The Addiction Of Freedom


Hell is, as Lewis says, “the greatest monument to human freedom.”

the-great-divorce-cover

So noted Pastor Tim Keller in a 1997 article in Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal, “Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age.”

Interestingly, Pastor Keller identified a shift in attitude regarding freedom in the postmodern era akin to the attitude C. S. Lewis ascribed to those destined for hell in his classic work The Great Divorce.

The attitude is one that puts freedom above all else.

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that the people on Lewis’s bus from hell are enslaved because they freely choose to be. They would rather have their freedom (as they define it) than salvation. Their relentless delusion is that if they glorified God, they would lose their human greatness (Gen. 3:4-5), but their choice has really ruined their human greatness.

I couldn’t help but think of atheist Christopher Hitchens and his dread of “celestial tyranny.” How sad that he did not realize the tyranny of his own desires. Unfortunately, he was not so different from the majority of people in western culture.

Freedom, we cry, let us voice our opinions, choose our own path, chart our own life. So we legalize abortion and a good deal of pornography. We outlaw spanking and prayer from school and tell parents Johnny needs medication, not discipline.

And then we wonder why children no longer respect authority, why tolerance is the end-all of our society, why child abuse is on the rise, and human trafficking is rampant, why greed runs Wall Street and corruption keeps cropping up in Washington, or City Hall.

Somehow we’ve missed the connection points. Freedom, when it becomes more important than salvation, enslaves just like any other idol. Freedom to pursue sex without consequences makes a person addicted to lust. Freedom to pursue wealth without restrain makes a person addicted to greed. Freedom to pursue unbridled power over others makes a person addicted to bullying and manipulation.

If we would open our eyes, we would see the trap to which the pursuit of freedom can lead. It held Christopher Hitchens tightly in its jaws. No one, most certainly not God, was going to tell him what to do with his life, not even in the last hours of his life. Why?

Because he wanted to enjoy humanity.

Sadly, he’s chained himself to the ephemeral rather than to the eternal. For, yes, the option to unbridled freedom is also slavery.

But what a difference. Rather than slavery to that which would destroy, becoming a bond-slave of Jesus Christ is freeing. Ironic, isn’t it. Freedom that leads to slavery, and slavery that leads to freedom.

What a contradiction, but that’s in line with what we learn from Jesus. If we lose our lives, we’ll find them. If we are last, then we’ll be first. If we become His slaves, He’ll set us free. Then, and only then, will we be free indeed.

This post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in October 2010.

The Accommodation Of Hedonism


From what I read, Christopher Hitchens, the renowned atheist who passed away from cancer a few years ago, would not have shied away from the label hedonist. After all, Wikipedia notes that he referred to himself as an Epicurean.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hedonism as “the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.”

Not many people would quibble with the idea that it’s right and proper for a sane person to go about finding satisfaction of desires. I mean, are we supposed to look for unhappiness instead? Are we supposed to search out opportunities for slavery or deprivation?

Actually the fact that so few Americans would find fault with a life lived in pursuit of pleasure clarifies the guiding philosophy of our day. We are, quite frankly, hedonists.

I shudder at the thought because I remember studying hedonism in school in connection to ancient Rome where toga-wearing Caesars were fed grapes by scantily-clad slaves, where they would gorge themselves then throw up so they could continue “enjoying” the feast, where orgies were routine. Drunkenness and debauchery seem the most appropriate words to describe what I thought of in conjunction with hedonism.

And now, hedonism is us.

Little did I realize back in those school days that in my lifetime young girls would binge and purge, that drunkenness and debauchery would describe a lot of college life, that “threesomes” would become a TV joke, that “dating” would be replaced by one-night stands and marriage by “relationships.”

As if all this isn’t bad enough, I look at the Church, and I see many professing Christians accommodating hedonism. Some do so in an unapologetic, aggressive way, saying that God has promised His children good gifts so we ought to be holding Him to His word by naming and claiming what we want.

Others are more circumspect, involving themselves in political movements that would ensure a continuation of the privileges of living in a wealthy, capitalistic society.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not an advocate of socialism in any form, but neither do I believe the Church should take up the fight to preserve capitalism. The truth is, one system is built on laziness and the other on greed, so it’s a little like picking your poison.

Except, with our hedonistic beliefs these days, not so many people recognized the poison of greed—unless, of course, it’s corporate greed. Corporate, that great nameless monolith that we can blame for all the ills of society, because goodness knows, Man certainly can’t be to blame.

In a round about way, this brings me back to my beginning—that innocuous definition of hedonism in the dictionary, the one so few people would mind being associated with. It’s hard to call someone greedy when they are simply trying to satisfy their desires, the same as everyone else.

There’s an unspoken understanding that people should play fair in the process, and those who don’t such as Fanny Mae and Bernie Madoff, deserve our wrath. But those racking up millions by playing baseball or basketball in Southern California? Glad to have you here among us. And wouldn’t we like to be just like you!

The problem for the Christian in accommodating this attitude, even in our subtle ways, is that we no longer imagine satisfaction without the pleasures of life, as if somehow God isn’t enough to satisfy us—just He, Himself.

How ironic when Paul says that to live is Christ. In a short passage to the Colossians he refers to knowing Christ as wealth, riches, and treasure. I wonder what we the Church in America would name as our wealth, riches, and treasure.

Published in: on August 12, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , ,

It’s Not IF . . . It’s To Whom


airplane_flyingSome years ago I read Not I, But Christ, a devotion book by Corrie ten Boom. Chapter six is entitled “Surrender.” Something there stands out in sharp contrast to a comment by the late atheist Christopher Hitchens in his debate with William Lane at Biola University. He referred to God’s rule as “celestial dictatorship.”

Corrie ten Boom, who lived under the Nazi dictatorship first in Holland, then in prison, and finally in a German concentration camp, understood what living under a dictatorship really meant. She contrasted the experience with surrender to God:

When I was a prisoner of Adolf Hitler and his followers, I had to surrender my will completely. During the time I was a prisoner, I could not decide anything myself. I just had to obey …

But we have to surrender to Someone else, to God, who is love. He is not a dictator; He is a loving Father. There is no limit to what He will do for us, no end to His blessings, if we surrender to Him. Surrender is trusting God.

Trust is the defining difference between surrendering to a dictator and surrendering to a Father. A dictator imposes his will for his own purposes. A Father requires surrender for the good of His child. A person may acquiesce to a dictator, even surrender, from all outward appearances, but trust brings true surrender, complete submission.

In the same way that a person drowning must surrender to the swimmer who wants to rescue him, we must trust that God isn’t grabbing hold of us in order to impose His control to our detriment.

A passenger in a jet plane trusts the pilot and his ability to take off, fly, and land. Rarely does an untrained traveler believe he could do a better job than those certified to control the aircraft.

A year-old baby trusts his mother and father to hold him, possibly even to toss him in the air and catch him. He often clamors to be picked up by a parent, though he undoubtedly shies away from adults he doesn’t know. He trusts Mom and Dad because he has experienced their love, care, and protection.

This is the child-like faith the Bible refers to (“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all” – Mark 10:15).

Teenagers come to a developmental state in which they assert their independence in order to mature. But spiritually, maturity comes from reaching a place of trust that keeps us wrapped in the sheltering arms of our Savior.

Ultimately, I am surrendering to something–my self-will, the tyranny of Satan, society’s mold. Or to God.

Essentially “surrender” to God is acknowledging that He knows what’s right, that His plans are sound, that His ways are safe.

Originally posted as “Trust” in December 2009.

Published in: on May 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

God’s Existence And Goodness


westcoast sunsetNearly four years ago apologist William Lane Craig debated the late atheist Christoper Hitchens at Biola University here in SoCal. Mr. Hitchens said at one point that even if God did exist, there is no evidence that He cares about His creation, that He isn’t indifferent to humanity.

It’s hard for me to entertain such thoughts because I believe the special revelation God gave, namely the Bible. Simply put, I find it to be consistent with what I see in the world. It fills in the gaps and makes sense of the confusing.

There is lots of evidence to support the claims of the Bible. While its veracity needs to be considered at some point, there are other, extra-Biblical indicators which point to the fact that God is good, that He cares, that He isn’t indifferent.

One is Beauty. A sunset, the glint of light captured in a drop of dew, a horse galloping across the plains, a gnarled tree atop a mountain crag, an icy-green lake at the bottom of a glacier, white-capped waves crashing onto a beach, and on and on and on.

But not only is Beauty in this world, apparently humans, and humans alone, have this appreciation of Beauty.

Then there is pleasure. The joy and pride a new father expresses as he holds his infant son for the first time. The taste of apple pie that floods the senses and reminds one of visits with Grandma, now long gone. The swelling music that pierces the heart simultaneously with longing and elation. Again, these emotional pleasures seem to be for Mankind alone.

How about love or hope or truth or courage or generosity? The very existence of these traits indicates a Creator who embodied them.

Another evidence that God cares is the existence of objective morality. Yes, this is an evidence of God’s existence but also of His goodness. An amoral first cause would not have the capacity to instill in Mankind that which it does not possess.

But, you might say, what about the evil? What about the atrocities Man commits against Man. Do these then indicate a cruel creator?

No. They indicate contradiction. Because there is hate in the world doesn’t mean there isn’t love. Because there is death in nature doesn’t mean there isn’t life.

So either God is a contradiction or there is another cause for the evil and cruelty around us.

To understand the contradiction, I think Special Revelation is necessary.

Cultures throughout time have feared God or gods because of the destructive power in nature they saw and couldn’t explain. Today, scientists explain this destructive power, so many people no longer fear God or gods. They dismiss the notion of the supernatural by way of solving the contradiction.

But of course that opens up another set of unanswered questions. Why don’t animals hate? Why do humans worship?

The “most evolved species” seems capable of both greater evil and greater good than any evolutionist ought to expect. And apart from God, there is no reasonable explanation.

But God is not indifferent, and He does care, so He didn’t leave Mankind in this quagmire of confusion. From the beginning of time on earth, He communicated with humans one way or another–first, person to person, then through messengers, including His Son. In addition, He provided spirit-breathed written revelation. And He gave the incredible gift of His Spirit’s presence in the life of every person who confesses with his mouth and believes in his heart that Jesus is Lord.

Finally, God shows He cares by His plan to restore our communion with Him through Jesus’s death and resurrection. He understood that the saving we need is the saving of our relationship with Him. Without Him we are undone.

So is He good? In truth He is the definition of the word.

The article is an edited version of “God Exists, But Is He Good?” posted April 10, 2009.

God’s Goodness


Men like atheist Christopher Hitchens dismiss the existence of God in large part because of the existence of evil. One line of thinking is that if God existed He is either not good, not powerful, or not caring. He could not, they believe, be good, caring, and powerful and co-exist with evil.

What irony that they don’t turn around and scrutinize goodness. From where do acts of kindness from strangers originate, or the encouragement from a verse of Scripture or the ethereal beauty of fog wisps floating in and out of palm trees and pier pilings?

Who can explain the transformation of the Huaorani people in Ecuador after Jim Elliot’s death? Or the message of forgiveness Corrie ten Boom preached after losing her father and sister under Nazis cruelty? Who can explain Job’s restoration of wealth after losing all or Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt after being sold into slavery?

In other words, who can explain Romans 2:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

How could a God who was not good work all things together for good? And Christians see time and again God’s hand working tragedy into triumph, suffering into sanctification, sacrifice into salvation.

Only God’s goodness can be credited with such miracles as Ruth experienced. The widowed immigrant at the edge of poverty becomes the great-grandmother to Israel’s greatest king, in the direct line of the Messiah.

Who could write such a story? People today would think it too … good, too sappy, too sweet. But that’s God, isn’t it. He goes beyond what we think could possibly happen. He gives more, loves more, sacrifices more.

He takes brokenness and makes a vessel fit for a king, takes a wayward woman and makes her His bride, takes discarded branches and grafts them into His vine.

He hunts down the lost, comforts the grieving, answers the cry of the needy.

Above all, He gives Himself. He sent His prophets to teach the rest of us what we need to know about Him. More, He Himself came in the form of Man, then gave us His Spirit and His written Word.

God’s goodness is imprinted on the world. We have the starry sky, the harvest moon, billowing clouds, flashing lightening, crystalline icicles, yellow-red leaves, falling snow, crashing waves, the rocky grandeur of mountains, and on and on. How can we look at this world and not see God’s goodness?

How can we think that the good things we enjoy are accidents of nature or results of human endeavor? Nature is morally indifferent and Mankind is marred. God alone is good, without wavering, without exception.

May He be praised now and forevermore.

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Tears Instead Of Jeers


A friend of mine shared an online exchange with me between several professing Christians. Here’s what one person said, in part:

[Name redacted] LIAR! This is my last post because I just caught you LYING, you little devil. Did you see the post BEFORE you made that statement? ….
Me: The bible isn’t God’s word. 🙂 It’s man’s.
You: Says you, part of “man” yourself. Sorry, no true Chris…tian should accept your authority (!) over God’s Word.
So, obviously your statement referred to the bible because that’s what we were talking about. You can go back even further to earlier posts to confirm this. You GOT CAUGHT and just proved that you are NOT of God!

[Name redacted – same poster] REPENT YOU LITTLE DEVIL!!!

Earlier I wrote about Christopher Hitchens, a famous atheist who has terminal cancer. Apparently there have been a number of responses to his occasional blog post updates about his condition that run along the lines of, You’re getting what you deserve, you heathen. As I read Mr. Hitchens’s reaction to these comments (and some emails, I believe), I got the impression that the tone was more gleeful than regretful.

A little further back, I had a discussion with another blogger on his site—a blog dedicated to ridiculing those he thought were false teachers. This followed on the heels of my being banned from a blog site for reasoning with a writer who threw out ridicule and name-calling at a famous Bible teacher he accused of holding false doctrine.

This accumulation of incivility, at best, has taken me off guard. I’ve thought much of the media portrayal of Christians—often shown waving signs with mean-spirited messages at rallies against those holding to liberal cultural views—was over the top. In other words, the camera sought out the craziest, meanest, loudest of the bunch and the media showed that footage over and over in an effort to paint all people taking a stand against those views with the same brush. It’s a way of saying, Christians are hateful, without ever actually saying the words.

But these instances I cited weren’t played out in front of a camera, at a rally, or sussed out by the media. These are people talking to and about other people, albeit in the less personal venue of cyberspace.

And these are not just people. These are professing Christians. Folks who claim, at some level, to be upholding Truth and following after Jesus Christ.

How ironic, then, that their actions, when confronted with someone running from God, are so different from His. Here is what Jesus said about Jews who would not accept Him as their Messiah after issuing a dire warning:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!
– Luke 13:34 (emphasis mine)

And lest we forget, of those who crucified Jesus, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34b)

Scripture records the Apostle Paul’s reaction to false teachers in the book of Philippians:

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ
– Phil 3:18 (emphasis mine)

So when, I wonder, did the longing of Christ and the tears of the apostle turn into the jeers of professing Christians?

Have we become so acculturated that we see nothing wrong with using the same rancor the world uses? Or have wolves slipped in amongst us dressed in lamb’s wool and we’re too afraid to make the call?

May John’s clear words be our guide:

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
– 1 John 4:20-21

Published in: on November 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , ,

“Ready Or Not, Here I Come”


The title of this post is the line we used when I was a child as part of the game Hide and Seek. The “ready or not” part was meant for the those running about looking for the perfect place to hide. But it dawned on me as I was doing a little research for this article, that portion of the line perfectly describes the human condition at the point of death. Ready or not, here I come.

And why am I writing about death? I learned a week or so ago that deist and former atheist Anthony Flew passed away earlier this year. Somehow I’d missed the news. Sadly, from what the public knows, Mr. Flew’s new-found belief in an intelligent creator never translated into belief in a personal Savior. In fact he said as late as 2007, when his book There Is a God (you can read my posts related to the book here and here) was published, he had no hope for eternity:

Mr. Flew, in a statement issued through his publisher, reaffirmed the views expressed in the book, which did not include belief in an afterlife.

“I want to be dead when I’m dead and that’s an end to it,” he told The Sunday Times of London. “I don’t want an unending life. I don’t want anything without end.”
– from “Antony Flew, Philosopher and Ex-Atheist, Dies at 87,” By William Grimes, Published in the NYTimes: April 16, 2010

Whether Mr. Flew wanted an afterlife or not, he has one. Whether he was ready for it or not, he went from this life to the next. And so must we all, either by death or by God’s power to take us to heaven at the return of His Son.

But my thoughts about death aren’t in relationship to Mr. Flew alone. The fact is, another well-known atheist, Christopher Hitchens—he of stage-four metastasized esophageal cancer—is facing death. You may remember I wrote an article related to him a few weeks ago. While he can, Mr. Hitchens continues to write, making his views of God and the afterlife plain. From an article last month:

As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be “me.” (Bear this in mind, in case of any later rumors or fabrications.)
– from “Unanswered Prayers,” Vanity Fair

At this point, I thought, maybe what Mr. Hitchens needs is to live. If God miraculously heals the man, what will he do with that? Even he apparently has had some thoughts about such a thing, though I don’t believe he’s really considered surviving cancer by an instantaneous healing.

Later, in that same article, this:

Suppose I ditch the principles I have held for a lifetime, in the hope of gaining favor at the last minute? I hope and trust that no serious person would be at all impressed by such a hucksterish choice.

Sadly, Mr. Hitchens only demonstrates his lack of understanding of God. Could he possible think that the Creator of the universe with be impressed with some last ditch effort to gain His favor? To say such a thing makes it plain Mr. Hitchens doesn’t understand the first thing about God, no matter how often he has debated other Christians.

Instead, he is entrenched in his belief that the spiritual does not exist:

It’s no fun to appreciate to the full [because of the ravages on his body of cancer and its treatment] the truth of the materialist proposition that I don’t have a body, I am a body.
-from “Miss Manners And the Big C,” Vanity Fair

With such a position, Mr. Hitchens is declaring with Antony Flew that he wants to be dead when he’s dead, making it abundantly clear that he is not ready to enter the spiritual world. But whether he’s ready or not, he’s coming. Which makes me sad.

Published in: on November 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm  Comments (11)  
Tags: , , ,

The Addiction Of Freedom


Hell is, as Lewis says, “the greatest monument to human freedom.”

So noted Pastor Tim Keller in a 1997 article in Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal, “Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age.”

Interestingly, Pastor Keller identified a shift in attitude regarding freedom in the postmodern era akin to the attitude C. S. Lewis ascribed to those destined for hell in his classic work The Great Divorce.

The attitude is one that puts freedom above all else.

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that the people on Lewis’s bus from hell are enslaved because they freely choose to be. They would rather have their freedom (as they define it) than salvation. Their relentless delusion is that if they glorified God, they would lose their human greatness (Gen. 3:4-5), but their choice has really ruined their human greatness.

Once again I couldn’t help but think of atheist Christopher Hitchens and his dread of “celestial tyranny.” How sad that he does not realize the tyranny of his own desires. But unfortunately, he is not so different from the majority of people in western culture.

Freedom, we cry, let us voice our opinions, choose our own path, chart our own life. So we legalize abortion and a good deal of pornography. We outlaw spanking and prayer from school and tell parents Johnny needs medication, not discipline.

And then we wonder why children no longer respect authority, why tolerance is the end-all of our society, why child abuse is on the rise, and human trafficking is rampant, why greed runs Wall Street and corruption keeps cropping up in Washington, or City Hall.

Somehow we’ve missed the connection points. Freedom, when it becomes more important than salvation, enslaves just like any other idol. And freedom to pursue sex without consequences makes a person addicted to lust. Freedom to pursue wealth without restrain makes a person addicted to greed. Freedom to pursue unbridled power over others makes a person addicted to bullying.

If we would open our eyes, we would see the trap to which the pursuit of freedom can lead. It currently holds Christopher Hitchens tightly in its jaws. No one, most certainly not God, is going to tell him what to do with his life, not even in the last hours as he hurtles toward death. Why? Because he wants to enjoy humanity.

Sadly, he’s chained himself to the ephemeral rather than to the eternal. For, yes, the option is also slavery.

But what a difference. Rather than slavery to that which would destroy, becoming a bond-slave of Jesus Christ is freeing.

What a contradiction, but that’s in line with what we learn from Jesus. If we lose our lives, we’ll find them. If we are last, then we’ll be first. If we become His slaves, He’ll set us free. Then, and only then, will we be free indeed.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , ,

The Folly Of Moral Conviction


Columnist Michael Gerson recently wrote a piece that appeared, slightly abridged, in my local paper today, “The Atheist As Moralist” (this link appears to give you the entire article). The subject of his commentary is Christopher Hitchens, famed atheist who has recently published his memoir, Hitch-22.

In essence, Mr. Gerson sees in Christopher Hitchens’ constancy and courage and “delight in all things human,” something worth commending. He has, after all, lived, and apparently will die, clinging to his moral convictions because he disdains deathbed religious conversions. “The idea ‘that you may be terrified’ is no reason to ‘abandon the principles of a lifetime,’ ” Mr. Gerson reports him as saying.

These moral convictions of his are the repudiation of tyranny—even “celestial tyranny”—and the championing of the underdog. And for this Mr. Gerson holds Christopher Hitchens up as one who accomplishes what his beliefs cannot—the provision of a moral compass.

How sadly empty! To praise a man for sticking to his guns, even in the face of terror and encroaching death, is meaningless unless he’s holding to something worthwhile. You might as well praise a terrorist suicide bomber for his example of “courage, loyalty and moral conviction.”

The fact is, Christopher Hitchens can be as dedicated and sincere, as tenacious and unswerving in his beliefs as he wants, but if those beliefs are wrong, his conviction is foolish, not admirable.

In addition, by including God in his hatred of tyranny he exposes the fact that his real hatred is having an authority over him. He doesn’t want God to have the final say, or any say, when it comes to Christopher Hitchens.

But perhaps he is closer to faith than even he realizes. When asked what positive lesson he’s learned from Christianity, Mr. Gerson reported him to say, “The transience and ephemeral nature of power and all things human.”

Human power and life on this side of the veil is indeed transient and ephemeral. In his letter included in Scripture, the apostle James says our lives are just a vapor. The prophet Isaiah says that we are like grass and the flowers of the field, withering and fading away.

Here’s the thing. Christopher Hitchens has apparently put all his trust in humanity. He delights “in all things human—in wit and wine and good company and conversation and fine writing and debate of large issues.” But in the end, he realizes it is passing. His moral convictions are grounded in vapor. He’s invested his life in nothing more solid than dry grass that shrivels in the desert wind.

And he refuses to rethink his options. After all, he’s a man of moral conviction! Does that make him a great example for the rest of humanity, as Mr. Gerson seems to think?

Hardly. It makes him a sad figure, a wasted intellect, a man destined to get what he has most feared—the wrath of a Sovereign—and what he most desires—to go it on his own.

I can’t stop there. As long as Christopher Hitchens has breath, he can repent. If the thief dying next to Jesus can turn from his sin, so can Christopher Hitchens. May God penetrate his hard heart and bring him to his knees so that he will know God’s kindness and mercy. That will continue to be my prayer.

Published in: on October 18, 2010 at 5:37 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , ,

Stop Me If This Sounds Familiar


Escape from orthodoxy by a theory of language, to wit

Language was an imprecise instrument. Words are but “faded metaphors” which cannot be transferred from mind to mind with their meaning clear and transparent. Each word is organically related to its own history, to the history of the one who uses it and of the one who hears it, and to the situation in which it is used. With these variables, all creedal statements and even the words of Scripture must be understood in a “spirit of accommodation,” for they are but linguistic and hence poetic attempts to speak the unspeakable. Christian truth was something which lay behind doctrinal propositions…

Sound familiar? I suspect any person identifying himself as an emergent Christian or even as a postmodernist would adhere to that sentiment. It’s this wishy-washy understanding of language that opens the door for their re-imaging of Jesus.

Consequently, to some this “new” understanding means, our Lord and Savior is divorced from the Father as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament. No longer do we have to believe in a God who would act as a judge of a people-group and sentence them to death. That’s the work of a tyrant. So said Christopher Hitchens uh, Mike Morrell. (Well, in all fairness, so said they both.)

What this view of language, at least when it is applied to Scripture, leaves out, is the Holy Spirit. If God could breathe His Word into written form using the mind and skill of human instruments, can He not insure that people reading different language versions, living in different countries, having different cultures and vastly different personal histories—can He not insure that those people will understand His intent?

Oh, wait. There are such people—some studying theology in a seminary in Guatemala, some attending a Bible college in Kenya, some involved in churches in Cypress, some suffering for this faith in Southeast Asia. Regardless of the all the differences, the Holy Spirit brings the necessary understanding and binds those who believe as Abraham did into a united body called the Church.

I wonder if the emergents, known for shucking off the traditional forms of religion in favor of “conversations,” would consider themselves to be a part of this Christ-ordained organization, of which Jesus is the head.

Oh, and the quote above? It’s from Religion in America (first edition) by Winthrop S. Hudson and written about a nineteenth century Yale graduate and Congregational church pastor named Horace Bushnell. Nothing new under the sun, the writer of Ecclesiastes said. Oh. Right. That would be God.

That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.
– Ecc. 1:9