Church, let’s be on guard about the time we’re living in.
Because of globalization and instant communication, we’ve entered an era of intellectual laziness. You and I have become Google experts that can look up anything to confirm our own opinion. We are often emotionally motivated to confirm our preconceived notions from other anonymous bloggers of similar thought. So an atheist gets their ideas about Christianity from an atheist, and a Christian gets their ideas about atheism from other Christians. Might as well go to the butcher shop to ask about the growth rate of asparagus.
With globalized access anyone can claim to be an “expert,” set up a website with clever words and colorful language, and consult other so-called “experts” to confirm their feelings.
Even ten to fifteen years ago, the average person did not have a public voice. Now —
Instead of research forming an opinion, you have opinions forming research, so you have a mass network of non-expert opinions supporting one other with no intellectual follow-through.
Back “then” if you needed to inform yourself, you’d go to the library and check out books written by real experts -– people with PhDs which take about 10,000 hours of academics.
But Gabe Lyons in The Next Christians said it best —
“The implication is that anyone can claim ‘expert’ status. In a matter of minutes, any preteen can set up a website or blog and gain a global hearing. More technology leads to more distractions from faith practices and more ‘expert’ voices leads to more institutional skepticism. … The industrial age, the technological revolution, and globalization have converged to a create a world where there are more distractions and less community, more religious skepticism and less institutional trust.” (20)
This isn’t really your fault. The Internet and instant access was supposed to make us smarter, but suddenly we have a deluge of uninformed, sentiment-centered opinions with no real grounding.
I get it: people are naturally suspicious of authority. We are paranoid, we distrust, at any moment we want to rebelliously challenge institutions and corporations. It feels right to “take down the evil governments” and upset the status quo and go V for Vendetta. We buy into paranoid conspiracy theories like, “9/11 was perpetrated by the US government!” And the reality is that there are cover-ups: the BP oil spill, failure to find WMD in Iraq, religious scandals, the Catholic church abuse.
I also understand: You’ve been beat up by life or your parents suck or your situation hurts. There’s a common thread of hate and hurt underneath every pattern of thinking. It’s no surprise that the majority of prominent atheists in America have absent or abusive fathers, and also no surprise that prodigal Christians have had absolutely strict Christian homes with condemning churches and lazy preachers.
So if you’ve been gut-punched or you feel like life has no point and it’s all a man-made prison, naturally you’ll be suspicious of authority and distance yourself from God and organized religion.
But this constant atom-splitting-surgery gets so bad we can begin to question obvious reality. You can keep confirming any opinion you want until you throw out all opinions, you can keep hiding behind the shifting pretense of relativism, you can climb the ivory tower of ad hominem all you want — but there is no denying the truth. It doesn’t change. At some point the conversation must stop and we must enter conviction. Yes, question everything: but to dodge the voice of authority is a childish game. To always act how we “feel” is no better than a perpetual temper tantrum.
We must confront conviction and not be afraid to hold an authoritative truth.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” And Philip K. Dick said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” I’ll say it simply: Ignoring something doesn’t make it disappear; it makes you disappear.
My job here isn’t to persuade you into an unchanging, unshakeable faith. Only God can do that. But I pray you wouldn’t be so easily persuaded out of His goodness. I pray you wouldn’t be satisfied with the very narrow voice of our times. I pray you’d think through to the bottom of your thinking.
You’ll be told: “You can be happy without God, you don’t need him to live!” But then we’d have to define “happy” and define “need.” What does that mean? Can we actually think to the bottom of what we believe without Google? Without agendas? Without fear and mixed motives and culturally entrenched, Pavlovian-conditioned skepticism?
I believe that God is the irreducible glory when there’s nothing left. I believe He is all there is. My self-defined happiness and personal philosophy can be cut off by the uncontrollable 95% of life that happens to me. At any moment my so-called goals and success and philosophy can crumble to dust and ashes. But God remains.
So, my friend: carefully investigate all claims. Define your terms. Engage people and ideas thoughtfully. Don’t get offended, but be provoked to pursue truth. Don’t let feelings inform facts. Be careful making absolute irrevocable statements. At the same time be principled. And from me to you, because I love you, please believe: you are part of a Great Story. You were created for something more. You’re here for a purpose. I pray you’d discover this, whether you want to or not. Because yes, God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“It’s not enough to question authority. You got to speak with it, too.”