Saturday, September 13, 2014

Trying to Have the Best of Both Worlds

Dear world,

There are a number of things about your behavior that I'd like to address.

What I really don't like is when you try to hold two opposite views and pretend that they're complimentary: (a) Christians are goody-two-shoes who can't see evil and horror when it's right in front of their faces, and (b) Christians are scheming, low-down, wicked hypocrites who insist on pretending that they're really moral and upright - more than the rest of us struggling sinners. Which is it? Take your pick. You're always telling us that we have to choose, while also pretending that there really is no choice but death and horror. Why don't you admit that this is what you've chosen. This is where your choices without God lie - death, and horror.

What I also really dislike is that you love to point out where Christians go wrong, and then when any sort of wandering finger of blame works itself around to you, you go all prim-and-properly moral. "Don't judge", you say, "Jesus wouldn't do it". This is completely ignoring the fact that, once again, you're asserting two opposite views: (a) Jesus did all that was nice and moral and proper and kind, but (b) we can't trust the Bible when it says anything about Jesus acting like a Judge. Somebody else must have monkeyed with the words.

On the one hand, we're supposed to believe that you can sneer at everything written in an ancient book, or airily waft away every view of Jesus that doesn't agree with your own views. On the other hand, we're also supposed to believe your assertions when you pull out bits of the Bible that happen to suit your pre-existing views - while accepting blistering rebukes whenever we pull out bits of the Bible to prove a cherished belief. Yet you won't accept that you have any views, or at the very height of admittance, that everyone is tarred with the same awful human brush of bias. If that's so, why is it so important to point out that Christians tend to be inconsistent? If you can stand on the Bible to point at Christians, do you realize that they should be allowed to do the same? Otherwise, there's that awful word "unfair" that can be flashed across your reality like a very unwelcome beam of light. You claim God is unfair, by allowing evil into the world. Is that any excuse for you to go around pointing fingers and quoting bits of Bible verses, while not attempting to listen to anything that the Book says? If God is unfair for allowing wicked humans to trample around the world and on each other, is it also unfair that He gave you life? You certainly didn't give it to yourself.

I can admit that I'm a hypocrite - Jesus makes me confess this on a regular basis. He tells me to love you even when you're alternately smiling and trying to tear down my faith with everything you have, and I really object to that. I can also admit that I have needs that fall outside of anything included in the five senses, and that I'm woefully inadequate to provide much for myself. A flawed human being does not make much of a towering pillar of strength.

What you're doing is trying to have the best of both worlds - God's and Satan's. You want the power to rule yourself (and maybe others) without any Divine interference. You want the ability to point to someone and say they're inconsistent, while not admitting your inconsistencies. I share that same tendency - that's how I know what you're doing. No one spots a phony better than a former phony who's only halfway toward the cure.

If you get all offended about this letter, good. Maybe we can have a real discussion, instead of you being allowed to have all the laughs at our expense, while we're supposed to sit with our mouths shut, emitting an aura of kindliness via a wistful and heavenly expression. If you don't like that, it's kind of tough beans. When God gets through with you, you'll have wished that you listened, and turned the searchlight of truth on yourself. It's better to do it now, rather than have it done to you by an Almighty and Perfect Person who knows you better than you want to know yourself - in front of the rest of the world. Everyone will be squirming. Everyone will have really superior thoughts about their neighbors until it's time for the beam of light to reach their own life. No one will escape, and everyone will bow the knee.

Think about that, next time that you pull out one of the three verses you know. You just might be hearing them - and some that you don't know - for all Eternity. I may not be that great at loving people the way that they seem to wish to be 'loved' - i.e., allowed to do whatever they please without question. What I do know is that I wouldn't wish Hell on my worst enemy, but that it's going to happen to whoever doesn't admit that their personal habit of offending God is the highest and worst evil of mankind.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review: Schaeffer's 'The Great Evangelical Disaster'

Most of Schaeffer's writing is easily read and accessible - that's what makes him a good introductory author for theological topics. Here's a one-sentence summary of the book: If evangelical believers don't know how to convey the truth in love, they will accommodate the world and commit theological suicide.

These are a few points that might be easy to overlook, because he presents them in simple terms:

  • The world often knows what's at stake, and better expresses the divide between belief and unbelief, than Christians do. (Why is that? He doesn't say, but I'm guessing it's because Christians often and erroneously think that because Jesus crushed Satan's head, the spiritual war is over. It's not.) 
  • Evangelicals who get confused between 'showing love to the brethren' and 'giving up [truth] to get along' do more damage than the world.
  • If we do not fight the spirit of compromise within our own churches, we will continually lose battles until self-proclaimed Christians are nothing more than spiritual zombies.

  • Theological, church-wide statements, far from being mere formal expressions of intellectual assent or dissent on difficult topics, have real-life applications: abortion, marriage, homosexuality, creationism or evolutionism, etc.
  • Repeated important word and topic: "the watershed". Schaeffer explains the divide that happens when water falls on an area, flowing either to the right or the left. What starts as a small difference, in scope and perspective, becomes a large difference. 

  • Far from pushing his readers to exhaustively examine every small detail (and Christian) for error, he repeats the idea of the Double Task: "[The Christian] has to practice both God's holiness and God's love." 
  • Just as holiness without love is harshness, love without holiness is compromise. Both are grave watershed errors.
  • These errors allow Satan to encourage Christians to swing from one arc of the pendulum to the other, from compromise to harshness and back again. "The devil never gives us the luxury of fighting on only one front, and this will always be the case." 
  • The costly nature of showing love to the bretheren includes monetary losses, or any other kinds of losses, because it's one of the true ways that the world can see whether or not we are Christ's disciples. (John 13:33-35) 
  • While the Parable of the Samaritan shows the costly love we are to have for our neighbors regardless of their faith (since all men are made in God's image), our true test of discipleship comes out as we love our fellow believers even more (Galatians 6:10). It's a both-and, not an either-or. 

Love and truth, based on the Rock. Go and do likewise. :)