The 18th century is seen as the beginning of the modern age. This is when mankind started to make meaningful movement into science and technology. As such, mankind started to subtly shift into a belief that man’s destiny was in man’s hands, that all problems could be solved by man through medicine, management and technology. Steve Forbes writes that around the turn of the 20th century the Progressive movement began to implement its vision that problems are solved through “trained experts” that would solve problems through their expertise and governmental power and authority, basically that solutions had to be imposed on people by a some how elite/wiser class of people. (Forbes Mag June 10, 2013 pp 11-12) People had to be shown what was best for them in a technical way, the only way in life was through science and expertise.
Certainly the technological advances of the last two hundred years have been staggering and have benefited mankind extraordinarily, I’m not oblivious or some kind of troglodyte. I spent twenty years in corporate finance mostly in the high-tech industry. I grew up, professionally, in one of the most staggeringly, technologically progressive time in history. Technology has a downside, to too many people who have been left behind in the modern age, it is seen as the panacea. The priests of this era and today are judges, scientists and medical doctors. Articles of faith such as in evolution (which very few credible scientists accept anymore) are as prevalent in science and medicine as in religion. No one ever seems to think out how this ends. While there have been tepid attempts to reconcile this somehow with thinking that God now realizes how enlightened and deserving we are of going right to heaven. Only “really evil” people go to hell, you know, like Hitler. There really isn’t sin, and it doesn’t matter, somehow or another God works it out, after all a holy God would never send people to hell. No one who says this ever has a shred of documentation, or substantive proof, but that’s their “opinion”, and since God is really just some sort of indulgent grandfather figure who, as the Joel Osteens, would like to tell us “only wants to bless us”, materially, without a shred of substantive proof, we can merrily go on our way, “this isn’t serious anyway, it works out the way I want to, so I can just live life the way I want to, so long as I’m good.”
It’s not what God says, but hey who really knows if all that Bible stuff is really true. I will admit that the church has allowed the “powder puff” version of Christianity and made a relationship with Jesus a morality story, again on our own terms, according to our own vision.
The reality is that God is just as much the God of the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) now as He ever was and He will ever be. The post-modern era has at least raised the awareness that there is much more to man then technology and expertise. If anything the pendulum, as it oft does, seems to have swung to the other ridiculous end of the spectrum. Not only are we spirit and physical, but we are entitled (yea that word that recent generations live by), to decide how we see God and we see no intellectual disconnect in millions of people creating their own God. Mark Twain observed: “God created man in His own image, man has been returning the favor ever since.” Yes we are a spiritual people very much tied to the material and we do benefit greatly from technology. We are all created by one omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, transcendent God. This same God has revealed Himself in a manner that has been compelling for thousands of years, in what we know as the Bible. The Bible is a history of God working very specifically through a very ancient people. The identity of those people was then transferred to those people who now constitute the Body of Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father.
Again yes, there is failure on the part of the church to be taken seriously, I agree totally that the church has catered to the adolescent, if not pre-adolescent mentality instead of truly challenging people. None the less, there is a responsibility on the part of each person to turn to God and to rely on His guidance, church not withstanding. I’m not trying to minimize the role of the church. The church was given the “keys to heaven and to hell” by Jesus, the Lord’s Supper and baptism, these are the things that truly do save, strengthen, encourage and fortify the Christian believer. We certainly have a responsibility to hold up Jesus and to continue to present Him as our only salvation, because He is. My prayer is this, that the Holy Spirit prevail upon people, en masse, help them to understand that the reality of life on earth and in eternity is only through Jesus Christ. That this post-modern movement that is swinging us to an understanding that we are much more then science and education, much more, will help us to also understand that it is not our call to decide on personal salvation, as if it were an on-line application that we fill out and UPS delivers to us in less then a week. It is only through Christ, through His church, through His sacraments of baptism, Lord’s Supper, through the preached Word, that we have the assurance of Christ as the Lord of our life and of our eternity. Anyone I ever talk to about their salvation has this sort of wispy, vaporous vision of eternity. If this is heaven so be it, because according to Christian revelation eternity is in the resurrection, the very physical recreating of us into what will be perfect, in the perfect physical world, restored to the way it was intended at creation. We will be in the eternal presence of our Lord Jesus Christ who has promised that we would have life, “ I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10. Our life in eternity will be more fulfilling, more abundant then anything we can imagine. So maybe we ought to stop trying to create our own eternity, in our own imagination and rely on the perfect eternity in Christ. He is God and He is going to give us a world that we couldn’t even begin to imagine.
In the very same issue of Forbes, Rich Karlgaard points out: “Personal growth is everyone’s duty. Every major religion says so….the secular pillars of society – science, reason and enlightenment – say the same thing. Progress comes from inquiry, effort, discipline, testing, learning, reflection and wisdom…” (Forbes Mag June 10, 2013 p 32)
Hiding behind science, medicine, only what I can actually hold stunts the growth of people, we have understood for millenium our spiritual aspect. We are finally maturing back into an understanding of our spiritual, eternal life, a part of our life that has been stifled and stunted since the beginning of the “Modern Age”. Having said that, we seem not to have progressed past the adolescent mindset, that in terms of God, it’s all about me. It’s not! We can “learn” all we want, but one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity is that until we are reborn spiritually, through baptism, we are dead. As spiritual beings we have the obligation to continue to mature. God will continue to work on us and teach us through various aspects of life so that we grow as spiritual beings, Christians. God made exceptions, but for the vast majority of us, the maturation process can only be done in and through the church. Not through some self-centered, pie-in-the -sky, what’s convenient for me and in it for me, what I want. It only counts if it’s what God wants. He has given us His Son and his church, that is what He wants and how He does it.
Is it time for you t reconsider a paradigm that was wrongly conceived to being with? The idea that somehow it is up to us to solve all problems, we don’t need God, to where we are today that means God completely out of our worldview? Post-modernism has realized this fallacy of modernism. We know there is a spiritual side of man. Instead of perpetuating the modernist idea that it’s still up to us. Let’s remember prayer, that God, and God is the Father of Jesus Christ, God is the only answer to our spiritual needs and His Holy Spirit will lead us back to the riches of life in Jesus Christ, life eternal. Let’s go back to the realization that it’s not what we do, but what God does through us that’s important.