Will Nice People (in the Matrix) Be Saved?
by John Hendryx
A reader recently responded to the above quote by Lewis with the following remark:
His answer is really how most of us naturally think. But helping to
make people nice and moral is like putting a Band-Aid on cancer. Although
many Christians may think making America more moral by strong political
lobbying is our highest calling it may come as a surprise that morality
and and making people nice is not our commission. We have not been mandated
by God to do this and I believe this a diversionary activity. If the
heart is not transformed or regenerated, all we do, then, is redirect
the sin. We then make people into Pharisees and Jesus said that by making
somebody a convert to our morality, we merely make him "twice as
much a son of hell as [our]selves." This is just repackaged legalism,
attempting to attain godliness by a systematic change of behavior which
does not spring from a renewed heart.
Our condition is really worse than we ever imagined and we rarely take this very seriously. As an analogy, we could liken our spiritual condition to the the well-known movie, The Matrix. Humankind, in the movie, is blinded to the real world and is really made a slave to serve the interests of something else (batteries for the machines). Those caught in matrix are unaware of their own wretched condition and they go about their business completely oblivious to their plight. Morpheus points out, the world that has been pulled over our eyes to blind [us] from the truth and that humans are slaves in bondage. Reality is no different. Just try and perfectly obey God's commandments for a day and you'll know what I mean. God and our condition can only be known, however, as He reveals Himself in the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes that we might see - and He first reveals our fallen condition as being blinded so that we cannot see the truth:
In one scene of the movie Morpheus says, "Many of [the people
in the Matrix] are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that
they will fight to protect it." Then in a similar vein the Apostle
Paul likens our real condition to one of bondage where we actually do
the enemy's bidding for him and tells us that with gentleness we need
to correct those in opposition to the gospel if perhaps God may grant
them repentance so....
Amazingly, The Matrix shows a deep grasp of our real world condition, whether consciously or not. The Scriptures testify that our problem is not just one where we need to be nice or moral. Just imagine in the movie, if Neo, knew the enslaved condition of mankind (blinded to the truth and made a slave to the machines), would he then waste his time telling people how to be nice or teach them how to change their behavior? If instead of helping to free people from the matrix cyber-prison, Neo decided that the solution was to tell people how to be good and tolerant as an answer to their problems, you would think he was out of his mind, engaging in worthless diversionary activity and we might have him institutionalized. But don't we often, as Christians, waste our time with similar thinking?
Using a similar analogy, theologian R. B Kuiper says,
Bad behavior is really only a symptom of a much greater concern. Likewise, the natural man is in bondage to his fallen nature and chooses only what that inner principle desires most. At the fall we lost the indwelling of the Spirit and now the Scripture testifies that the resulting consequence we find ourselves in is that we are hostile to God, hate the light and no one understands because the things of the Spirit are foolishness to us (John 3:19, 1 Cor 2:14). The real world and our true purpose remains hidden from our eyes due to no fault but our own. Without the supernatural intervention of God to redeem us we are caught in a situation worse than that of the Matrix. In the movie Neo says to Morpheus that he had been looking for him all his life. Morpheus tells him that this is only because he was looking for him first. This is similar with God toward us. He calls us out of darkness, out of slavery to sin and to the devil who has taken the natural man captive to do his will. Our desires are for things we have replaced God with, paltry and vain things. While we build up our dunghill here with our material possessions and pride that replaces the true God with ourselves, God has created us to inherit a much greater promise, the restoration of our original purpose. Don't get me wrong, certainly, as Christians,we ought to be engaged in building up culture, and we should be taking the lead, but a desire to do good does not come about by law, which does, however, serve a positive function of restraining evil. But if we really want to transform society and culture, the inward principle of grace must first take place in individuals. Law is powerless to change their hearts. This new desire will only come to unbelievers by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the heart which changes their dispositions, thoughts, inclinations and affections so that they might delight in doing good. Spiritual resurrection is needed in those dead in sin who have been taken captive to do the will of another. The people trapped in the Matrix could not see beyond the limitations imposed by their captors. Their primary need, before all others, was to have a true view of who they were and what their condition was. Then and only then can life be lived in truth.
It is not about niceness or morality... it is about our condition. If everyone become moral tomorrow it would have no consequence on our enslavement. What we need is the new birth, a resurrection of our soul, a restoration to God's original intent for humankind. What we need is the gospel. Theological liberals and conservatives alike need to recognize that our spiritual condition is much worse than we had thought. The conservatives have a tendency to condescendingly to look down at people with moral corruption and behaviorisms like sexual impurity, homosexuality and adultery all the while forgetting that God is equally if not more angry at pride, anger and bigotry. They are just as dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending as the liberal. God's wrath hangs over those who trust in good works, those who somehow really are tempted think they are more deserving than another. Jesus said that many will come to Him on that Day and say, "did we not do [this or that] in your name." Jesus said he never knew them. Why? Because they trusted in themselves, in their goodness, rather than on the finished work of Christ. We must remind ourselves daily that it is grace, grounded in the redemptive work of Christ ALONE that saved us. You are just as much a child of wrath as the liberal if you think you are more deserving.
The liberals then come and say we need to be tolerant and embrace diversity,
allow for people of all orientations to continue in their ways since
we now know that this is natural and this is who they are. In doing
so, they also promote a change of behavior that conforms to the socially
constructed philosophy of the day, as gospel. Thus, being taken captive
by the culture around them, they strip the gospel of all supernatural
influence and fail to recognize that, we all are naturally
incapable of obeying God and the gospel. There is no one who is naturally
inclined to the humbling terms of the gospel. Prior to God's work of
regenerative grace we all have an inward natural principle which is
bent on rebellion against God. Conservatives and liberals alike are
hold in common the fact that they are spiritually impotent and in desperate
need of regeneration. The "world that has been pulled over our
eyes to blind us from the truth" (Morpheus) needs to fall like
scales from our eyes (like Paul). Both groups need to repent of trusting
in their good works and despair of any hope from themselves, which is
the first (graciously bestowed) prerequisite of a sound conversion.
The good news is that in the gospel God reveals the same righteousness
and faith for us that God demands from us. What we had to have, but
could not create or achieve or fulfill, God grants us freely, namely,
the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21) and the faith of Christ. The
faith we have is ours but it arises from a new disposition of heart
that God freely gives those He came to save. As Jesus said to Nicodemus,
"we must be born again."