Things That Cannot Be Shaken
- Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Chapter One: Says Who?
He Whose Word Cannot Be Broken
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Form'd thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
Thou may'st smile at all thy foes.
The Question of Authority
Today's young adults face some special challenges.1 Whatever the proper label—whether postmodern, postconservative, or posteverything—the ideas and beliefs of popular culture have so inundated life in this world that such ideas and beliefs can all too easily become a natural part of our thinking and living. A college student on a typical campus today has learned the cultural drill well: "Doubt everything taught by anyone; submit your ideas to no authority." To fail to doubt is to fail to be heard. Perhaps no demographic in the history of our country has been fed a daily diet so heavy in tolerance and inclusiveness and so light in truth as these newer generations have. Any form of authority exists to be challenged, ignored, and likely rejected. To accept the ultimate authority of any person, document, or institution is to be bigoted, intolerant, unloving, and self-righteous.
The conventional wisdom dictates that we view the drama of life played out around us with a combination of cynicism, skepticism, and suspicion. In a context of such confusion, it is hard to convince oneself of what is real, or really important. We have been taught to take hold of our own destinies and to create our own reality. In far too many cases, we have attempted to do exactly this—and seen disastrous results.
The newer generations living in the twenty-first century have never known what life is like without television or videocas-sette/CD/DVD recorders or TiVO. Because of technology, we can, at least in some sense, "create" the reality we desire. It is now possible, for example, to program electronic screens with what we want to see when we want to see it. We can use pre-selected iPod tunes as the soundtrack for our lives. This has the double effect of, on the one hand, creating the feelings and ambience we desire, and on the other hand, letting the rest of the world go by.
In this kind of environment, many of the new generation say they believe in Christianity, that they trust God and his Word, but become tongue-tied, embarrassed, or defensive when their beliefs are questioned or challenged. Not only so, the notion of a universal authority that applies to one and all is almost completely foreign to the contemporary context. The authority of Christ and his Word is acceptable at the personal level perhaps, but it is almost a foregone conclusion that it cannot be applied to everyone.
Not too long ago, a group of students (twenty-somethings) gathered for a Bible study. The speaker had spent a fair amount of time discussing the authority and truth of the Bible with these self-professed Christian believers. Near the end of the meeting, group members began to ask questions: But what about the Koran? What about the Book of Mormon? How do the findings of numerology or "historical facts" contained in other ancient documents affect the authority of the Bible? Is there really only one way to God? Are not all religions just different ways of saying the same thing? Why should we believe the Bible's claims over the claims of other religions? There seems to be a significant gap in the ability of most today to synthesize the truth of the Bible with what we see around us. Because of this inability, the Bible is reduced to the level of helpful personal advice and inspirational thought.
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