In the past couple of generations, there has been a MAJOR shift in the way that our country’s populace generally views truth, and then specifically views organized faith groups, i.e. “church” or “organized religion.”
I’d liken it to the difference between medication and a placebo. As a general rule, we find medication helpful because it works. But only if you believe in a placebo will you find it helpful. You see, a placebo is inherently powerless to help you, but if you personally think it’s helpful, in the 21st century, no one’s going to fault you for using anything that “works” for you.
Today, many modern people look at religion as something that they won’t knock you for if you find it helpful. But they do not believe it is innately helpful, much like a placebo.
Do you see the difference? Several generations ago in our country, and really in most cultures throughout history (excluding modern Europe), people have always believed that basic notions of God and religion were true, and therefore they must be helpful. But modern people believe, for the most part, that we’ve progressed beyond the need for “God” to explain things. Consequently, if you want to be naïve enough to believe in God and religion, that’s fine, but please don’t try to share those beliefs with the rest of us and certainly don’t bring them into the social arena, because no one else should have their lives negatively impacted by your distorted belief in fairy tales. In other words, the basic current understanding of faith by most of the academic elites, the movers & shakers in the world, is that if you want to gullibly swallow the placebo of Christian faith, that’s fine, but the subtle insinuation is that you’re probably pretty weak-minded for believing something so antiquated, childish, and foolish.
What’s interesting to me about this common argument against biblical truth is that, while it’s backed by more Ph.D.’s, it’s really the same basic argument as a young teenager for why she believes what she believes – she feels that way. The academic might be able to cite some research, which has value, but do NOT let academics convince you that their beliefs are entirely evidence-based. They’re not. Every assessment we make stems from presuppositions we have. No interpretation is unbiased.
So, for instance, you might ask a 14-year-old girl why she likes one of the boys from One Direction and she’ll tell you “because I LOVE him!” Okaaaay. Got it. She has a strong feeling about him, so she believes it MUST be true. You ask a 30-year-old journalist why she thinks same-sex marriage should be legalized and she’ll maybe tell you that it’s because the majority of people today deem it “right.” You explain to her that 150 years ago the majority of people in our country believed that slavery was “right” and ask if she thinks that makes it right. She’ll tell you “It’s complicated.” But, you see, her opinion really wasn’t ever based on evidence; it was based on her own personal feeling about who we should be able to love. You ask a 50-year-old biology professor what a child in a pregnant woman’s stomach is and she’ll tell you it’s a “fetus” or an “embryo” or a “zygote” or whatever term-of-the-day language we’re calling unborn children these days, but if we discovered just a fraction of that fetus’ cells on planet Mars, that exact same biologist would tell you, “We’ve found life on Mars!” Uhhhhhhh. Her declaration of an unborn child as a “fetus” and not simply a “human” is not based on evidence; it’s based on presuppositions, feelings, about what the most convenient way to define something is. Had doctors been saying “We’re going to kill your child now” for the past 50 years, I feel that the abortion number would probably be about half of what it’s been.
I don’t think I’m overreacting when I suggest that the postmodern transition from reality dictating feelings to feelings dictating reality is something of an epidemic. I see it ALL the time from a theological standpoint. People say things like, “I don’t think a loving God would allow..” or “I don’t think God would be so exclusive about….” or “I don’t think miracles make sense because…..” But it isn’t really higher logic that drives people to those conclusions. It’s their feelings. There is absolutely nothing illogical about a loving God punishing sin or a wise God holding to exclusive truth or a supernatural God possessing the ability to intervene in his own created laws. Those individuals don’t hold those opinions because they’ve just carefully thought them through. They hold those positions because they feel that way – their gut reaction, their sinful hearts, have actually clouded their judgment at that point.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that modern people are the first people to project their feelings upon objective truth, reality, and God himself. What I’m suggesting is that we are probably the first culture in history that reasons that our own personal feelings are a good barometer of making claims about truth and how God should/does operate.
You might also notice that I used women in all of the examples above. That was intentional. For starters, and I mean this as a complement to women – they tend, on average, to feel more than men. Again, in general terms, the Bible suggests that they were designed by God as more relationally aware, emotionally intuitive creatures than men. In many ways, that’s an advantage and tremendous blessing. As a human race, we NEED that. But human strengths can also become weaknesses when we trust them too much. Additionally, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve simply encountered more women than men who will tell me how God should/would operate and base it on nothing from Scripture but on what they personally feel to be right.
But what if reality alone dictated our feelings? What if something was helpful simply because it was true, not true because we found it helpful? Christians should take this one step further – what if we actually let God’s promises in the Bible dictate the way we felt about everything and everyone?
Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) If I believed the reality, I would never feel alone. After talking about how wonderfully he provides for the sparrows, Jesus said, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:31) If I believed the reality, I would never feel worthless. Jesus said, “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” (Matt. 5:5 NLT) If I believed the reality, I wouldn’t ever feel superior to others. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44-45) If I believed reality, any anger I have towards people who mistreat me would turn into compassion towards those who God intends to be my family. Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14) If I believed the reality, I’d stop beating myself up for mistakes I’ve made that God himself has already pardoned.
What kind of people would we be if we allowed the reality that the Bible teaches to shape our feelings, instead of letting feelings that are generated by sinful hearts shape our reality?
On a bigger scale, what if everyone in the world let the reality of Scripture, the truth of Jesus Christ, dictate humanity’s existence? I feel like it would be a little slice of heaven.