As I promised last week, I will finish dropping a veil, and give an explanation for some of my comments last week, and for the views that I hold.
I have no problem with accepting the fact that I am somewhat of a coot, a throwback. I realize that I am not one of the cool kids; never was, never will be. (I can’t tell you the number of my students who were awe-struck by the fact that I admitted that I was a nerd, and had no problem with that.) So when I align myself with…. uh, pretty much nobody, you must understand that it isn’t because I want to be fashionably anything. Whatever is chic, it’s a sure bet that I’m not there.
With that in mind, not caring about how we appear to others when approaching God, there are two things from last week’s post that I want to expand upon, to give a sense of my own take on authentic Christianity. (A spiritual Why & How of my Now, if you will.)
For God’s Sake, Don’t Be Frivolous
In the previous post, I referenced Screwtape’s complaint about mediocrity of modern souls; yes, there were a great quantity of souls being swept into perdition, but none with the fires of great sin burning in their hearts. My complaint is the same, only in reverse. We have active churches, we have active writers and teachers, we have a booming music (no pun intended) and publishing industry, but there seems to be no true greatness in all of this. Instead, I see a frivolity that is satisfied with play and pleasure rather than study, service and sacrifice.
To my mind, frivolous is the perfect description of modern Christianity. First off, do any of today’s Christian writers and teachers have the gravitas and unction of some of the great writers from just the last century? Who can compare with C. S. Lewis in the depth of his thought or the broad scope of his output, whether it be Christian philosophy, sci-fi, children’s fairytales or apologetics?
A generation before Lewis was G. K. Chesterton, another Brit who may have been an even more accomplished writer than Lewis. Wikipedia, in attempting to categorize him, writes that Chesterton was an “English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist.” It is said of him that he was so productive that he would be dictating two different literary works to two different stenographers at the same time.
To see the depth of thought of these two men, compare their writing about sin and law in their seminal works, Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. In the first chapter of Mere Christianity, Lewis uses the fact that men quarrel to prove “The Law of Nature,” the law of right and wrong that God has written in mankind’s hearts. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy, presciently destroyed a modern day shibboleth, “Believe in yourself.” In the second chapter, entitled “Maniac”, he tells the reader where this “perfect man”, the man who truly believes in himself, can be found; in the insane asylum. Everyone else recognized their fallen nature.
(I would be remiss if I did not direct you to a couple of resources that have been a blessing to me. For an excellent introduction into the deep, deep thought processes of Lewis, go to YouTube and watch the C. S. Lewis Doodles series taken from his BBC broadcasts, which were the foundation for Mere Christianity. Chesterton’s works are now in public domain, and so are available for free download on the internet. Chesterton’s masterpiece on theology, Orthodoxy, is available from Project Gutenberg, in several different formats including ePub and Kindle, as well as free on Amazon.)
Someone might say to me, “Okay, maybe we don’t have deep philosophers today. But have we got some great writers and teachers!” My response is, “Well, I agree we have some writers and teachers.” I know we’ve got really popular teachers like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers ……..
Okay, bad example, huh? But still we do have popular teachers and speakers, such as Max Lucado and Beth Moore, and others. I’m not knocking them, and I’m not saying that they are bad teachers; I’m saying that they aren’t deep, and they don’t take us “higher up and deeper in”, to borrow from Lewis. Yes, some are called to be “popularizers”, but where are the ones to challenge us, make us examine our hearts, and cause us to re-examine how we live?
I suppose my problem is that I am familiar with writers that get to the soul, that leave no room for negotiating God on my terms. While there are many such writers I could mention, one from the last century will suffice: A. W. Tozer.
Tozer was a Chicago pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (look it up) who edited the CMA denominational magazine, The Alliance Weekly. In each issue, he wrote the back page, an editorial, and these have been collected and are in many books that bear his name. Despite the fact that he didn’t even graduate from high school, two of his books are considered Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy.
Those of you who are familiar with the writings of Lucado, Moore, Piper, MacArthur, and other writers, take this challenge. Go to your bookshelves and find books by these authors; examine these books, and highlight their greatest passages, that speak deep into the hearts of men. Then go to a couple of pages on the internet that have Tozer quotes and examine them. (I’ll help you with links at the end of this post.) See how many modern quotes make you put down the book and think, and maybe even re-examine yourself. (Or, unfortunately, how few.) Then note how so many of Tozer’s quotes make you shut your laptop and cause you to chew on what he writes.
I find that I can’t read Tozer straight through. As a man who served as an associate pastor in the past and has done his share of preaching, I find that just a page or two of Tozer makes me want to break out in about ten sermons.
And one thing that I appreciate in Tozer is his ability to write a punchy line, when called for. In preparing for this post, I found a new one and I love it:
“One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team.”
Well, I’ve done it again; I’ve gotten too verbose and written more than I should. At the start of this post, I said that there were two things from last week’s post I wanted to expand on, and if I tried to do that here, this would be interminably long. I do apologize for my expansive tendencies, but I promise I will finish next week. I intend to write about the difference between The Living Faith of the Dead vs. The Dead Faith of the Living. To me, it’s crucial.
Please come back.
As promised, here are the links to Tozer quotes: