HAVE WE LOST OUR MNDS? by David Garner

When we 50-somethings were children, American optimism taught us that we could be astronauts, professional athletes, astrophysicists, or neurosurgeons. Our choice. Imagination alone limited potential and opportunity, and dreaming big guaranteed living large. But our societal professors lied to us. They told us social, physical and mental limitations were artificial; leftovers of a less wise age, they were illusions to be rejected. Modern dreams, we were told, come true. Was there a ceiling? Well, only as high as our thoughts could rocket.

Of course the promises failed, because unlimited human potential and catching stratospheric dreams are myths. And even though nearly all of us landed jobs with monetary values tumbling well below the cloudy thresholds, most of us still clung tightly to the lie. Why? We loved it. Even empty optimism tasted good. Even after we abandoned the hollow hopes in a chest of yesteryears, we never forsook the lust for self-fulfillment. We had become junkies for sugary sanguinity. We became fools for the lie that the world really is our oyster.

But it is worse than that. These lies of previous years not only hung around the neighborhood, they reproduced like rabbits. Refusing their confining boundaries, they hopped to new realms and bounded to new heights. Autonomy and opportunity were no longer just about professions, but about our entire existence. Vocational choices, all ours, of course. But so too are personal and moral choices. Sexual freedoms, all ours. Gender choice, all ours. All decisions, all ours. Kuyper’s Christ had met his match. Together with millions of others, we claimed, “There is now not a single square of inch of the universe over which my own heart does not declare, ‘it is mine.’”

It was and is disastrous. Any who still think freedom comes by asserting self, welcome to the cage of sin, the Alcatraz of condemnation. The Almighty himself warned us that defiant claims and defiant dreams shackle every self-proclaimed master of his own fate and captain of his own soul (to coopt Henley’s famous Invictus). Indeed we have boarded our own ships, but rather than charting their courses and piloting to new vistas of self-determination, we find ourselves slavishly gripping the oars with sullen faces and whitened knuckles. As oarsmen chained to our filth and foolishness, we stroke desperately at our moronic immoral monotony.
Consider a few illustrative points, some of which smack very close to home. Yes, even some self-identifying evangelicals sit brashly in the seat of scoffers. Desecrating the law of God, we have demanded the unrestrained murder of infants in the womb. Untold numbers of “Christians” defend a woman’s right to abortion. Defying the Word of God, we have ordered our nation to redefine marriage and normalize homosexuality. Even certain “evangelicals” like Mathew Vines, argue that the church has misinterpreted the biblical sexuality texts for millennia. Hordes, millennials in particular, have grafted themselves into Vines’ “gospel” defense of homosexuality. Denying biblical wisdom, we have told our children they can believe whatever they wish about themselves and their world—their gender, their identity, their religion, their morals, their music, their video games, their gods. “Believe, say, think, and be whatever you want. God will love you anyway.” All such “Christian” versions of my-child-is-the-center-of-the-universe are pagan to their core.

Our children have taken our beloved lie and run with it into an abyss of hopelessness.

In Babel-esque form, this 21st century wisdom informs us that God is who we make him to be and that we can get to him on our own terms, in our own way, by our own theological preferences, using our own moral grid. Our lives are for us, defined within us, and governed by us. Our advance is so great, in fact, that should we decide God doesn’t exist, well, poof! He somehow disappears. What power! What freedom! What foolhardiness.

Such is the progress of damned fools. Just ask the Apostle Paul. Describing the downward spiral of men’s hearts as they ungratefully reject the self-revealing Almighty, the apostle writes, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21–22).
Note a few salient points. Genuine understanding and wisdom derive from trust in the one true God, and never by moral autonomy. Knowledge comes by faith and obedience, by yielding to the God of heaven. Sanity is a product of humble sanctity. The corollary is unavoidable. Rejection of God by moral rebellion against him produces increasing blindness. We fail to think rightly if we do not believe rightly; we see clearly only when God’s revelation illumines are path. Corruption corrupts cognition. The right to choose all has become the fight in which we lose all.

A recent video[1] went viral on the Worldwide Web. Microphone in hand, an interviewer asked University of Washington students a series of questions about gender, bathrooms, and self-identity. Even for those of us studied about the Bruce Jenner age, college students’ vacuous and vapid answers drop jaws. But the initial series of questions and answers descended to a more dumbfounding low. After the initial set of inquiries, the young, white, and vertically challenged interviewer asked students if they would affirm him as a 6 foot 5 inch tall, Chinese woman. Caught in the trap of absurdity, students stumbled all over themselves to defend his right to self-identify in this way, though most admitting it something hard to swallow.

Ten years ago, these students’ answers would have laid them on the psychiatrist’s couch. Today such “open” mindedness gets cheers, as 21st century freedom conquers its last frontier: I am only free if I am willing to deny what I patently know to be true or to affirm what I patently know to be false. I am free when I become an idiot.

Have we lost our minds?

Well, in a word, yes. Yes, we have. God warned us that we would. It ought to come as no surprise that our so-called contemporary wisdom has ripened into unconstrained idiocy. Our blindness has reached its maturity; we have lost our way, lost our sense of direction, and lost our compass. So warmed by our feelings of “authentic” self-satisfaction and cherished moral autonomy, most Americans don’t even realize we are blindly, and yes, authentically, careening into an abyss. History attests to our demise. More importantly, God assures us of it.
Furthermore, as Paul discloses, like a flesh-eating disease, sin destroys; it never builds. Societies that assume autonomy acquire greater blindness. Indeed defiance and blindness are monstrously synergistic—the combination is worse than the individual ailments. Those who openly reject God simultaneously close their minds: they see themselves as wise, yet they are actually foolish. Increased rebellion turns humanity into animals rather than freed sons.

These days are desperate times, but the widespread societal desperation is not to be a matter of tears or fears. It offers rich opportunity, since neighbors, friends and family become increasingly frantic over uncertainties, sorrows, and suffering. As cultural rebellion straps us in the straightjacket of corporate absurdity, the argument that salvation comes only from outside us will become increasingly compelling. The answer to the moral morass and cultural insanity is the gospel of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ, we have the Answer. Let no one’s muzzle-demands concerning Jesus keep us silent. Those that revel in their corruption do so blindly and will defy Jesus vigorously, hate us vengefully, and reject him and us violently. But the rejection of the Answer does not invalidate the Answer. Nor does it invalidate their real need for him.
Our world truly needs the Jesus change of mind. It needs the Jesus change of heart. Only Christ and his outpoured Spirit deliver.

[12] Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. [13] And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. [14] The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. [15] The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. [16] “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12–16)

Are we out of our minds? Apart from Christ, yes. But in him, we see clearly, understand truly, and live in pure, holy freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)

Scripture points us to the redeeming grace of God in Christ, calls us and our neighbors to turn to God in repentance, trust in his Son, and to give an eager ear to his Word. The Spirit of the risen Christ Jesus is poured out on those who believe, turning all who believe from darkness to light; that is, from the black hole of self-sufficiency to the light of Christ’s glorious kingdom. Christ’s light illumines eyes only when it warms hearts.
Christ alone is the answer to the madness.

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David Garner is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary Philadelphia and blogs at PLACE FOR TRUTH. 

FOOTNOTE:

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho. Accessed August 9, 2016.

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