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Moral Evil and Restraining Grace in New Orleans

On Thursday’s edition of The Albert Mohler Program I discussed the outbreak of lawlessness and moral anarchy in New Orleans. Snipers and rioters have hampered rescue attempts and gangs are moving throughout the inundated city, looting and setting fires. Rapes, shootings, and assaults are now reported from within the Superdome.
My guest was Dr. Ligon Duncan, senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi and president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. We talked about the realites of fallen human nature and our need for the restraints of law, order, and authority.
Dr. Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries has written a very helpful essay on the same question, arguing that the anarchy in New Orleans reminds us of our true human nature and of God’s gift of common grace. His article, “Katrina, Common Grace, and a Theory about the End of the Age,” is important reading. Consider these paragraphs:
The reason for looting is obvious. All the normal impediments to thievery in New Orleans are no longer in place. There is no electricity, so there are no alarms or lights or other manifestations of electronic protection on personal property. Security guards are gone. The police cannot gain access to certain areas of the city. Surveillance cameras that otherwise would photograph burglars are no longer operative. In other words, virtually all the restraints and obstacles to criminal behavior have disappeared. What kept the sinful and criminal inclination of the human heart from expressing itself is gone. [Needless to say, there was, before Katrina, a considerable amount of criminal behavior in spite of such restraints.]
Here’s my point. Electricity and light and alarms and the police are analogous to the common grace of God. They function as something of a barrier to criminal behavior or a deterrent that hinders the full expression of human wickedness. Once these natural restraints disappear, the full extent and expression of evil and criminal inclination begin to emerge. My point is that what electricity and light and alarms and police do to restrain wickedness in a singular American city is analogous to what the Holy Spirit does to restrain human sin on a more global scale.