Thursday, November 20, 2014

The More Things Change …

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  (1 Tim 1:15)

While reading more of Arnobius of Sicca, I was struck by a comment he makes about pagan reaction to Christianity:
These are your ideas, these are your sentiments, impiously conceived, and more impiously believed.  No, rather, to speak out more truly, the diviners, the dream interpreters, the soothsayers, the prophets, and the custodians of shrines, ever vain, have devised these fables.  For they, fearing that their own arts be brought to nothing, and that they may extort but paltry fees from the devotees, now few and infrequent, whenever they have found you to be willing that their craft should come into disrepute, cry aloud:
“The gods are neglected, and in the temples there is now a very thin attendance.  Former ceremonies are exposed to derision, and the time-honored rites of institutions once sacred have sunk before the superstitions of new religions.  Justly is the human race afflicted by so many pressing calamities, justly is it racked by the hardships of so many toils.  And men—a senseless race—being unable, from their inborn blindness, to see even that which is placed in open light, dare to assert in their frenzy what you in your sane mind do not blush to believe.”
The Case against the Pagans, I.24

Wait a minute!  Am I reading of early fourth-century pagans against Christians, or am I reading the transcript from a twenty-first-century news show discussing politics and economics?  The objections and underlying arguments are nearly identical: speculative prognostication is challenged, and in an effort to secure funding, the pundits cry out in a shrill voice that the truth-tellers are spewing superstitious nonsense—this in an effort to maintain income for pontificating ideas based more on predilection than fact.

Or could be I reading of a response from a recent church body gathering that has chosen to adhere more to cultural norms than scripture and have decided to distance themselves from those troglodytes who actually believe that the Bible means what it says?  The same shrill tone, reasoning, and conclusions can be found in an effort to maintain the shoddy foundation and rickety infrastructure upholding the organization.

Whether in politics, economics, or the church, why would people vigorously oppose the truth?  It is because they love the lie and the system upholding it.  In order to properly build God’s house, the apostle Paul relied on the foundation given him, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:10-11), to lay a foundation for the assembly in Corinth.  To the church in Ephesus, he referred to Jesus as the cornerstone by which the foundational Church offices would be properly aligned and the structure joined together (Eph 2:19-21).  All attempts to reshape or refine the scandal of the gospel to make it palatable leave the life and work of Christ as no more than exemplary human drama or the zenith of spiritual achievement.  Whatever creative way Jesus may be presented which removes the sin problem leaves us with nice guy, not the Savior we need.

Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  We do not want to admit the need, but when we do and believe on Him, there is reconciliation between God and us and rest in knowing that we are accepted in the beloved.  May we keep that message central.

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