The Christian Story Organizes a Lot of Reality
Emerson did not believe in the Christian view of sin. Light, rather than darkness, is what Emerson believed resided in the human heart. As a result, no religious authority had anything of real value to offer Emerson.16
What does the Christian story have to offer someone like Emerson? The short answer is the same thing it offers to all human beings. However, since all humans embody different types of resistance to the gospel, we must be shrewd like Jesus (Matt. 10:16; John 4:1–42) in how we communicate. At the end of the day, the gospel is scandalous, but let’s work hard to ensure that it is the scandal of the gospel people reject rather than our superficial, sound-bite presentations soaked in bumper-sticker platitudes.
I’ve had opportunities to write about the ideas of sin and redemption for secular newspapers and magazines.17 It is possible to speak truthfully about the gospel and show how it relates to every person, even the most famous and self-sufficient.
Just like all of us, Emerson could not escape the tough stuff of life. He experienced devastating loss. The death of Emerson’s first wife shook his world. His grief translated to daily visits to her grave, even opening Ellen Louisa’s coffin as if to convince him that his beloved bride was indeed dead.
Christians have much to offer here. Christians can honestly face the ugly and uncertain realities of mortality. Jesus has delivered us from the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). Christ’s resurrection gives us a hope-filled harbinger of our own resurrection (1 Cor. 15:16–20).
Remember Mr. Emerson!
Like Emerson, transcendentalism may no longer be in the lexicon of most Americans, but its influence lives on. Whether we know it or not, Emerson broke the dam, and we Americans now swim in Emersonian waters. The water is refreshing to hyper-individualized Americans which sadly includes many of us Christians.
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