A Timeless Faith In A Modern World
I'm writing this “blind” -- that is, before hearing Philip Mullins’ lessons on the topic this weekend. So I hope this article merges well with his ideas.
There are (at least) two constants in the practice of Christianity: faith that rests on the unchanging revelation of God, and its interaction with a world that is always changing. Timeless faith. In our world where science continues to discover, cultural values are ever in flux, political landscapes constantly shift and everything else seems in motion, the idea of religious faith that is rooted in centuries-old standards seems stodgy, antiquated and irrelevant.
And it would be ... if it was nothing but a manmade conglomeration of myths, philosophies and primitive interpretations of a mysterious world. But the life and teaching of Jesus claims to be far more than this. In short, both reflect an eternal plan of our Creator who exists in a spiritual dimension not apparent to our physical senses.
The truth of these claims must be evaluated by the mind’s examination of evidence, evidence that at once supports the claims but leaves room for acceptable rejection (“acceptable” to the rejector). Believing these claims leads to the concept of a “timeless faith.”
God has made us with certain basic traits -- physical, mental, spiritual -- that optimally respond to His laws and instructions. These things are always true; neither the passing of time nor changing circumstances alters them:
- Jesus Christ was a divine being in the form of a man.
- His death was purposed by God and freely offered as atonement for sin.
- Jesus was raised from the dead and now has supreme authority.
- God’s truths are sufficient without man’s restatement or amendment.
- All men are answerable to God for every action and word.
The response of man to God may vary in irrelevant particulars, but it has certain qualities that are not only timeless but that cross all boundaries -- ethnicity, gender, economic (Gal. 3:28). It has a certain sameness from generation to generation because of the static natures of God and man.
A modern world
Every age is “modern” to those who live in it. Every generation thinks itself to be sophisticated, to have things figured out. This is because most humans find it impossible to imagine what has not yet been discovered or understood (except for very perceptive, but rare, souls who can think "outside the box").
It is so easy for humans to assume that their circumstances require extraordinary actions or constitute exceptions to the rule (especially God’s rules). Our modern world rests upon several hundred years of political freedom, scientific advancement, global prosperity and philosophical self-awareness. This has produced a level of pride that wars against faith.
Further, we Americans live in a fast-paced, success-driven, furiously competitive, flagrantly immoral society. People of faith face tremendous pressure to privatize, compromise or doubt their faith. The world and its philosophies can be very persuasive, pushing the people of God to conform to it, to reduce the rigors of God’s expectations and just “go with the flow.”
And so maintaining a timeless faith in a modern world is the subject of such exhortations as:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:15-17).
- “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. ... Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. ... Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (Col 3:2, 5-6).
A timeless faith marches to the beat of God’s drum. It subjects the values and urgings of the modern world to the standard of God’s timeless word.