Narcotics for Man's Soul


Tradition can be a dangerous thing when the roots of that tradition are stripped away. The dried-out husk that is secularized Christianity has been the dominant worldview in Western nations for decades. A lyric sung by Johnny Cash some years ago comes to mind: "I stopped outside a church house where the citizens like to sit/They say they want the kingdom but they don't want God in it." Where once the early Christians brought Scriptures to the world, now churches vainly bring the world to Scripture.

The world's paradigms are not God's, yet as Christians we persist in the whole square peg/round hole exercise with embarrassing futility. Popular culture (whether labeled "Christian" or not) must be vetted warily by the word of God. If it is not, we have the tendency, through upbringing or tradition, to find Christian meaning where there isn't any. Christianity is thus reduced to being just another course in the cafeteria of the world's philosophies and religions.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians Chapter 5:

16 So, I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.
The idols of our modern age may no longer be made of gold or silver as they were for the Israelites of the Old Testament, but they are just as ubiquitous and certainly no less displeasing to God. Mankind trades in earthly securities like money, power, sensuality, possessions, entertainments, artistic indulgences, intellectual rationalizations, and perhaps most deluding of all, external moralism. While fallen man has no thirst for the truly spiritual, it is tragic indeed when nominal Christians attempt to sublimate their idol worship (whatever form it may take) with "Christianese" -- a layer of icing over a very stale cake. The secular humanists can, and do, see right through this charade. Tradition in name only is a very desolate place. Robbed of God's Word, tradition poisons rather than preserves the soul.

God made us for His purpose, not the other way around. It is delusional to be led by one's own sense of "niceness" and "morality," hoping for a pat on the back from some kind of cosmic entity. When we pray to our blessings rather than to the Lord, we are placing our trust and devotion in idols. Ignoring or twisting Scripture to suit the Self is usually not far behind. If a believer's walk with the Lord is weak, that individual will see only what their idols show them -- in effect, they see what they want to see. As a consequence, prayer and their references to prayer ring hollow. For it is as Jesus said: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8) The unsaved are not moved by talk or labels but by the grace of God working through those men and women obedient to His will.

Christians will find sustenance in God's Word, not tradition or experience. Ray Comfort writes that "for the Christian, every day should be Thanksgiving Day," knowing full well that not every day feels like a holiday. The meaning behind the Thanksgiving tradition is certainly worth remembering. The Thanksgiving holiday (word origin: "holy day") in the U.S. is a unique vestige of a once Christian nation. But as Christian beliefs have become more and more marginalized and diluted, Thanksgiving is now thought of as the day that officially precedes the beginning of the "holiday shopping season," the epitome of gross consumerism in a secular society. The holiday may still celebrate the blessings of hearth and home, family and friends, but deprived of its spiritual context, the idols of humanism are once again placed above the source of all that is holy and righteous.

Thanksgiving Day should be a time to cast down idols and worship our Lord. The 18th-century English poet William Cowper once wrote:
The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol may be,
Help me to tear it from its throne,
And worship only thee.
Thanksgiving as a holiday should remind believers that thanksgiving as a form of worship (cf. Psalm 69:30) is really God's gift to us every day of the year. When we abide in His will, we find that the Lord is always watching over us and providing for us, far above and beyond what we deserve. For this, our thanks cannot truly be contained to one day.

Consider Jesus' words from Matthew Chapter 6:
25 Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

The Gloves are Off


Once the smoke began to clear from the November 2nd election in the United States, it wasn't long before media observers noted the effect of "values" and "morality" on the choices that voters made at the polls, from the Presidential contest to state referendums on homosexual marriage. Among the first to make this observation was David Gergen -- once an adviser to former U.S. President Bill Clinton and now a political commentator -- who told CNN on the night of the election: "This was not about a difference of policies but a difference over values."

The mainstream press have been alternately stunned and galvanized by reports that so-called evangelical Christian voters swung the election in President George W. Bush's favor. Bush won the popular election by about four million votes, a number conspicuously similar to the number of these same "evangelical" Christians who didn't vote in 2000 -- an election which Bush lost by about 500 popular votes.

If the sudden surge of old-fashioned values in America appeared to initially alarm the media, the election results ultimately served to confirm their darkest suspicions. The mainstream press's favorite target of derision -- Bible-believing Christians -- turned out to be the culprit. From the New York Times to ABC News, post-election news coverage has focused on these particular Christians who, as described (as if some kind of obscure cult) by Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times (subscription req'd), "see the Bible as the authoritative word of God, emphasize 'born again' religious conversion and are committed to spreading their faith and values."

For better or worse, conservative American Christians are politicized as a voting bloc and will continue to be tied to the Bush administration. The war in Iraq and future wrangling over nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts will give critics in the media more opportunities to subtly and not-so-subtly point fingers at evangelicals. Further polarization over issues of homosexuality and decency in popular culture threatens to make fence-sitting a thing of the past. Jesus spoke of such divisions in Mark Chapter 13:

12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
The hue and cry from secular voices grows ever more strident. Robert Reich, the secretary of labor under the Clinton administration, raised many eyebrows (including those in the secular media) months ago when he made a veiled comparison between Bible-believing Christians and Islamic terrorists: "The true battle will be...between those who believe in science, reason and logic, and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face."

One recent high-profile publication, The End of Faith by Sam Harris, is far more direct. In the book, subtitled Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Harris lumps theistic religions together and predictably blames them for the violence and suffering that plagues humanity. Harris writes:
Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity -- a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible....When foisted upon each generation anew, it renders us incapable of realizing just how much of our world has been unnecessarily ceded to a dark and barbarous past.
Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a comprehensive review of Harris's book, and he also reviewed a similar, but lesser-known title God Willing?: Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the "War on Terror" and the Echoing Press by David Domke.

Anti-Christian rhetoric is pervasive and not merely confined to political contexts. For example, when Judeo-Christian elements intrude upon the secularist's hallowed grounds of consumerism, there is apparently a great deal of friction. In an article for a consumer electronics web log, writer Joel Johnson dismissed an "e-book" version of the Bible for a popular digital music player as "Jewish science fiction" in addition to other snide remarks.

While on the one hand vociferously arguing that religion and faith are not provable, Harris and other secular humanists seek to legitimize and empiricize mysticism. New Age and Buddism, in paricular, generally avoid their harshest criticisms. And not too surprisingly. The findings of a new book The Spiritual Revolution, widely reported in the press, claim that 20 or 30 years from now, "spirituality" will be more prominent than Christianity in the U.K. Carol Midgley of The Times (of London) reported:
Study after study appears to prove that people are increasingly losing faith in the Church and the Bible and turning instead to mysticism in guises ranging from astrology to reiki and holistic healing...Twice as many people believe in a “spirit force” within than they do an Almighty God without, while a recent survey hailed a revival of the Age of Aquarius after finding that two thirds of 18 to 24-year-olds had more belief in their horoscopes than in the Bible.
The Bible warns of a one world religion that will reject the divinity of Christ and propagate the age-old fallacies of "man as god" and subjective spirituality. The great harlot in Revelation is frequently interpreted as an allusion to this kind of last days apostasy/one world church. The Apostle John writes in Revelation Chapter 17:
6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
More corrosive to the body of Christ than these anti-Christian secular attacks are the institutions and organizations within the Christian Church that aggressively push various brands of Christian humanism. One such institution, the Fuller Seminary in Southern California, has for years insisted on its evangelical mandate while supporting ecumenicalism (such as its "interfaith" program with Islam), promoting the so-called "seeker-sensitive" church growth movement, arguing against Biblical literalism and/or inerrancy (i.e. rationalizing away any "outdated" content), and desperately attempting to cultivate favor with the secular academic world. What will hasten the creation of a one world religion is the Christian Church's tacit acquiescence to the spirit of this Earth (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12).

The persistent assault on the Biblical worldview should get the attention of believers. Christians everywhere are stumbling and wandering, but there will come a time when that faith is tested and the wheat and tares are separated (cf. Matthew 13). For it is in tempestuous times that God calls His flock. In John Chapter 10 (KJV), Jesus said:
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father's hand.
30 I and [my] Father are one.