Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Will Faithfulness Follow Collapse, Denial, Idolatry, and Indifference?

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Since 2008 the monolithic, inescapable, increasingly lethal Global Technological System (GTS) has been collapsing. Christians and churches, along with most everyone else, have been in denial about this. We remain so because we also devote ourselves to six false Olympian gods, believe their elite minions, and look at Jesus, the Bible, ourselves, and our world through a deceptive Olympian worldview. Rome may be burning, but we remain indifferent to Jesus, the Bible, and a whole cloud of witnesses—like Karl Barth and Jacques Ellul—who would have us please wake up. If we continue this indifference, then the systemic collapse of the painfully Olympian GTS will lead, inevitably yet ironically enough, to a catastrophic loss of faithful witness to Jesus.

Collapse. In 1648, after almost 130 years of agony, the warring sides in Latin Christendom’s civil war exhausted themselves into peace. The best minds on all sides then decided to abandon Jesus Christ and devote themselves—with the greatest possible enthusiasm —to the six still false but increasingly conventional gods of Olympus.
Their devotion began the Age of Exuberant Olympianity. After more than 300 years, this exuberance eventually resulted in the GTS we have today. While the GTS has been the source of remarkable benefits, it has also caused far greater destruction and death. Worse, since 2008, it has been collapsing. That collapse is now accelerating and will soon become catastrophic.
What’s the worst that can happen? A massive loss of faith in Jesus Christ. That’s right: by far the worst thing that can happen is a catastrophic loss of people freely witnessing to the truth, love, and vitality of Jesus Christ.
Denial. Right now, we Christians and churches seem unable to admit the possibility, let alone acknowledge the reality, of the collapse of the GTS and the painful consequences that will follow.
Why is that? One, people in the US, Canada, and Western Europe have enjoyed remarkable prosperity. Their societies started to significantly exceed historic standards by 1870 and exponentially did so after 1950. After 146 years of unprecedented prosperity, it is difficult to believe it is all coming to a catastrophic end.
As readers of the Bible, however, we should know better than to think that good times can’t end, and end catastrophically. After 300 years of existence, the northern kingdom of Israel was catastrophically destroyed by Assyrian soldiers in 721 BC. In 588 BC, Yahweh called Babylonian soldiers to destroy Judea, Jerusalem, and even his own temple. It took the few people of Yahweh, who suffered exile and yet returned to Jerusalem, over 70 years to make sense of their catastrophic experience.
Nor is the collapse of empires only an ancient phenomenon. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 with disastrous consequences that continue to this day.
Two, we trust that our leaders are committed to promoting and protecting our best interests. If they weren’t, we’d vote them out of office and replace them with more responsible ones.
As readers of the Bible, however, we should know better than to place our trust in Olympian leaders. For Olympians, the goal is power, today’s democratic forms have been completely drained of their meaning, and we the people are nothing more than means to nefarious ends.
Three, we trust that television and newspaper reporters would tell us if our leaders weren’t promoting and protecting our best interests.
As readers of the Bible, however, we should know that Jesus calls us, Christians and churches, to serve as sentinels to our society (see Ezekiel 33). Reporters can’t do that because they work for, and are wholly dependent on, elite corporate minions of Olympian gods.
Four, we deny even the possibility that the GTS is collapsing because we ourselves, Christians and churches, love the Olympian gods, devote our whole lives to them, and interpret Jesus, the Bible, and everything else through the deceptive Olympian worldview.
Idolatry. Yes, we Christians and churches adore the gods and understand everything, including Jesus Christ and the Bible, in terms of the Grand Narrative of Olympianity. According to that Grand Narrative, everything is fine. We have nothing at all to worry about.
As Christians and churches, we will cling to this narrative, and believe in it with all our hearts, until we repent of our devotion to the six false, corrupting, and destructive gods of Olympus.
As readers of the Bible, we should know better than to act this way. But we are not readers of the Bible. We do not regard the Bible as our normative witness to Jesus Christ. We regard corporate media, especially TV, as the source, norm, and goal of our understanding of the truth.
Indifference. Way back in 1937, H. Richard Niebuhr warned that we Christians and churches wrongly preached that a “God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross” (The Kingdom of God in America). What Richard describes is one of many self-centered interpretations of Jesus Christ offered to us by Olympian storytellers.
As Christians and churches, we wring our hands about the losses in members, money, and meaning being experienced by congregations, denominations, and missions, as well as by Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries. Yet how much inconvenience would we be willing to endure, how much change are we willing to embrace, to affirm that Jesus Christ alone is the one true source, center, and goal of our lives and churches?
Loss of faithful witness to Jesus Christ. So how much faithful witnessing is Jesus Christ likely to find after the GTS collapses? After all the destruction, death, and disillusionment that collapse will cause, perhaps few people will find any meaning in identifying themselves with Jesus Christ. Will we? Maybe—but only if we hear his voice today, repent of the Olympian benefits that immobilize us, and commit ourselves with abandon to the apparently thankless task of living as prophetic witnesses to his truth, freedom, love, and vitality now.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.