Can you feel the restless unsettled spirit of the day? For so long there has been this steady drumbeat of unending war, unstoppable oil, unbelievable debt. And now, is the stock market down again? Will these roads ever be fixed? When will I get my job back? How much worse can it get? Could I lose everything that I have? Can we make it through retirement? Will it ever pay to be honest again?
Are today’s problems without precedent? Hardly. We’ve been at war before. This isn’t the first time that Earth’s ecology has taken a major hit. And America once endured a Great Depression. We survived.
Temperatures have gone up and temperatures have come down. People have adapted. The economy has adjusted. Brilliant minds have devised solutions. Life goes on. Tough times never last.
Or do they?
Something different and fundamentally more troubling seems to be upon us these days. At its core, the problem is spiritual. The symptoms vary — from cancerous sarcasm to vacuous entertainment, from gnawing anxiety to sourpuss indulgence, from a lack of courage to a lack of caring. But the cause is always spiritual. And people of all ages, ethnicity and income levels are affected.
For the first time in history, there is no nation anywhere on Earth with an undergirding public consensus on the objectivity of truth, the absolute and divine basis for morality, life’s ultimate purpose or even the nature of reality. Today everything everywhere, globally, is up for grabs. Today it’s diversity, pluralism, personal opinion and individual rights. The foundations have cracked wide open.
The Bible says, “As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, The Message.)
On a recent episode of “Maine Watch,” the Rev. Jill Saxby, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, told host Jennifer Rooks there’s evidence that the largest-growing religious body in America are seekers — people who may describe themselves as spiritual, not religious, but who are searching for something.
Is she right? Does that describe you? Are you among those sorting through the current menu of 3,000 religions, sects and philosophies of life? Well, as you sort, ask yourself the following questions:
ä If it turns out that there really is such a thing as objective truth, what difference would that make? In other words, how important is it to you that your worldview conform to the truth? Important enough to be significantly inconvenienced?
ä Are you certain that you would recognize truth if you saw it?
The story is told of an impetuous, self-focused, young man about to graduate from college. He asked his wealthy father for a beautiful new sports car — one that had long attracted his attention. But on graduation day, his father handed him a Bible. The young man held the Bible in his hands for a minute. Then, suddenly, he threw it on the floor, stomped out of the room and never came back.
Years passed. One day a telegram brought him news that his father had died. Amazingly, he had willed his entire estate to his son. Now older and more tempered, the son suddenly was filled with sadness and regret. He drove to his father’s house. Upon entering, he immediately spotted the Bible that he had thrown on the floor many years earlier. With tears filling his eyes, he opened it. Inside the front cover, he found a key to the sports car that he’d requested. And then a title, dated on the very day of his college graduation.
Have you turned away empty from some mainline church body that has been gutted by liberal theology? Are you suspicious of seeker-friendly churches that have sold out to secular marketing strategies? The scam of cults, prosperity preachers and slick, storytelling telepreachers should be self-evident. And emergent churches have clearly contracted the very disease that they supposedly set out to cure.
The Bible cautions against those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It warns of those who hold “to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”
The answer is not religion of any sort. The answer is not education, politics, government, drink, drugs, fame, wealth or technology. The answer is Jesus. The real biblical Jesus. You may have yet to recognize him, but he has been there all along.
The Rev. Daryl E. Witmer is founder and director of the AIIA Institute, a national apologetics ministry, and pastor emeritus at the Monson Community Church. He may be reached at AIIAInstitute.org or by e-mail at AIIAInstitute@aol.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.