Here’s something I read this afternoon on a short break. It’s from the magazine Modern Reformation, the New Atheism issue. The author’s Michael Horton, and the article’s entitled Are Churches Secularizing America? The entire article can be found linked here. Stylistically, it’s not the guy’s best writing (In one short paragraph, I counted three uses of “nevertheless“). And normally, I think the guys at Modern Reformation and The Whitehorse Inn have too high a view of clergy and far too low a view of laity. Sometimes they’re spot-on, for instance in regard to tithing – they take the sound biblical approach to the matter by opining that it’s not anywhere mandated as normative for the Christian. On the other hand, they believe and teach what I think is heresy saying that God performs a creative work in the heart of the believer (literally creating faith) through the speech of the ordained minister who preaches the Gospel according to the canon of New Testament scripture. Nevertheless, Horton hit the ball outta the park with this:
People remain hopelessly trapped within their own inner psyche and resources, suppressing the truth about themselves that might drive them to Christ. No longer objectively guilty before a holy God, they feel only a sense of guilt or shame that they should deny by changing the subject to something lighter and more upbeat. No longer saved from damnation – which is the source of their deepest sense of anxiety – they are now saved from unpleasantness. We are the walking dead, forgetful that our designer-label fashions of religion and morality are really a death shroud. To paraphrase Jesus, we go through life like corpses with lipstick, not even aware that all of our makeovers and self-improvement are just cosmetic [Matt. 23:25-28]
Michael Horton, Are Churches Secularizing America? , Modern Reformation, Vol.17, No.2, P.46
I’m sure the form of my citation above is incorrect. Apologies. Sometimes I feel such a deep sense of shame and humiliation that I can only turn Godward with it. A brokenness runs through me that only God can make right, but he is apparently uninterested just now in doing so.
Horton goes on in the same article on the same page:
“It is the false prophets who ‘dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace’ (Jer. 8:11). ‘They fill you with false hopes,’ he adds. ‘They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace” (Jer. 23:16-17). It is not compassion for the people or zeal for God’s house, but their own thirst for popularity that renders the false prophets constitutionally incapable of telling the truth about the crisis.”
That phrase, “constitutionally incapable of the telling the truth” probably finds its provenance in the therapeutically deistic Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous which describes some alcoholics, those who cannot or do not recover as “constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.” Nevertheless, truth matters. Speaking the truth matters. Knowing the truth about ourselves matters. Shame, guilt, and pain are, for me much of the time, the truth about me, sharing what passes for my core with loss, grief, and a free-fall sensation that may be worse than the impact at bottom. That’s the stuff that drives me Godward most often.
Sometimes there are moments of joy through which I glimpse eternity, but they have so far been fleeting compared with that other stuff.