This article was written in mid-July 2009, when the British MP’s expense scandal was breaking – but it raises ever-important issues. A version was published in the Evangelical Times .
The expenses scandal concerning MPs in the UK has made the press even here in Kenya. It’s very educational to see the wide-scale outrage as I read the websites of the UK papers. Right across the spectrum, people of all shades and stripes of ideological opinion are agreeing that gross, blameworthy excesses have taken place.
What I find particularly informative though is to look at one of the places where this agreement has centred. Whilst many MPs protest that what they did was “within the rules”, there seems to be basically unanimous agreement that a) that isn’t good enough, b) the rules are crooked and c) we expect MPs as public servants to obey principles which are more ultimate than simply what’s in their self-imposed rule-book. There is, we’re all quite sure, a rule book beyond the rule book. There are principles which the rule book should be judged by. The self-made laws of parliamentarians, even though parliament is the highest body in the land, must bow before and be judged by the higher ideals. Corruption has an existence which is independent of human opinion, and which can never be made legitimate by the fiat of even kings.
There is then an elephant in the room. There is a vital question which I don’t find the commentators in the UK press raising any discussion about. It is this: what exactly is this “rule book to rule the rule books”? What is the source of these higher values that can judge the highest body in the country? Who made these laws that judge the law-makers? If we all agree that such things exist – and there seems to be no disagreement about that at all – then shouldn’t someone at least ask on what basis such things can be?
You know the answer. As I say, it’s the elephant in the room, and that’s why the secularist UK press can’t bring itself to mention it. Beyond the changing preferences of our rulers, man is bound by the unchanging and unchangeable law of God. It’s external to him and imposed upon him. He must ultimately bow to it, whether he pleases to do so or not. It’s written on his conscience, and he knows that we are ultimately accountable to it – whatever other rules for our changing times and circumstances we happen to invent.
Ultimately the secular principles on which the UK has been governed by its present leaders float in mid-air. The MPs who protest “I was within the rules!” are really totally right according to their own secularist ideals. According to them, the “public sphere” of life can’t be ruled by ideas about God or religion. Those are just “values” that have to remain private. As good secularists, when they protest like this, they are being consistent with the same basis as they previously governed upon. It is truly a bit rich for the secular press to start raising these higher principles when before they could be so conveniently ignored.
But that’s the tragedy of unbelief – it can’t be carried out consistently. Once you try to press it too far, something has to give. If you try to bring your unbelieving ideas too consistently out of your brain and into the real world that God created, the pressure will build up until something bursts. Something has to burst, because created reality is shaped around God. Unbelief doesn’t really work! The pressure did just burst in Westminster. The irresistible force of the idea that man is the highest being who can make his own laws met the immovable object of man’s knowledge that “thou shalt not steal” is an immutable law of God. The former lost.
The real tragedy behind the tragedy is that this more fundamental question isn’t being asked. How can the opinion-writers of the press be so angry about these higher principles being broken, when they’ve spent so many decades complicit in refusing to officially acknowledge their real existence and trying to build a society whilst ignoring them? What that all means is that if and when we clear the decks of the present exemplars of the UK’s moral corruption, we’ll just wheel in some more to take their place. What the UK needs is not a change of faces without questioning its underlying principles. We need to turn in godly sorrow to the God whose laws we routinely despise but can’t ultimately escape from. And the only way to turn to him that he will accept is through Jesus Christ, his Son. Jesus Christ is still a gracious Saviour, and will receive us – even us – still. As Christians, we can hope that there might be some temporary relief in the ongoing slide of Western civilisation into the pit. But we’ll never climb upwards again until there’s genuine repentance and gospel faith. It’s not the politicians role to and they never will bring that about. The privilege of spreading this truly radical message belongs to us who believe. May God greatly help us at such a time as this!