For those who prosper in what they desire in temporal matters are to be admonished, when all things answer to their wishes, lest, through fixing their heart on what is given, they neglect to seek the giver; lest they love their pilgrimage instead of their country; lest they turn the supplies for their journey into hindrances to their arrival at its end; lest delighted with the light of the moon by night, they shrink from beholding the clearness of the sun.
Gregory the Great, 540-604 AD, Pastoral Rule, Part III, Chapter XXVI (translated by Rev. James Barmby, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. XII, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, T & T Clark and Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, p.55)
Is there a danger of ignoring God in times of prosperity? How can that be avoided?
One of G. K. Chesterton's creations is the fictional detective, Father Brown. This unprepossessing sleuth shows himself consistently able to solve perplexing mysteries that baffle those around him. When badgered by an American acquaintance, Mr. Chace, he ends up revealing his secret. Father Brown says he solves crimes by putting himself in the state of mind of the one who committed them. And by doing so, he identifies the culprit. This method shocks the healthy-minded Chace, who wants to see criminals as a breed apart and completely different from normal people. These represent two opposite ways to avoid criminal behavior. Chace's viewpoint convinces people to shun criminal behavior because it is so horrible the upright citizen would not even consider it. But Father Brown's view sees criminality as something we are all capable of and therefore must be constantly on our guard to avoid.
Father Brown's approach fits the Christian perspective on sin in general. Scripture says that we are all sinners and should be aware of our own weakness in this respect (Romans 3:23; 7:14-25; 1 John 1:8-10). Therefore, we must use caution to avoid being dragged down by our propensity to sin (1 Corinthians 10:12,13; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). But in Evangelicalism we have too often adopted Chace's approach. We have tried to get people not to sin by emphasizing how heinous and abnormal certain sins are. And I am convinced this is a serious error. Because once you encounter those who are doing the thing in question and find they are otherwise normal, it undermines your resolve to avoid such actions. Therefore, there is a tendency that whenever a thing becomes popular, it becomes acceptable. Also, this viewpoint makes it difficult to reach out to those involved in or struggling with the behavior involved. Or to admit you are struggling with such desires yourself. It reinforces the idea that this could never happen to me, leaving people unprepared and more likely to yield when faced with temptation. Therefore, in attempting to scare people away from sin, we can make them more likely to succumb to it.
But Scripture takes a different approach. Jesus, the only perfect man, reaches out to crooked tax collectors, women with questionable pasts, and other sinners (Matthew 9:9-13; John 4:7-18; Luke 19:1-10). For sinners are offered forgiveness through the work of Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10; Philippians 3:3-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-16). But those who regard themselves as fundamentally distinct from sinners are rebuked (Luke 18:9-14; 7:36-50; Romans 2:1). Therefore, we should not see ourselves as those who are somehow immune to sin, but be on guard against our natural tendency to do wrong. And teach others to approach the issue in the same way.
One of the problems with the present divided state of the church is that it makes it easy, when we encounter problems, just to leave. And it can encourage us not to even bother trying to work things out. And churches can come to take the same attitude. If you do not like the way we do things here, there is another church down the street. Now I am convinced there is a point where it is necessary to leave a particular congregation and go to another. But I am also convinced that the kind of unity Christ requires (Philippians 2:1-11; Ephesians 4:1-3; Colossians 3:12-14) involves real commitment and a genuine attempt to work things out (Romans 12:18; Matthew 5:23,24; 18:15). We need to remember that whether or not we are part of the same congregation with someone, we are still part of the universal church, which is Christ's body (Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 3:10,11). Therefore, even if we are leaving a particular congregation, this does not nullify the obligation to make the effort to be reconciled with the people we are at odds with. There is a point when someone should leave a congregation. But it should only be when an effort has been made by both sides to settle their differences, if there are any.
For this 1000th post,I would like to recap the ones that deal with the question of whether there exists a God who can intervene in history. Now the existence of such a God does not prove Christianity is true. But if there is such a God, the obvious place to look for Him is where it is claimed He has revealed Himself. And if we believe that evidence indicates there is such a God, we will examine the claims of these faiths in a different way than we would if we start with the conclusion there is no God.
1. We must avoid certain too simple counter arguments. (see, see, see)
2. Science does not prove there is not a God who intervenes in the world.(see, see, see)
3. The idea that there is no such thing as truth does not make sense.(see, see, see)
4. The natural world cannot be explained without God.(see, see, see)
5. Meaningful thought requires that there is something which transcends the mere physical universe. (see, see, see)
6. The existence of morality requires a Lawgiver. (see, see, see)
7. The existence of Christianity requires more than just a naturalistic explanation. (see)