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Monday, August 07, 2017

The Silver Lining

Those who follow Christ and believe in His Word live in increasingly difficult times. America was a nation founded by men who were either believers themselves or, at the very least, valued their positions. It was, in that sense, a "Christian nation" (understanding that no nation can receive Christ and be saved from its sin). As time has progressed we've moved farther and farther from that starting point until our day when we can see more open hostility to God and His Word and to Christianity and its values. Once embraced, then accepted, then tolerated, now we're moving more toward openly rejected with outright persecution at the later end of that trajectory. Besides the popular culture today, there is also an assault on biblical Christianity within the larger group calling themselves "Christians". In America today where independence is prized even over truth, "I feel like Christianity should be more like ..." becomes king and God's Word is held loosely, hostage to preference rather than content. "Sure, it may look like it says that, but since I don't think it should say that, it certainly doesn't say it." That's if they don't just reject it outright.

So today, from an external perspective, we have ... chaos. Open and loud Christian voices (remember, "external perspective") are saying things like "Same-sex sex is good", "Marriage can be between people of the same gender", "No, Jesus didn't die for your sins", "Hell doesn't actually exist", "No, God didn't create the universe; random chance did it" and all sorts of apparently anti-biblical things. And the world nods and says, "Now those Christians are reasonable. We can go along with them and do all those things we wanted to that the older generation claimed was sin." Frankly, folks, it looks bad, and it looks like it's getting worse. At some point those holding the view of that infamous "older generation" will no longer be ignored, but will be hunted down to either correct their faulty, biblical thinking or silenced in some way or another.

I, however, can see a silver lining to these clouds. I can see a real benefit here. Tell me what you think.

Throughout Church history the clearest moments have been moments like these. "No, Jesus was not God," Arius said, "he was a creation of God." The Council of Nicaea met and condemned it as heresy. "Look, there are lots of 'books of the Bible'," Marcion said, "and I can pick the ones I like." The Church met and determined (over a few councils because of a few disagreements) that "This is the Old Testament and this is the New Testament. Case Closed." And so on and so on, seemingly ad infinitum. Indeed, much of the New Testament was written for that purpose. Paul wrote to the Galatians about "saved by grace apart from works" because they were believing the legalists. He wrote to the Corinthians about sin in the camp and faulty use of gifts because there was sin in the camp and faulty use of gifts. He wrote to the Colossians because they were buying into Gnosticism. And on and on. Over and over again assaults on Christianity came and, rather than destroying it, they served to clarify it.

I see our current time as another clarification. There are likely various points available and even required, but I see one or two key ones in our time. First, as always, is "Who is God?" In some times, He was "out there", transcendent, above and beyond all, and we just did what He said. In other times, He was "right here", imminent, "just one of the guys", so to speak -- "My big buddy in the sky." Today a sizable number who say they believe in Him see Him as their extension. He is whatever they think He is. He is benevolent and you guys who think He has some sort of wrath complex against sin are mistaken. He is gracious and you nut jobs who think He's about rules and regulations and "You must be born again" limitations are overzealous and wrong. This is a time of great diversity between what Scripture says about God and who He is and what people think He is. This, therefore, is an opportunity for clarification. Are you going to go with the popular, or are you going to go with the biblical?

I suppose I've already hit on the other major question of our day. The Quran refers to "the people of the book," referring to people whose faith is built on a book -- in this case, the Bible. Christianity is indeed a faith built on the Scriptures, on God's Word. It claims to be breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16-17), a work of people directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). It claims to be the Word of God, centering on the Word of God Incarnate (John 1:1). Of course, in our day anyone who believes that the Bible is the Word of God -- reliable, undeniable, accurate, inerrant ... all that "the Word of God" entails -- is classified as a loon, a narrow-minded idiot, uneducated and beneath recognition. One popular epithet is "fundamentalist", and not in a good way. Well, folks, here you are; a moment for clarity. Where does your allegiance lie? Is God's Word what it claims to be, what the Church has always believed it to be? Or is it ... less? Anything except "the inerrant, infallible rule of faith" has a broad range of positions. They range from "mostly" to "contains God's Word" to "a good book even though there are flaws" to "possibly God's Word, but we can't understand it with any certainty" all the way to "No, not at all." Do you fall on that spectrum, or do you stand on the Word of God for your doctrine, your worldview, the corrections in your life, your ongoing instructions? More plainly, are you your final authority, or is God's Word your final authority? Circumstances today make the question clear.

I've heard many people bemoaning our times. I get it. I've heard more than a few expressing concern about whether or not Christianity will make it through. I understand the feeling. But since my position begins with God's Word and Jesus said, "I will build My church" (Matt 16:18), I will have to conclude that the Church itself is not in danger of destruction even in the hardest times. I think, instead, that God can use these darkening skies around us to do some cleaning house, both in who calls themselves "Christian" and in the hearts of His own. In easier times when "We're all Christians" was the mainline thinking, you didn't have to be so careful about what you thought about these things. Now you do. Now you have to count the cost. Now the questions loom larger because the stakes are getting higher. I see that as a silver lining. That's a good thing.


Eternity Matters said...

Agreed. The wolves got warm and took off the sheep's clothing. They aren't even pretending very well any longer. Latest example: Planned Parenthood, darling of the "Christian" Left, is adamant that you should tell 3 yr. old boys that they may not really be boys. Yes, the mass child-killing should have already clued you in to their Molech-worshiping nature, but now you have one less excuse.

Stan said...

It says something bad when the wolves can take off their clothing. Largely true, but bad. I'm glad that God is in charge.