A few weeks ago, I dreamed a disturbing dream.
As with many dreams, I cannot recall the context nor the setting in great detail, yet Tiff and I were eating a meal with others. We were eating meat, which I came to realize was not beef or pork but human. Everyone at the table ate without hesitation, viewing it no different than any other form of meat. I too ate but with some reservation. Deeply embedded within me, I sensed that something was wrong, that something was erroneous. As I debated, still eating, whether I should ask Tiff later if she felt the same, I awoke.
Needless to say, awaking from this sort of dream doesn’t exactly begin the day on a cheerful foot. Should I take a Freudian stance and fear that I have hidden desires of cannibalism? Is there a deeper message behind my dream, or was it just a really weird one?
No, I do not think that my dream was anything more than a mere dream, but even still, it has caused me to consider something about the nature of sin. Without Christ, we are dead in our sins, at enmity with God and objects of His wrath. Paul clearly teaches us these things. This inevitably means that our conscience is deadened to some degree as well. By God’s grace, His moral law can be found within the conscience of every human. However, without being renewed by Christ, the conscience is flawed at best. Its purpose is to point us toward a deeper reality, a perfect Lawgiver. It cannot provide the fullness of revelation provided through the Scriptures, nor was it meant to.
Our conscience is deadened, therefore, to greater and lesser degrees. We sin, and we justify our sin. We fight and ignore our conscience until we mold it into our image the best we can. From the moment that Adam and Eve first chose to disobey God, we humans have actively tried to convince ourselves that morality is a social construct. Today’s moral arbiters are self and society, whereas the ancients had gods. Those gods, however, were made by human hands; thus, in a sense, they came from the same source. Calling their own fabrications ‘gods’ made submission more palatable. But now, in many ways, we have become our own gods. The reality behind false religion of the ancient world has now simply taken off its mask and embraced the truth. We are the masters of our own fate.
By convincing ourselves that self and society give definition to morality, we equip ourselves with anesthetics powerful enough to numb our conscience. With repeated use, the process only grows easier. The guilt of sin is silenced because we have replaced one morality with another. We convince ourselves that our divinely embedded sense of good and evil is obsolete and that new updates need to be regularly installed.
Such is the danger of assuming a normative morality. It makes us into “those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). My dream was unnerving because of its plausibility. No, I don’t fear that cannibalism will be considered normative in the near or even distant future, but, given time and the right advocacy, it could. Human and even child sacrifices were once considered morally upright practices. Of course we still continue child sacrifice before the gods of self in the form of abortion.
When we detach ourselves from God’s natural revelation (through our conscience) and His special revelation (through His Word), we not only become capable of any sin but we become masters of promoting our sins as being morally upright. Any evil can be justified when we elevate ourselves into the arbiters of morality.