“It could be the best thing ever invented, but it’s still an invention.”
I wish I knew the name of the source for this quote, because I can’t get it out of my head this week. I was watching a recent PBS program about the Mormon Church, and found it to be pretty fascinating from a secular/sociological standpoint. I am endlessly curious about the things that humans attach themselves to and the circles they associate themselves with as they form life-defining patterns of thought and reason. At one point in the program, they interviewed a gentleman who had left the Mormon church because he perceived it was just another religious system devised by man. And whether his discernment came from an actual encounter with the true gospel, or just his own reasoning, I was impressed by the above quote and thought it timely in light of the proliferation of spiritual ‘inventions’ that are constantly swaying and re-defining not only the spiritual paths of the masses, but also of the Church itself. And while I expect there to be spiritual snake oil sold to the unregenerate, the Church has no business being either swayed, swindled, defrauded, nobbled, conned, snowed, buffaloed, OR redefined.
Ecclesiastes 1:10 says, “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘look this is something new’? It was here already long ago, it was here before our time.” The world of course puts endless emphasis on ‘new and improved’, undiscovered methods, and cures and approaches to life and love that are ‘guaranteed’ to improve the quality of life. Millions are spent on TV ads simply to make us discontent and believe we are lacking something important, and that’s why things aren’t working the way they should. Of course, this is folly and contradicts the Scriptures that teach us that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1Tim 6:6). So the reverse must also be true – that un-godliness with dis-contentment is great loss! And think of all the loves and fortunes lost over time in chasing the perfect-ultimate-you-name-it answer to everything. Solomon says there is nothing new under the sun. What can be said and observed about life and human nature is already known and has been exploited for gain and wept over in loss over and over and over. A full life is made up of few gains, and mostly losses. And what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his soul?
But what about the methods and vehicles for wickedness? Surely there must be something new in that realm. The last 100 years has seen more inventions, and more spent marketing those inventions, than in all previous epochs combined. The global system of good/evil and what is of value vs. what is worthless is mystifying to say the least. I bought a house once for $35,000. I sold it for $55,000 after it had gotten 12 years older and the floors slanted even more. The longer it stands the more it’s worth, and over time that home that was built for about $5000 max will be bought and sold for tens of thousands of dollars. On a smaller scale, say I bought a Beatles album in 1964 for $5, and 40 years later it was sold for $50, scratches and all. Now, you might say someone got ripped off. But not according to the world’s system. We glory and gloat in our worldly investments and in getting something for nothing in this life, and rarely is thought given to eternal investments that are kept for us in reserve, where moth and rust do not corrupt, yet are of great value. Our worldly inventions and investments are supposed to make life easier on a temporal level, but we are all still aging and dying at predictable rates; and some of the inventions themselves are actually killing us! How many people have died over time in car wrecks and plane crashes?
Now in this age, we have also entered into the realm of spiritual ‘inventions’, increasingly so in the last 100 years or so. And they too could be killing us. Is there anything new under the sun? I believe Solomon’s statement is true. I believe sin is sin and there are no new ways to sin against God and man. But methods of enticing and tempting a generation to love the world and the things in it do change from era to era – if only for the sake of Satan’s goal of dragging the entire human race down to the pit with him. And he is working overtime to do just that, and in ways you may not realize. So if it’s new to our generation, it’s a new way to cause trouble only because it’s new to some people. Am I making sense? (Solomon, we can chat on the semantics of this at a later date if you want. Or by then it won’t matter.) Here is my case.
The buzz word for today is – ‘buzz-words’! Everyone who writes a book or wants to get attention for their methodologies knows and utilizes this trick to the maximum. You might think this belongs to the realm of soap salesmen and telemarketers, but this is not the case. We got a mailing at the church this week about a new book called “Pivotal Prayer: Connecting With God in Times of Great Need” What it boils down to is a method for maximizing your prayers in time of crisis, encouraging people to pray when things are bad with the promise of potentially redirecting the entire course of their life. Does that really need a book? But there are no atheists in foxholes, and it’s unfortunate that for many, the ONLY time they pray is when things are hard. A contrite and repentant prayer for salvation, or the prayer of a righteous man can avail much at any time and requires us to pray in faith beyond our circumstances. Prayer is not a program! It’s not a formula! It’s part of a personal relationship with the living God who loves and cares for us as a Father. Yet, here is another mile-wide-and-inch-deep book appealing to the lowest spiritual denominator, and with the obvious goal of capitalizing on that word, ‘pivotal’, as if it were a magic bullet. Sure to become the next movement, I wager.
Church-growth conferences are another example of this type of emotional manipulation. They don’t have ‘Conferences’, they have Leadership ‘Summits’. Mere ‘conferences’ aren’t good enough for today’s ‘X-Treme Christianity’, we must have a ‘summit’ to express our nearness to God and the cosmic importance of the relevant revelations we plan to dispense to the lucky attendees who are paying what amounts to a new car payment to either attend or watch via satellite. The Emergent Church has more buzzwords than the average seeker could learn or understand in a lifetime, bringing a form of high-minded gnosticism to a lucky few who get it, and pushing the notion that the spirit-filled life is mystical and hard to attain – and special are you if you do ‘get it’.
When I received Christ decades ago, Christian books were mostly either devotionals, commentaries, or apologetics to help see through spiritual deception; the Bible was the #1 source for ‘hath God said” and all other books were down the line in priority, if one had time for them after studying the Word. And no one had to be too concerned about what was on the shelf at the Christian bookstore back then. But in only 20 years or so, we see the publishing industry being the mouthpiece for ‘hath God said”, and as people now demote God’s Word beneath best-sellers, the industry is promoting deception, instead of uncovering it. Doesn’t anyone else see this downward spiral into apostasy? Christians today do not see this change in the wind, it’s all about the moment and what they think they need because they are convinced they lack; so apparently they would rather mindlessly follow Christian personalities who are living off of royalties, adulation, and positions of power that should be foreign to the servant of God whose guide and motivation in life should be an old rugged cross of splinters and sacrifice. Where are the godly leaders who labor for a lifetime, often unnoticed and unsung by anyone but Jesus, holding hands at deathbeds and lingering long into every weekend to bring people God’s Word? Where are those willing to stand up for truth regardless of the abuse they suffer? They still exist; I know that firsthand. But they are becoming fewer and fewer, to the great peril of the church.
There is no end of Christian authors but more and more I see this post-modern mess we are in producing mostly self-proclaimed trend-setters who put their own interests first. Give me an hour a week in the presence of a true Spirit-led teacher of the Word and by God’s grace I will be a changed person. Give me a best-seller of fluff and platitudes and programs and I am poorer in spirit for the experience, not to mention, I won’t remember a word they said from page to page. The church should be shamed at what it considers to be of value today: It could be the best thing ever invented, but it’s still an invention. Thank you whoever you are who said that.
I admit that I never saw this emergent/church growth/New Age stuff coming on the horizon, and now that it’s here I sometimes mutter aloud to myself that if Solomon could have seen what we see, he might have thought differently about ‘change’ under the sun. But methods come and go, people are more and more gullible and short-sighted, and the enemy of our souls is working overtime to steal, kill, and destroy. Dismayed? Not really. Discouraged? Sometimes. But watching for His return: ALWAYS. It must be soon! Watch therefore!