Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The final battleground. . .

In his book The Nature and Destiny of Man (Vol. 1, p. 200) Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:  Religion is not simply, as is generally supposed, an inherently virtuous human quest for God.  It is instead the final battleground between and the self-esteem of man.

For generation after generation religion has been dismissed as a superstitious arena of mankind's quest to understand where things came from and where things are going.  We have been told over and over again that faith is a crutch for the weak and a prop for the dull.  We have suffered the fools who spoke of religion without distinguishing from the religions as if all were equal and all equally effective in the pursuit of an answer to the question of who, what, and why.  Niebuhr got it exactly right.  Religion is not some virtuous pursuit but ultimately the ring in which mankind continues the fight of Eden.  Here mankind seeks to impose self-esteem against the fabric of creation and the power of the Creator, against the morbid reality of sin and its decay against the holiness and life of God, against the ego of a creature attempting to equal the divine make and redeemer of all things.

The truth of this quote may have been hidden behind a more virtuous veneer of the past but we no longer feel need to hide our selfishness nor our preoccupation with the most minute detail of our desire, preference, and judgment.  Peruse the pages of social media or sift through the tweets of this narcissistic generation and you find a bold and bald ego that drives and runs all things.  We consume more than produce.  We seek happiness at all costs.  We no longer know the meaning of shame or guilt.  We are who we are and figure God can take us or leave us -- because in the end He exists only for our benefit anyway.

No, I am not saying that this generation is worse than others.  No, I am not saying that we are beyond redemption.  What I am saying is that we have drunk deeply of the mirror of our own desires and find it harder than ever before to know objective truth, to judge right and wrong, evil and good, and to see a good or a goal worth denying self or the moment.

Much of modern Christianity now reflects our preoccupation with ourselves so fully that there is no longer a shred of orthodoxy left.  Even when we appeal to the sacred words of the past, we do so not because we invest them with any real value or truth.  We use them nostalgically but their words do not mean what they say and we will surrender to them no measure of our own self or the pleasure we seek.

The faithful preaching of the Word of God is no more urgently needed than this present moment in which self, sin, and ego have become the shadow deity behind everything named God.  Change and decay, all around we see... O Thou who changest not, Abide with me...  There is no possibility of anything less than doctrine and practice at full strength.  The god of self-esteem is fighting to the death with the God of heaven and earth and the consequences of this battle are nothing less than our own salvation and existence.


Janis Williams said...

The "Spiritual Selfie" seems to have overtaken much of American Christendom. Unfortunately, Narcissus died of sorrow, unable to obtain the goal of his love (himself reflected in a pool). May God grant us all the Grace to look away from ourselves to the One who can truly love us.

Janis Williams said...
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