The human capacity for duplicity never ceases to amaze me. Every thought on the subject has made me physically sick over the last several days, as I’ve been tracking the child abuse scandal that has overtaken Penn State University and its football program. It’s appalling. Whether or not you’ve been following the story, you’ve heard it before if you live in the world we all share. The helpless are taken advantage of, as the powerful cover it up to pad their pockets and build their “legacies.” This story is the latest manifestation of human on human atrocity, as fallen humanity continues to reveal its capacity for depraved duplicity.
We all know duplicity, if we know ourselves. It started in Eden, as God’s sinless image-bearers, the humanity created He created to worship Him in perfect and peaceful relationship, denied Him in order to “become like gods.” You and I inherited our physical traits from our immediate parents, our spiritual state from our first. The massacre in Eden launched what we know as the “human condition.” This condition is what theologians who study the Bible call “total depravity.” It manifests itself in a practical sense in numerous ways; not least of which is the battle with, and in many cases the surrender to, duplicity.
Isaiah 59 is one of many places in Scripture that the reality of this condition is expressed. I encourage you to read this passage a couple times, slowly and fully.
2 but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
your tongue mutters wickedness.
4 No one enters suit justly;
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
5 They hatch adders’ eggs;
they weave the spider’s web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
6 Their webs will not serve as clothing;
men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
and deeds of violence are in their hands.
7 Their feet run to evil,
and they are swift to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
desolation and destruction are in their highways.
8 The way of peace they do not know,
and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked;
no one who treads on them knows peace.
9 Therefore justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
10 We grope for the wall like the blind;
we grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
11 We all growl like bears;
we moan and moan like doves;
we hope for justice, but there is none;
for salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the LORD,
and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.
This is our story. Whenever I see stomach-turning duplicity in the human condition I’m reminded of the total depravity that resides in our nature.
It’s at this point that I am at a loss for words. I’m sickened by the duplicity that a story like the one unfolding at PSU reveals. I’m reminded that it’s a manifestation of the idolatry that comes with fallen human nature. But where does it leave us? What should this, or any manifestation of duplicitous depravity lead us to think and feel and do?
Should it anger us? Yes.
Should it turn our stomachs? Yes.
Should it remind us of the depravity and bent toward duplicity that is present in all our natures? Yes.
Where should it lead us from there?
Isaiah 59:1, 20-21
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…
… “And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD.
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.”
What is the answer this passage is talking about?
Where should it lead us?
What is God’s response to total depravity?
Where should we turn in our stomach-twisting rage, confusion, and knowledge of duplicity within and around us all?