on the parts that seem to say everyone should be treated the same and people who amass a lot of money through putting up Walgreens stores on every corner are some kind of horrible. I justify my urge to steal. I steal again. I line up some banks. I keep robbing them.
At some point along my journey, I justify my stealing (I need the money. I give ten percent to Capital Christian Center. I donate to the Dining Common project.). At last, I reach the top of the Reprobation chart, where I have no pangs of conscience and I can even be a bank robbery apologist (step 13, Argumentation). I have reached the top (or rather, bottom) of my moral life: I am a happy bank robber.
So, I think this chart is correct.
Except. The exact same progression happens when you come to a place of Christian liberty about something in your life that was once forbidden.
(I tried to share this with a friend the other day, but I mucked about and put my foot so far into my mouth that I basically choked to death and have been afraid of even saying hello to him since…so I’m trying again here with a different example.)
FOR EXAMPLE: Contemporary Christian Music.
Let’s say that all your life, you were taught and you believed that Twila Paris, Sandi Patti, Nicole C. Mullen, and Hillsong United were of the devil.
For the sake of brevity, let’s leave it in chart form:
1. Natural Curiosity—you were tuning your radio and you chanced upon “Redeemer” by Ms. Mullen. You couldn’t unhear it. You listened. Your heart was “strangely warmed.” You said, “Amen, sister!” At “I spoke with Him this morning,” you cried.
2. Awakening of Conscience—you feel guilty. You’re not supposed to listen to this stuff. It’s evil. It’s bad. It’s wrong for you. It will cause your foot to slide in due time.
3. Sensual Focus—you can’t forget how that song made you feel. About Jesus. You want to hear it again. You wonder what other amazing songs are out there.
4. Questioning Scripture—you pore over the Scripture, all the places you can find for songs, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. You can’t find anywhere that says a song declaring, “I know my Redeemer lives,” is evil.
Teeny-tiny additional half-step
4 ½. YOU QUESTION THE ORIGINAL PROHIBITION—you’ve now come to a place where you realize Scripture does not prohibit your listening to this song. Maybe the RULE IS WRONG.
5. Violation of Conscience—you start to listen to more new music. (Yes, I realize “Redeemer” is 12 years old. It’s just an example, people.) You feel guilty because all your life you’ve been forbidden this pleasure—and it really is a pleasure. You really are blessed in your spirit. You are encouraged in your faith.
6. Awakening of Guilt—you feel guilty because you are hiding your new listening habits from others. You agree when they talk about music standards.
7. Response to Guilt—you try to listen to Fanny Crosby more and more. You feel trapped—you know Hillsong’s “Lead Me to the Cross” is good for you, but your early training is pulling at you.
8. Incomplete repentance—you try to find musical satisfaction the old fashioned way, but you are never able sincerely to say that you know “The Warrior is a Child” or “Was it a Morning Like This?” (Did the grass sing? Did the earth rejoice to feel You again?) or Keith Green’s “There is a Redeemer” is evil. (Again, sorry for decades old examples. New examples would be better.)
9. Religious Compensation—maybe you continue to nod and talk cheerfully and exclusively about traditional music. You choose only the old stuff for your group. You say Amen at all the traditional places. Or not, if you’re Baptist.
10. Frustration over drives—because you have to hide your new CCM habit, you know, that music that feeds your soul, that brings you to Jesus and brings you to tears.
11. Re-Examining Scripture—again, you go over all the Scriptural portions touching on music. Now you can’t see how you ever ever thought the prohibition against new music made any sense. Sure, there’s stuff that’s simply no good and stuff that needs tweaking, but my goodness, Salieri was no Mozart, and not everyone is Ira Sankey!
12. Justification of Immorality—you’ve now come to understand that lots of the new music is fine and dandy, thanks so much.
13. Argumentation—you talk about it. And you listen to it loud while driving down the road, while rising up early and staying up late, when chatting with friends, while hanging out. You happily sing hymns in church, but you equally happily enjoy your new Gospel/Worship music in your life.
I know this is long and boring, but my point is, the same chart can be used to show moving toward sin or moving toward liberty.
The hard part may be deciding which of those you are doing. Once you’ve figured that out—is this a sin I am attempting to make palatable to myself or a liberty I need to strive toward—you know whether you are sliding into reprobation or climbing into freedom.
* The author admits to having stolen answers off an algebra test in 1975 and once overlooking a nail polish that was wedged in a shopping cart (it failed to get onto the conveyor belt, but made it out to the van), but she has never robbed a Walgreens or a bank.
* The author further admits that her favorite Twila Paris song is “Runner.” (Runner, when the race is won, you will run into His arms.) This song took her through an extraordinarily difficult time.
* The author is fine with traditional hymns in church. It’s the condemnation of people’s personal music on their personal time that grates.