Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, Amazon.com and the Bible - page6

 

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Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, Amazon.com and the Bible: Why understanding these rival stories is important for our present time
by Trevin Wax, Managing editor of “The Gospel Project”, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages.

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There’s a challenge for the church: Christians occupy a cultural moment in time in which the sexual revolution promotes the freedom to express oneself sexually as a major aspect of human flourishing. The Christian virtues of chastity or purity are seen not merely as old-fashioned or dated, but as repressive and harmful to the human psyche. To tell someone not to act on certain sexual desires is to tell that person not to be authentic, to deny who that person is deep down. To respond to this critique, Christians must be equipped to do more than simply stand against the sexual revolution; we must cultivate a different kind of culture, with different assumptions, different expectations, and a deeper vision of “authenticity.”

In the meantime, part of the compassionate response required of the church is to cultivate a haven of human flourishing, where God’s design for sexuality, marriage, and the family can be implemented. This creation of a counterculture must not only be a prophetic word against the sexual revolution in society; it must also welcome in the “refugees,” those who have been wounded and betrayed by the failed promises of the revolution.

Consumerism’s “Fulfillment”

Finally, we turn to Amazon.com, the best representative of the story of consumerism. How do we proclaim the gospel in an age when virtually anything can be delivered to our doorstep through a simple click? An age where even our time is oriented toward purchasing? The medieval times were filled with holy days and feasts commemorating saints and festivals. Today our calendar is structured around consumerism. We go from Christmas to all sorts of exercise and dieting offers in January (which is a purge of consumeristic excess, but even the purge is sold to us in consumer terms) to Valentine’s Day candy and flowers to Easter treats, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Note how most of these “holidays” aren’t “holy days” in the old sense, but “shopping days” in the new sense. And why should we be surprised? When the purpose of life is consumption, then time is refigured to help us consume more and better. You are a self-made, self-sufficient human being. You work your way up the ladder, take steps in your career, and wind up in the end with a big house, nice car, and expensive clothes. Your journey is toward wealth and security.

If consumerist eschatology tells the story of the self-made individual moving from a place of financial poverty to wealth and status and success, then the church must tell the story of an individual moving from spiritual death to new life in Christ, from immaturity in Christ to representing Him well before the world. Growth in holiness, from one’s conversion until one’s death or Christ’s return, must become the dominant narrative by which Christians live. The goal of discipleship is Christlikeness; Christians must not judge growth or success by the world’s standards, but rather by God’s. The question must never be “are we keeping up with the Joneses?” but “are we looking more like Jesus?”

Individuals alone will not be able to reclaim this goal of discipleship. It will require the alternative story of the community of faith, believers who see both the danger of consumerism and the opportunity. The danger is to recast Christianity in self-focused terms; the opportunity is to reclaim Christianity’s truly transformative vision for human flourishing.

To make disciples who can articulate, defend, and live out their faith in Christ in a personal and public life, we must avoid speaking of the gospel in ways that focus on therapeutic results to the exclusion or minimization of the gospel’s public nature. To be clear, the gospel as public truth does not exclude therapeutic benefits to believers. But it is only because the gospel is public truth that those therapeutic benefits are available. In other words, present the gospel as true, and people will find it helpful. Present the gospel as merely helpful, and people will consider it to be neither true nor helpful.

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