Two aspects of Christianity
|February 6, 2011||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
Recently I listened to an audio version of Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez (read by the author). It was an uplifting book, and confirmed some things I have experienced in my own life. The book said (among other things) that our relationships with God are not all that they could be, and we need to ask for and expect greater blessings from God. The book deepened and uplifted my own devotional life and was a real encouragement.
At the same time, I have been rereading Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who is There. While this book too has real devotional merit, and can help us to know and love God more intimately, it is also a penetrating analysis of many trends in contemporary culture, and shows how worldly developments in philosophy, the arts and sciences, and in overall culture can be understood in the lights of biblical truth.
Both of these different approaches are valuable and necessary. On the one hand, we need to be mindful of our personal relationship with God. What does it profit us if America’s problems are solved; if our borders are properly controlled; if our budget is balanced and the deficits brought under control; if we have sane and effective foreign and anti-terrorism policies; if the size of the federal government is reduced – if all of these and yet more positive changes are made, yet we lose our souls and are not accepted by God on the final day?
Conversely, if America should for whatever reason collapse in ruins or end in dictatorship – whether by terrorist attacks, wars, or merely by the natural consequences of our own current policies – if great suffering should come upon us, yet we are saved and in the end enter through trials and tribulations into the kingdom of God, and are received by Christ, this will in the end more than compensate for all of our earthly hardships.
So, before all else, we need to make sure we have a right relationship with God. When I stand before God I will not be asked about the US budget, or about American foreign policy, or about any of the other many serious issues confronting us today. There, the questions will be of a very different nature. Christ and the apostles were more concerned with the reality of judgment and the coming kingdom of God than they were with the many problems of the Roman Empire.
At the same time, we are in the world, and inevitably have to confront it, understand it, and deal with it. What, then, are we to make of, and how should we respond to the issues and trends of our day? How do we understand the emergence of homosexuality as a culturally dominant political force that increasingly seeks not rights, but domination and oppression of those who disagree? See the following link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-12214368, [it needs to be copied and pasted into the window] which should be setting off warning bells in the minds of every Christian in the Western world.
What do we make of the increasing power of the federal government and the gathering threats to the rule of law? Of the exceeding precariousness of prosperity and freedoms that used to be taken for granted? Of the rise of terrorist threats unheard of until comparatively recently? Of major currents in contemporary thought and entertainment? And, if we come to an understanding of them, what is the proper response? What would God have us to do, so that we really can be salt and light in an increasingly dark time?
Studying Schaeffer’s book more carefully, and considering the great impact of his remarkable ministry, I noted some essential features of his approach that we need to be mindful of as we seek a proper response to the troubling issues that seem to be gathering in darkness and intensity.
First, Schaeffer had a deep conviction of the divine authority and integrity of Scripture. He realized that without a historically accurate Word of God we are headed for trouble. This by the way included a belief in the historicity of the creation account in Genesis. Unlike C.S. Lewis, and unlike Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Schaeffer understood that without the truth of Genesis, the Bible is grounded on air. How can Paul’s remedy for sin have any validity if his account of how sin came into the world is wrong? Those who think we do not need a literal Genesis are deeply deceived, no matter how great their names might be in the world.
Second, Schaeffer had a deep knowledge of worldly culture. His general overviews of intellectual trends have of course been criticized, but many find them insightful, accurate, and compelling. He had a profound sense of what was happening in the world, which many Christians today do not.
Thirdly, Schaeffer had a real Christian love for lost people. He was not merely an activist, a theologian, or a debater, but sought to bring biblical truth to people trapped in the darkness of modernism. Related to this is the fourth point, that his ideas were worked out in many interactions with non-Christians, and were not merely academic.
Let us pray that God will raise up yet more men to help us with our spiritual deficiencies, to encourage us to expect more from and do more for God, and to help us understand and respond to the new conflicts which are emerging after decades of preparation. We also need more awareness of the conformity to the world that has permeated our biblical scholarship, theology, and worship to such an alarming extent.
 For Bonhoeffer’s views on the naïve and unscientific nature of the Genesis creation myth, see Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall / Temptation: Two Biblical Studies. New York: Touchstone, 1997 (pp. 30, 50, and 53).
I don’t have any of Lewis’s books handy here in Oman, but one reference I do have is Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986 (p. 176).