A significant part of the price of faith is the loss of one’s illusions. Naturally, this comes in some measure to most adults at some time in life. But for believers, it is a signal event (or process, since it seldom happens all at once). In particular, one who places faith in Christ finally comes to give up all hope of saving himself, knowing it to be a vain and empty ambition, regardless the vehicle, i.e.
, culture, career, church, or character. It cannot happen, and it will not happen. We rely entirely on God’s grace. The sooner one faces that, the better.
That train of thought was stimulated last week by seeing a web site that invites people to post videos of their confessions of unbelief. Blasphemies abound on these videos, as one might expect, and some people have posted videos that feature explicit denial of the Holy Spirit, presumably the “unforgivable sin.” At the end of one such, the subject, a teenage girl, expressed her contempt by saying, “See ya in hell.” The originator of the web site, named something like “Blasphemy Contest”, explains that he is providing a place for people, particularly young people, to throw off the bondage of oppressive religion. Setting aside the preponderance of monkey-business and fatuous jokes, there is no doubt that it does work in that way, to some extent.
The site itself caused a modest uproar among Christian spokesmen and the media, three years ago when it first emerged. All the fire and smoke has long since passed, of course, but I wonder if Christian leaders heard the message. Illusions must be discarded along the path that follows Christ. One of those illusions is that religious belief and practice saves. It is one of the most common myths of childhood: follow the dictates of your family’s religion or you will go to hell. Even, and perhaps especially, when the parents are evangelical Christians, young people often acquire this myth at an early age. The reason is that it maps well to typical early training. The child’s behavior is first controlled through a rewards-and-punishment system, from the earliest experiences of life. So, when one first learn about God, the natural response is to press what is known of the cosmic organization into this rewards-and-punishment framework. Since culture very often reinforces this view, it is not surprising that this nascent works salvation ideal is very widespread.
Perhaps none of us are entirely free of it even at mature age: God, the hair-splitting accountant, watches our every move, noting our merits and demerits with pristine and indelible precision, and our job is to make the merits outweigh the demerits. Half an hour with the book of Romans ought to be enough to disabuse us of this illusion. But, like the “old” man that still haunts us, we carry around the myth of works salvation because we want to accomplish something. It enables us to feel good about ourselves when we need it from time to time.
While some Christians were aghast at the unbelief web site, I drew the tiniest degree of comfort from it. Here, at least, were some people who have definitively rejected false religion. Having denied the myths of childhood, perhaps they will now be open to the true Gospel and able to receive the genuine love and grace of God, which is through Jesus Christ. I am not saying that I think blasphemy is a good idea (although truth be told, in blaspheming a false religion, it is hard to see how anyone is any worse off). I am
saying that the god of the religious myth is no true god. Rejecting that god is a good thing. Of course, many will stop right there, but for some it might be a step towards discovering the God Who is
there. That alone should define for us a strategy for reaching those lost souls and perhaps many more: preach Christ and Christ alone. Forget worldview (it is as wrong as one’s remaining illusions). Forget the myth. Forget the dos and don’ts, the musts and mustn’ts, the shoulds and shouldn’ts. It is the person of Jesus that alone is the starting place for faith and salvation. He is calling people from every background and persuasion.