Douglas Wilson shared a timely observation on Facebook this morning:
Without the evangelical center, attempts at reform are like assigning a personal trainer to every corpse, in order to escort it to the gym.
Reading in the Institutes this afternoon, I see Calvin had the same thing in mind:
Surely the first foundation of righteousness is the worship of God. When this is overthrown, all the remaining parts of righteousness, like the pieces of a shattered and fallen building, are mangled and scattered. What kind of righteousness will you call it not to harass men with theft and plundering, if through impious sacrilege you at the same time deprive God’s majesty of its glory? Or that you do not defile your body with fornication, if with your blasphemies you profane God’s most holy name? Or that you do not slay a man, if you strive to kill and to quench the remembrance of God? It is vain to cry up righteousness without religion. This is as unreasonable as to display a mutilated , decapitated body as something beautiful. Not only is religion the chief part but the very soul, whereby the whole breathes and thrives. And apart from fear of God men do not preserve equity and love among themselves. Therefore we call the worship of God the beginning and foundation of righteousness. When it is removed, whatever equity, continence, or temperance men practice among themselves is in God’s sight empty and worthless.
Don’t you love it when that happens?