The last few days have been interesting to say the least, haven’t they? We are certainly living in an unprecedented time of global upheaval and flux.
I don’t mean that it’s unprecedented in terms of severity; certainly in times past the world has faced threats far greater and trials almost incomparably more severe than the one we face today. But this is an unprecedented time in terms of where we are as mankind. We are living in a time of unprecedented technological advances. Think of the possibility of working from home for so many people. Just a few short years ago, this would have been entirely unheard of. Not to mention the rapid spread of information around the globe, as well as the scientific advances that allow us to understand how viruses mutate, are spread, can be fought and, to some extent, be prevented.
All of these things are truly blessings for which we should thank God daily. Just a few decades ago, a pandemic of this nature would have looked markedly different and our experience of it would have been a lot less comfortable.
The trouble with all this knowledge and access to information is twofold. For starters, it means that we are probably the most arrogant generation ever to walk the earth. As a group, we are so enamoured with our progress, so in love with our achievements, that we have cast off all restraints. Anything that would suggest that we are not gods of our own little universes is anathema. Any suggestion that bygone generations may have something to offer, except to serve as stepping stones on our evolutionary ascent to glory, is contemptible in the extreme. We are the masters of our world and, because we understand how something works, we necessarily feel that we are in control of it.
But the bubble is bursting for many with this pandemic.
People are suddenly desperate for direction. Many are, for the first time, feeling a sense of their own impotence, own lostness, and hitherto self-deception. They need direction and they should be getting it from the church. This is a great opportunity for the gospel. Let’s be looking out for those open doors and be confident enough to walk through them.
The second problem for the average citizen, of course, is knowing where to turn for answers and who to trust. For the man on the street, knowing the difference between news and nonsense, truth and twaddle, is extremely challenging. Thankfully, for BBC we have Gary, whose ability to sort fact from fiction, locating helpful information in the process, is now legendary.
During the past few weeks, as this crisis has unfolded, I have had opportunity to observe unbelievers suddenly become very concerned about telling right from wrong, and pontificating about their beliefs quite soon after acquiring them. There has been a mania, a surprising desperation on the part of many, to find out what they should be doing and how they should behave.
Otherwise intelligent, educated professionals have been quick to latch onto the opinion of someone whom they respect, regardless of who that person is, accepting their ideas as the standard of all right and wrong.
Many who used to preach tolerance have suddenly became supremely intolerant of anyone who does not conform to their newfound ideas about what should be done to “save lives” or “flatten the curve.” (Saving life is, of course, their greatest aspiration, unless that life should happen to be wrapped up in the form of an unwanted pregnancy!)
Sadly, I have observed many Christians cave to the social pressure to conform to the world’s newfound intolerance, their novel doctrine of morality.
In light of these observations, I’d like to challenge us, as believers, to be careful where we get our information. I’d like to encourage us that, although we may not be experts in some branch of science, that does not make us fools in general. For over five hundred years, one of the battle cries of the Reformation has been Sola Scriptura: We stand on the authority of Scripture alone. That does not mean that we have no place for any other authority in our lives. Epidemiologists, virologists, public health officials, etc. are all gifted specialists in their fields and we would be foolish to neglect their counsel based on Sola Scriptura. But in matters of morality, in the weighty matters of deciding right from wrong and knowing how to behave coram Deo (in the sight of God), we can accept no other source but God himself. The only way we can know authoritatively what God has said is through his revealed, inerrant, infallible word.
We, the church, have been entrusted with the word and are thus the ones who should be helping the world to see right from wrong, and not the other way around. We should be calling people to repentance and showing them what true love for neighbour looks like, not asking them to do that for us. We should not allow them to call the shots and cower in the shadows when they do. They are blind men leading blind men, and Scripture assures us that they will soon end up in a ditch (Like 6:39). Let’s not allow ourselves to be prodded and poked by their sabres, marching before them to the ditch to cushion their fall.
Rather, let’s read the news and listen to the experts, but let’s do this insofar as they stick to their fields of expertise. They are not the experts on morality. They haven’t a clue what right and wrong is anymore. Anyone who thinks killing babies is “reproductive health” is someone who you can be sure has no idea what they are talking about morally speaking.
Let’s not allow ourselves to be bullied, or passively accept the morality of the “experts.” God gave the Great Commission originally to eleven unqualified simpletons, and two millennia later look at how that worked out. The mission today is no different. God has called us to go out and make disciples, so let’s confidently stay the course, in our lives and words directing people to him. God has opened our eyes and given us the compass of the Scriptures. Let’s not follow the blind man and his fortune cookie, no matter how loudly and confidently he points and shouts. His shouting just gives away his insecurity. He’s desperate for someone to take him by the hand and lead him toward the light.
Who knows what’s going and how men should respond? Who will give direction and point the way? By God’s grace we do and, by his power we will.