The writer of Ecclesiastes said there is nothing new under the sun.
In one sense, this isn’t quite true. It’s doubtful that any of the Old Testament writers used iPads or laptops. But in the sense Ecclesiastes means, it’s dead right. Human nature and our patterns of behavior, the character of temptation and the need for redemption: These and other elemental things remain unchanged across the time-space continuum.
Certainly one of the unpleasant constants of the human experience is the ongoing battle to defend conscience rights and religious liberty, the family unit as it was designed by its Creator, and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Although some of the technologies (abortifacient drugs, for example) and laws (Roe v. Wade) by which this battle is waged have changed, the essential tactics have not:
- Rhetorical deception and manipulation (“Can’t you see it’s about choice – or do you hate women?”)
- Denigration of truth as final and knowable (“You Christians – you’re so intolerant!”)
- In the name of compassion, continue enlarging the state so it usurps the role of God (“Don’t you care about the poor?”)
- In the name of security, lose more and more of your liberties (“Oh, c’mon, you conspiracy theorist – you can trust the government!”)
And so on.
In the 1920s, orthodox Christian faith had no greater champion than J. Gresham Machen, the brilliant Presbyterian scholar whose winsome communication of Gospel truth made a profound impression even upon such opponents as the caustic agnostic H.L. Mencken.
The moral, social, and intellectual crises of Machen’s day mirror those of our own. Following are quotes by Machen and quotes by more contemporary Christian thinkers. See if you can tell determine the rough periods in which each written:
Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist.
No society that disregards ethical finalities can long postpone ignominious collapse.
Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.
There is a simple way to understand the deep conflict of contemporary worldviews. Don’t be intimidated by the word “worldview.” According to the Apostle Paul, there are only two: You worship creation or you worship the Creator (Rom 1:25). This is the ultimate “binary,” by which I mean things that are and remain distinct or different, and will never be fused into one.
What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires.
Today, reality is so privatized and relativized that truth is often understood only in terms of what it means to each person. A pragmatic culture will see truth as whatever works for any given person. Such a culture will interpret the statement that Christianity is true to mean simply that Christianity is one way of life that has worked for someone, but that would not be to say that any other way of life might not work just as well for someone else.
Give up? One, three, and five are Machen; two, four, and six are, respectively, theologians Carl F.H. Henry, Peter Jones, and David Wells, all three are from the late-20th and early-21st centuries.
The point is that we are waging a war that proceeds from eternity. The enmity between God and evil is ancient; its manifestations vary, but all involve defiance to the Lord who made us and the establishment of a counter-kingdom in which man seeks insistently, if pathetically, to dethrone Him.
What is new under the sun is not sin but merely the variety of its eruptions.
We either fight well, with grace and truth, with wisdom and courage, in the power of the Holy Spirit, or we choose what ultimately is the losing side.
Jesus does, in fact, win.
What’s your choice?
Publication date: September 17, 2014