Are you a coward?
That’s the horrifying question I asked myself as a believer the first time I read the 21st chapter of Revelation, as recorded by the Apostle John at Patmos. It is a rich and riveting account filled with vivid promises of final victory that captures the imagination and bring the believer to his knees in contemplation of an eternity without suffering, sadness, or even death. And yet, abruptly, in the middle of that hope-filled chapter where God lovingly wipes away every tear, we are confronted with the devastating flip-side of a much different outcome.
Some people, in various states of spiritual malignancy, will be tossed into the lake of fire and sulfur. And first on the list, and perhaps foremost, are the cowards:
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” – Revelation 21:8
This verse should immediately snatch the breath from any sensitive Christian. The “cowardly”? Is there a believer in all the world who has never struggled with doubt nor shrunk back in fear from earthly trouble? Is anyone thus saved? Am I saved?
In Ephesians 6:13-18, the Apostle Paul lays out the full armor of God with which the Church must fit herself as she struggles against the forces of darkness. We are to stand firm in the Spirit and the Gospel, says Paul, by putting on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, donning the helmet of salvation, wielding the sword of the Spirit, carrying the shield of faith, and utilizing prayer at all times.
Some Christians have assumed that these armaments are merely metaphors for the personal tools of faith that the individual believer uses to fight a private battle against the devil. Others see these implements as biblically-mandated weapons for the visible Church to wield political or military power against mortal enemies. But such viewpoints limit or distort the profound meaning that Paul is trying to convey to us in this teaching. The equipping of the prophetic full armor of God upon the Church is much more startling and humbling in its significance.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8
“You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.” – Yahweh, Psalm 50:21
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” – Paul, Romans 1:22-23
Since many people in America today, including some Christians, clamor for all things fantastical in their personal search for augmented meaning, instead of resting in God’s pure word and the attending Holy Spirit to guide their spiritual understanding, it would be prudent for thoughtful believers to consider this current pathway of metaphysical delights, its brash direction, and where it will eventually end. Indeed, the signposts on this broad road have already been erected, if only Christians enthralled with inventive speculations would stop and see the illumined markers of its ultimate destination: Transhumanism.
You’ve probably heard of the famous “Invisible Gorilla” study, conducted by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris several years ago. It was a work that won the Ig Nobel Prize for Psychology in 2004. In the study, Simons and Chabris asked volunteers to watch a one-minute long video of two teams (one group in white shirts; one in black shirts) passing around a basketball. The volunteers were specifically tasked with keeping count of how many times the ball is passed by a member of the white-shirted team. Halfway through the video, a person wearing a full-body gorilla suit walks through the scene, pounds the chest, then leaves. After watching the video, the volunteers were asked to give their official counts, but were also asked if they saw anything else in the video. Amazingly, only around 50% of the volunteers saw the gorilla.
The experiment clearly demonstrated what is known as “Inattentional Blindness,” a common mental phenomenon defined by a lack of expectation for an unattended stimulus. Test subjects didn’t expect to see a gorilla while they were focusing on their counting task, so quite often they didn’t even notice the ape in plain view.
We Americans find ourselves, slowly but surely, drawn farther and farther away from truth and reality. God’s revelation and His creation have been left in the dust of this current stampede towards the mirages of imagination and idolatry, a circumstance that Paul so perfectly articulated in Romans 1:18-25. Indeed the rising generation, fed with the milk of self-esteem and human potential, have become more enthralled with the things of fancy. The immense popularity of fantasy literature, movies, and video gaming belies this fact. The current American generation loves their fantasy: wizards, vampires, hobbits, Jedis, and Marvel superheroes are their role models and sometimes even their new religion.
Is the remarkable and astounding truth of the Bible so boring to us these days that we have to make things up to get excited?
Apparently God’s truth and stark reality are now old hat. These days, reality needs to be augmented by our creativity or replaced altogether by a VR world of our own making. Cold, hard facts have been replaced by the warmness of “story,” where a fuzzy narrative can dull the sharp edges and make bitter truth more palatable to our present-day sensibilities. Speaking objective truth in love is now frowned upon and the greatest sin is to “harsh someone’s buzz” and take away a person’s safe space. Much better, they think, to bring harmony to mankind by blurring the dividing line of God’s truth through loving acceptance, compromise, and syncretism.
When a website treads water in the vast ocean of the internet for several months with no rescue of new content in sight, it is only natural that its visitor traffic will suffer and sink to an almost nonexistent level, even for a fairly historically-popular site like mine. The Sandwich has surely suffered significant loss of readership during its recent malaise, but hopefully it has been presently retooled and refocused for the better. The question is whether or not anyone will stick around long enough to make that assessment. Bottom line, I’m glad you are here.
Many looky-loos hoping for a good laugh, including my faithful followers, are no doubt wondering about the move away from humor, and the sudden furrowing of my brow in lieu of the usual satirical fare. Is “Angus” in hospital still recovering from an emergency funnybonectomy, perhaps? Or something more sinister?
“Seriousness is not a virtue.” – G. K. Chesterton
Recently, a Christian posted the above quotation on his social media page without further comment, and I found the assertion to be quite disconcerting. To be blunt, I felt it was a rather thoughtless pronouncement void of any biblical support. Surely Christ would consider most forms of seriousness to be excellencies, would He not? My immediate conviction, in fact, was that the second beatitude of Jesus was wholly sufficient to blow Mr. Chesterton’s argument right out of the water: “Blessed are those who mourn…”
I had no doubt, of course, that the Chesterton quote had been wrenched from its original context, and upon further investigation I was able to ascertain that, according to my comprehension of the fuller text of Orthodoxy, Mr. Chesterton was merely pointing out the importance of being able to laugh at oneself, or take oneself more lightly. At least that was my optimistic take. Still, even on this point, his argument was more philosophical than biblical, which was to be expected from a larger-than-life Christian apologist whose romanticism and cleverness sometimes carried him away from the moorings of Scripture and into the waters of creative speculation.
Indeed, I did have to wonder when Chesterton (in another essay) went so far as to state that seriousness is “the fashion of all false religions.” So where exactly does biblical Christianity fit into that panoptic view?