â€œNow the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.â€ Galatians 5:19-21 This whole passage of scripture is sufficient to answer the question, "what does it mean to live after the flesh?' Among the works of the flesh which Paul cited for condemnation, we find not only those which concern the pleasure of the flesh, as hedonism, sodomy, pedophilia, drunkenness, and non-stop partying, but also those which reveal the vices of the soul, that is, self-love (idolatry), witchcraft, hatred, deception, wrath, heresies, and envyings. For it is quite possible for a man to abstain from the former but yet partake of the latter.
In City of God, Book XIV, Chapter 3, Augustine notes that in the final analysis, all sins are of the soul because:
"....the corruption of the body, which weighs down the soul, is not the cause but the punishment of the first sin; and it was not the corruptible flesh that made the soul sinful, but the sinful soul that made the flesh corruptible."
Gal. 5:19-21 very accurately describes the overall spiritually-dark, degenerate condition of the natural man in Augustine's day. Augustine observed that all men, from king to slave lack self-discipline therefore have as many masters as they have vices, meaning that the natural man is the slave of his vices.
Within the orthodox Christian tradition, a free man is the self-disciplined man, meaning that he is not the slave of his base passions, impulses, and compulsions but rather the master of them, however imperfectly.
From ancient Babylonia to Rome, the normal state of affairs had been for all men, from king to slave, to have as many masters as they have vices, which makes the orthodox Christian tradition revolutionary rather than the norm. In fact, the West and then later on America arose to heights of glory and unprecedented freedom on the wings of the Christian tradition, in particular its' insistence on the moral freedom of each individual human being predicated upon self-discipline in obedience to eternal principles and God's moral law.
The French historian Alexis de Tocqueville described America as the freest, most enlightened society the world had ever known. Its' Constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties exist because the Puritans:
"....created the bonds and the liberties of citizenship by their assent to eternal, transcendent principles, as well as by their consent to government. The principles of covenant ultimately provided the institutional and conceptual foundation of constitutional government, making America's federal democracy less vulnerable to possessive individualism and democratic despotism." (Alexis de Tocqueville on the Covental Tradition of American Federal Democracy, publius.oxfordjournals.org/ )
Should covental thinking be undermined warned Tocqueville, extreme individualism will arise, signaling the decline and ultimate death of the American experiment.
The British historian George Gooch concurs with Tocqueville. He observed that modern democracy is a "child of the Reformation" because of the Protestant insistence on individual spiritual autonomy, though in covenant with God. (Getting Used to the f-word, William Gairdner, The New Criterion, p. 19)
Progressive secular humanism however, tortured and mutated the Christian tradition in order to grant legal priority to autonomous will, or 'choice,' thereby undermining the covental tradition and simultaneously elevating fallen man to the position of god-man.
Secular humanism and its more recent permutations, such as spiritual transhumanism, is both a parasite on and heresy of the Christian tradition. Because it seeks a return to slavery to vice, it is both counter-revolutionary and the normal state of affairs in this world.
Thus the very danger Tocqueville foresaw has come to pass, for the self-disciplined American citizen in covenant to eternal, transcendent principles has been replaced by millions of out-of-control imperialist god-men (idolators) citing the sancitity of 'choice' 'orientation' and 'change' as their authority for indulgence in the very vices our spiritual progenitors exercised their free will to escape.
From self-discipline and freedom and then back to no self-discipline and slavery to vices, increasing numbers of today's Americans, from the president to the man in the street, have as many masters as they have vices (Gal. 5:19-21 ). Like a snake biting its' tail, the history of the West and America is circling back upon itself.
@ Linda Kimball