By now the news cycle is moving past Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal. After all, we are not allowed to intellectually reflect on what they are actually intellectually expressing by their words or behavior. This is because the reigning ideology in the West, of which Jenner and Dolezal are nearly perfect representations, affirms that there is no objective reality that is what it is regardless of what we think, feel or do about it, or in response to it.
The Triune God of Scripture, it has been determined by the reigning elites in Western culture, does not exist. By the way, do you suppose that their decision about the Triune God of Scripture prevents him from existing? (Think through the implications.) If the Triune God of Scripture really exists, then there is an objectivity to reality, and we are all capable of receiving knowledge of reality that is true, not simply for us. Our knowledge of truth that is in some way true for everyone for all times and places is rooted in God creating us in his image as males and as females. Because these things are true, they are the very basis for you to be able to make sense of the sentences I have written. If the God revealed in the Old and New Testament does not exist, then you would have no basis upon which to explain my ability to communicate with you through a written text, or have any basis upon which to affirm that there is any objectivity to anything you experience. If humans determine reality and do not merely discern an already existing reality brought into existence by the Triune God and sustained by him, then we get to define all the terms we use, and none of us are accountable to anyone other than ourselves for what we think, say, feel or do, except insofar as others can force themselves upon us and “make us accountable” in the way that they want.
You see, once you dispense with the biblical Triune God in your thinking, then all you have is you and what you can do with what you have available to you. Human’s and their choices are god. This is currently the reigning ideology in the West and America in particular. We could call it the “My-choices-determine-the-reality-I-live-in” ideology. I choose my feelings. I choose my gender. I choose my race. I choose what is. What I believe is real is real. Now, just to be clear, this is precisely what the apostle Paul affirmed as the essence of sin in Romans 1:18-32. Sin is absurd. Sin is lunacy. Sin is moral foolishness. It is intellectual stupidity. It is what Jesus lived, died and rose again to get rid of in his creation. Thank God he did and it has been, is being and will be defeated. One of the ways it is defeated is through a thorough understanding of it.
Sadly, what is too often the case, I fear, is that scores of people who profess to be Christians actually think right in step with Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal, and this “I-live-by-my-choices” ideology. Some of them even lead congregations of the Lord Jesus. Now, I know we all have indwelling sin. I know that we all think and live by this ideology to one degree or another. While Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in important ways unleashed this frosting to the “let’s-celebrate-freedom-from Christianity-European-Enlightenment” upon us, this is nothing less than the expression of every sin sick human soul. My concern is the degree to which many professing Christians and, yes, even many pastors, seminary professors, and congregational leaders embrace this ideology in the name of Christianity.
Let me state the belief system of the West differently: It is the idea that humans must do that which God has already done, is doing and will do.
God is life. God gives, interprets, judges, redeems and destroys life. All human thoughts, feelings, words, and actions are under the ultimate governance or control of the Triune God revealed in the Old and New Testament. Jesus expressed it this way to Pontius Pilate shortly before Jesus died on the cross: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). To his disciples to whom eternal life had been granted Jesus said this: “. . . apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Same fundamental truth.
There is no life apart from God. God creates, sustains, interprets, judges, redeems, and yes, even destroys life by his word and Spirit. God chose to give life and then he chose to give means of grace or means of life by which he continues to create, nourish, and perfect his church. Any other philosophy of ministry not centered on and functionally demonstrating dependence on God’s established means of grace, or means of life—his word preached, the sacraments and prayer—is a philosophy of ministry that is expressing the same fundamental ideology expressed by Jenner and Dolezal–dependence on human choices to experience life.
Perhaps many of us regard Jenner and Dolezal’s actions as absurd and appalling, and rightly so. And, yes, one can think the latter and still grieve for them and pray for their salvation. Sadly, scores of ministers of the gospel operate by philosophies of ministry that reveal that they think that they, or all God’s people collectively, must do what God has already done, is doing and will do. Rather than shaking our heads at Jenner and Dolezal, many congregations and pastors need to repent of substituting their abilities for God’s in their attempt to bring in his kingdom.
Fill in the blank: “If we just did ___________________ then people would come to the Lord, and our churches would be growing.” Do you realize that strictly speaking there is nothing that should go in that blank? The statement that I placed in quotes, or any equivalent to it, does not square with Scripture. By itself even God’s word does not produce life or God’s kingdom. God’s word must be used by God’s Spirit for life to come. When humans speak God’s word, if the Spirit of God does not give life, and thereby true understanding of that word, then all we have is God’s covenant curse—death, ignorance, or all that we can call ours as sinful humans. God is not dependent on us for anything, at any time, in any way. God brought his kingdom. God is bringing his kingdom. God will bring his kingdom. Yes, of course, he tells his people to do things. He tells us to do those things because he caused us to repent, and he alone sustain this eternal life that he gave us, and he alone will perfect it. We are dependent on him, constantly. We can even utilize the means of grace and see no fruit from their use, if God so chooses not to bless.
Sadly, too many congregational leaders believe that if they just find the right guy, or just do the next great thing—that cutting edge, brilliant, culturally engaging thing—then their congregation will be “relevant,” it will grow (always means numbers, never maturity). “If we just choose X, we can have life.” “If I just do X, I can have satisfaction or security or significance.” Some are probably thinking: “Well, if I choose Jesus, then I have life.” Okay, I’ll grant the argument. How do deadened sinners choose Jesus? God says we are dead in our sin, enslaved to it, and that apart from him no one seeks for him (Eph. 2:1-3; John 8:34; Romans 3:10-18). The Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace that teaches that God has given enough grace to give everyone the ability to choose Jesus for salvation is not found in Scripture. It is necessary for the Arminian system that presses a humanistic glaze and filter over Scripture. We are utterly dependent on God always for everything.
We have some who work at trying to “grow” the kingdom, or “grow” their congregation (again, numbers not maturity). They do so feverishly and sincerely, oh, are they ever sincere. Herein lies a spacious window on the problem—their sincerity is the litmus test. How could they possibly be wrong? Too many of us in the church are no different in our approach to life then Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal, or millions of others, we too think that we can measure all reality, manipulate all reality, manufacture reality and then manage it. It’s all about our choices. And in such instances all that marks our lives cannot exceed us and our abilities, and in the end, all we have with us, is still us, with all our confusion and death. What we need is God. Use his means of grace–the preached word, the sacraments and prayer, then wait on the Lord and rest content with what he does or does not provide.