Darwin in the Aisles and Nietzsche in the Pulpit - Part 1: God Promotion or Self Promotion?
Recently I had a super strange dream. That's not unusual for me, because I often have strange dreams. What was most interesting about it though, was how it exposed a false belief that was in my heart. I won't go into all of the details of the dream, but ultimately the dream ended with large numbers of people in a community being killed by a parasite, and just before I woke up I thought, "well, hopefully humanity will adapt and the fittest people will survive so that humans will survive." I know what you're thinking. Phil is a giant nerd. Well, that goes without saying. After all, this is a blog post and I'm the one writing it. Of course I'm a nerd. Now, where was I going. Oh, yes ...
So, I woke up from the dream and soon started to ask God about what it could mean. As I listened to the Holy Spirit and thought it through, I realized that my last thoughts at the end of the dream were unmistakably a result of me believing in the idea that life can be interpreted through the ideological lens of "survival of the fittest." This is clearly not a God-idea, and I'll explain that further soon.
Then I started to realize that the parasite that was in the dream was representative of that very idea! The idea of "survival of the fittest." And more disturbing, the people being killed by that parasite were the church of Jesus Christ in the West!
In searching my own heart, I've realized that in being raised in a society that deeply embraces existentialism (the idea that everything is naturally meaningless, but that we can give it meaning through our choices and actions), I myself have bought into existentialist beliefs. For most who claim to be Christian in the west, they are actually more existentialist than Christian in how they think and perceive the world. They dare not make any claim of absolute truth, because deep down they still believe that life is meaningless. They'll mostly talk about experiences and what they "feel" to be true, but they have a hard time with taking a firm stance on core beliefs about the nature of God. Well, that is except for the idea that God is love, but it's a love that's weakened from what it is in Scripture to the point that it could mean just about anything! Thus, "tolerance" is extolled as the highest virtue in this culture. After all, if life is essentially meaningless, and our actions which are motivated by our beliefs are the only thing that gives them meaning, why would I want to attack someone else's beliefs and therefore steal meaning from their life? How cruel! No one wants to steal meaning away from someone else's life! Only bullies do that, and who wants to be a bully?
And just think, if this idea and its consequences has even slightly infiltrated the church, there is great danger to the church. Well, it has, and just as the parasite in my dream was killing off a community of people, so now the American church is noticeably shrinking.
A quick bit of history:
Around 150 years ago, Charles Darwin's writings started to transform the way people think around the world through his most popular work, On the Origin of Species. In this book, many would find Darwin's observations that in this world, most often the most devious, violent and aggressive species survive, multiply and dominate the earth. (While this is true, this world is a fallen one, thoroughly infected with sin and under the wrath of God - it is not God's ideal. It started out good, but survival of the fittest is the result of evil infecting the good through sin entering through Adam and Eve. See Genesis 3 for more on that.)
Darwin then took his observations and applied them to the entirety of biological history, and many of his followers then applied those ideas logically to all of human history and society. Eugenics, the idea that we should kill off "inferior" humans (or keep them from breeding, or just let them die), was the logical outworking of those ideas applied as an experimental model on humans. America perfected Eugenics to such a level that Hitler and the Nazi party developed their plans for exterminating undesirable people in Europe based on much of the writings of American eugenicists.
(You may be wondering where I'm going with this. Please bear with me. It will make sense soon.)
And then, there's Nietzsche. He wrote that in a world full of inferior human beings and total lack of meaning, the goal of a human life is to be an "Übermensch," an "overman" or more easily understood, a "superman." This is a person who has ultimate power to get whatever he wants, do whatever he wants to do, and to remake the world around him as he sees fit. This superman has basically become the very thing the snake was trying to tell Adam and Eve they could become if they would just disobey God. In a way, to be this superman seems like it only requires being a bully, but subtle manipulation, a charismatic, enjoyable personality, and people pleasing can help achieve the same ends.
Now contrast these views of self-exaltation with the way the church is being run in nations that are seeing huge revival and tens of thousands being swept into the Kingdom of God each day. In China, Africa and South America the average protestant pastor in those places has only one book to read: The Bible. But along with that, the average pastor prays 2 hours a day to commune with God and to ask Him how He wants His church to be run. Who gets the glory in that kind of set up? The pastor? Nope. God.
And now here we are in the church of the USA, filled with many people trying to be the Übermensch of the church. I've been one myself! And part of the danger in it is that in trying to be the best minister out there, the one who has the best sermons, the most popular techniques, biggest churches and most sold books, we end up supplanting Christ with ourselves!
In America we sell books on why our churches are bigger than other "inferior" ministers' churches. In China today, the most successful evangelists rarely sell books or do TV interviews. Instead they get tortured, put in jail and killed. How many best-selling American pastors would thrive in that atmosphere I wonder? How would I do there? Would we Christians who call ourselves "radical" followers of Jesus still consider ourselves to be so in an atmosphere where public profession of faith in Christ alone really costs us something? Would we be so quick to promote our ministerial successes?
There's so much to say on this, I'm going to have to put this in another post, so please come back tomorrow for part 2 of this post ...