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White Horse Inn: Is Trying to Be Good, Good Enough?

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Is Trying to Be Good, Good Enough?Imagine a person standing in a courtroom and pleading before the judge, “I’m sorry, Your Honor, I tried not to steal that car!” If this wouldn’t work with a civil magistrate, why do we think it would work before the judge of all the earth? On this program, the hosts discuss what it means to be good from the perspective of God’s infinitely holy standard, and the solution that God provides in light of our inability to live up to that standard. Our hosts discuss this and much more on this episode of the White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

“We need to think not merely about justice here on earth and how we look to each other but to the ultimate justice before God. That is, our laws are reflections of ultimate right and wrong. Apart from that kind of an ultimate standard, we can only say things like, ‘I don’t like genocide.’ If good and evil don’t exist, there’s only subjective opinion. According to Christianity, however, God is the ultimate standard and we, as his image bearers, reflect that standard. The God of Scripture describes himself as the judge of all the earth who is infinitely holy, righteous, and good. So, is trying hard to be good, good enough for God?” – Michael Horton

Term to Learn:

“Therapeutic Culture”

The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.

Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic.

Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of well-being under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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