There is a tension that is not easily resolved here.
I look back over my own personal journey and I’m embarrassed — at times painfully so — at things I thought and said even just a few years ago. I’ll tell you that this is not some pride thing where I can’t stand the idea that I’m less than perfect. I don’t take myself that seriously. No, it’s a painful recognition that when I say something stupid, it misleads others and delays them on their own journey. I’ve embraced the heavy burden of responsibility for leading only because I can’t make myself stop leading, but I take responsibility for the wreckage I’ve left in the lives of others. The deepest scars on my soul today are from the injuries I’ve left on others.
There’s a little bit of child in all of us. God help me if anything I say or do tends to squelch creativity and the joy of discovery and exploration. At the same time, God help me if I make no effort to stop you from pulling the trigger on a dangerous weapon because you simply don’t know what it will do. I’m not above you, just somewhere down the road in ahead of some of you. Allow me to share my worries with you as your elder, but take it with a grain of salt.
Emphatically and repeatedly we reject Western Civilization and all the associated habits of mind. On the one hand, I can really dig this computer stuff that would not have arisen without Western thinking. On the other hand, using computers is simply making the best of a horrible situation where the moral landscape has been plowed down and paved over with lies. If I could reach out and touch your life without the electronics, I’d ditch all of my computer stuff right now. I’ve spent half my life working them as a central element in my daily existence, and I still hate them. So all this computer technology stuff I’ve posted on this blog is not from a love for computers, but my compassion for humans who deserve better. Just because I understand it really well doesn’t mean it’s all fun for me. I’m doing my best to waste less and less time on computer technology.
Moral truth operates contextually, and it recognizes multiple levels of consideration in all things in this world. Could we construct a better, more ideal life for humans on this planet? Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES. That’s what revelation is all about. Is it likely? Not at all. Then again, perhaps in the microcosm of your own existence, it is plausible that you will travel a path that brings you much closer to Eden than where you now stand. The whole universe will cheer you along and encourage you, because it is not fallen and desperately desires to see us rise above the Curse as far as we can (Romans 8:22). But Jesus pointedly said that most of humanity at any give time simply will not choose that path (Matthew 7:13-14). So any silly notion that you can drag the whole human race along behind you is sin; it’s picking an argument with God.
Scripture likens the fate of humanity to lambs for the slaughter. It likens it to herding cattle who do not comprehend their fate nor much of anything except their petty concerns for survival. You cannot take your rational judgment back into the Bible and pretend God is responsible for being more efficient. You can acknowledge that He is God, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, but you can’t reconcile those concepts with the results. Why doesn’t He….? That’s the wrong question. Come back when you are God’s equal and maybe He’ll discuss it with you. He’s not accountable to you. Meanwhile, you are accountable to Him. Start with the what He says is the starting point: You are obliged to seek peace with Him on His terms. You can pretend to construct a system that forces some few humans to obey your will for a limited time, but in so doing you make yourself part of the soulless herds that God uses for His inscrutable ends, but you will not be a part of His family when it’s all over.
Or, you can stop and take the time to fall on your face before Him. You can ask Him to awaken that divine faculty He placed in us so that you can begin to see things from His perspective. And you can begin that long painful journey out of your fallen human conditioning and start thinking like someone who is on the way to Heaven.
We don’t have time or space here to chase studies in Comparative Civilization, but I can assure that almost anything is better than the West. The West has this nasty, burned in concept of the universe as fundamentally inanimate matter. That flatly contradicts Scripture. The whole universe is alive with the character of our Creator. When I walk out into the yard in front of my apartment building, I sense the singing life of the grass and dirt under my feet. Even the concrete talks to me, because every subatomic particle is imbued with some of God’s essence. However, the grass and trees and birds and clouds and wind are all relatively unaffected by human meddling, so their voice is much louder in my soul.
Maybe you would struggle saying that to the average Westerner who asks about your faith, but let’s do this one thing: Try to avoid analogies that lean too much on Western technology. That in itself tends to be misleading. I tend to think this is not just an intellectual opinion issue. If you want to train your mind to obey your heart, you can’t keep allowing the mind to work as it did before. Somewhere very early in this process you have to grasp that all of Creation is a living being, and every identifiable constituent element is a “person” in its own right. That bird and that clump of grass are each your friends. God is your Father, not your embodiment of Objective Truth. Truth itself is just a word for an aspect of God’s Person. I may be tied to the English language, one of the sorriest excuses for communication in human history, but we are damned if we can’t rise above its limitations in our thinking.
I don’t have any easy answers to the tension that comes from living in a world that rejects the truth before it wakes up in the morning. Somehow we have to alert folks to the truth that we can grasp their level of awareness, but we aren’t there any more. As long as we look, act and talk like these people, we have no message. I can see that there’s a time a place for that, but there comes a time when you must signal a difference. There is a sense in which we have to lead them out of that awful atmosphere into another place where they can at least begin thinking in different terms. Jesus spoke in parables knowing that the majority of His audience wouldn’t get it. He talked about Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6) to purposefully sift out the folks who were looking for the wrong thing from Him. Somehow you have to adapt your witness to thank kind of sifting.
Here’s a clue: “analogy” is a Western thing. The Hebrew language is inherently “parable” — learn the difference between the two. Analogy is conceptual comparison in concrete terms, where items match one-for-one. Parable calls you up to a higher level and demands you apply the symbols far beyond one-for-one. It’s not about discrete objects, but about moral influence in varying contexts. This is why we insist on using the sensory capabilities of the heart as superior to the five senses. And the logic of the heart is superior to that of the intellect. Train your mind to deal with parables. Let’s do computers and technology as mere tools, things we’d love to drop and leave in the dust as soon as God gives us a better means of communication. Please, please, avoid talking about faith in ways that compromise too much with blind souls. That was the sin of the Western Church when the German tribes came crashing through the remains of the Roman Empire. The priests rewrote Christian teaching in terms of the heathen mythology and values, and it wasn’t Christ at all any more.
We are not aiming at some imaginary efficiency in converting minds. We are aiming at living as channels for God’s truth, mirrors to reflect His glory. He chooses who will come to us for His truth; we do not at all pretend we can simply process the whole of humanity through some cerebral renovation. We don’t advertise, but we confront a blind world by living His truth. Few can see that glory in us. In our society today, it might be a good thing to be just a little reticent about it, somewhat evasive until our hearts tell us that the other person has some hope of understanding.
I’m not going to write rules for you, as is typical of Western religious instincts. I’m asking you to breathe life into your witness by making it just a little demanding. The worst thing you can do is let someone believe they got it when they don’t. It’s not a secret requiring a strange coded language like cults do, but the gospel is a mystery that God must open for them. Be careful that you do not package the gospel in ways that suck the life out of it.
The gospel message is not ideas; the gospel is you.