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Monday, July 10, 2017

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

“Well, you know, many roads lead up the mountain …”

So he said to me.

People say stuff like that all the time when they want to avoid facing God. “I can do it my way,” they say, hoping that saying it strongly enough will make it true. Or, they say, “Everybody’s got a piece of the truth, but nobody’s got it all,” like the story of the blind men and the elephant (if you know that little tale).

Lots of people believe that kind of nonsense: God’s going to turn out to be a big, tolerant, indefinable nothing at the end of the day. We’re all alright. Just find your own way, then be true to it, or authentic to yourself, or follow your personal path, and we’ll all get to the right place …

That’s the song of our age, an age in which everything is right, everybody is good and the “spiritual” need have nothing to do at all with God.

Channeling the Wrong Message

Two days ago, I was reading through the Old Testament, and I came to Deuteronomy 13. It’s about false prophets. And it says to Israel, “put [him] to death”, and thus “purge the evil from among you.”

Wow. Harsh. Okay, so the guy’s a jerk.

But kill him? Really? At first, that seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? Aren’t there worse crimes?

Actually, no, as it turns out.

I began to think about that. What is so unspeakably awful about false prophets and idolatry? But of course: they lead people away from the one true God, the only source of salvation, hope, light, life and blessedness … and that, for eternity! If there’s anything worse you could possibly do to another human being, I don’t know what it is. Even murder, torture and rape have their limits at the body. None of them devastate a person for eternity. But false gods and idolatry, well, those kill the soul.

Nothing’s worse. Nothing.

And that’s important to realize. To lead someone away from God is the most unspeakably evil thing a human being can do. And what would I have been doing if I had let myself agree (or even seem to agree) with the platitudes of the man who said to me, “There are many roads”?

If I had compromised with that, would I not have been a false prophet?

Gulp.

I think so. God help me never to compromise the first of all things.

Priority Number One

And it IS the first. It’s the first commandment, actually. According to Judaism, it’s really the first two commandments : “I am the Lord your God,” and “You shall have no other gods besides me.” And according to the Lord himself, it is the first and greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Everything good in the world — all of the moral law, all of the ceremonial law, and all of the ethics of living — flow out of that great principle. There is one God … the great I AM. There is, and can be, no other.

And, to drive that point home, the apostle Peter declares, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

There is no “other road”. Our God is not a mere “piece of the elephant”, a one-way telling of some larger story. There is no God but our God. Those who say otherwise are damnable liars and false prophets, coldly commissioning others to hell.

Harsh?

Think about that first commandment: “I am your God.” I am. No other. And the follow-up statement: “You shall have no other gods besides me.” Think about what that implies:
  • It implies that there are other things people believe.
  • It implies that there are other “gods” or versions of God that people want to believe in.
  • It implies that human beings will be attracted to being wrong (why else issue a commandment at all?).
  • It implies that many people will be wrong (how else is it likely to be, when the wrong thing is so attractive?)
  • It implies that to allow oneself to be drawn away is not just case of a minor flexibility or a slight mishap — it’s the ultimate wrongness, the ultimate disaster.
  • It implies that no matter how many people love the idea, or no matter how winsome their reasoning may be or how eloquent their spokespeople, they are counseling against the very first, most important, best and foundational commandment of the eternal God.
Now, in all mankind there is a longing, a deep, natural hunger that can only be satisfied when a person turns to God. It engages such other longings as the need to be loved, the impulse to preserve and extend one’s own life, the desire to matter, the yearning for an object worthy of worship, and the search for coherence, among other things. The totality of what it means to be fully human is wrapped up in finding something corresponding to these deep felt needs.

It’s one thing to doubt that anything sufficient to these longings exists. That’s bad, because it leaves the seeker empty and with no prospect of fulfillment. But it’s one step worse to teach him or her to find their fulfillment in that which is not worthy — for then, the longings themselves are abated, diminished and expended on that which will ultimately betray all hope and leave that person desolate.

Atheism creates nihilism and despair. But idol worship, false religion, does much worse: it kills the very longing that God the Father intended should drive us to him through Christ.

Atheism leaves the soul unsatisfied; but false religion gluts the soul with lies. It persuades the seeking soul that however unsatisfied it may still be, it has already found as much light, life and hope as can be found anywhere. There is no more truth. The sacred quest is done.

The false story of the equivalency of religions does just that. It ends the search for God.

Nothing’s worse. Nothing.

Command Performance

What’s the point? Only this. The next time someone says to you, “Many paths lead to heaven” or “We all have a bit of the truth” or “People of other faiths may be worshiping the same God” or even “Your God is the same as our god” … you call them on it.

Call them on it loud and long. Don’t back off. Don’t play the liberal game of “It’s all the same warm wash”. Don’t get to thinking “I don’t want to offend these people” or “If I just nod and go along nobody will be upset” or even “Maybe I’ll just say nothing.”

Squeal like a pig stuck under a gate. Or, better, speak up with calmness and reasonableness, but with absolute authority: “There is no God but our God. There is no way to him but by Jesus Christ. There is no ‘other path’ but the gospel, and no ‘larger picture’ of God but the one explicitly expressed in scripture and visibly incarnated in Jesus Christ.”

And if you don’t, then beware! You are afoul of the first and greatest commandment of the eternal God.

Consequences

Hmm. We Christians are really going to be a problem to our multicultural, all-tolerant, relativistic world, aren’t we? I wonder what they’ll do to us …

So much worse for the world. I’m picking my side right now.

How about you?

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