A few years ago I was listening to a teaching from R.C. Sproul entitled, “Have You Lost Your Mind?” It was about, among other things, the dumbing down of almost everything to zero. Sproul lamented soft, shallow preaching from the Scriptures; he lamented the abandonment of logic. He lamented because emotion and personality so often trump revelation and reason. I have since gone back and listened to that teaching again and again on YouTube. It is linked for you here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMfnFg-zIJg
One of the many true statements Sproul made was this one: “We are living in the most anti-intellectual climate in the history of the Christian church.” Agreed, sir! I don’t like having to agree with that statement. I wish it were not true. But it is true. I, too, lament the sad levels to which much of the Christian church has descended.
But I study history. And I see in history that we have been here before. As Solomon wrote, there is nothing new:
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV)
The deplorable level to which cultures sink morally and culturally is not new. It is as old as sinners. So I find encouragement in the Scriptures when I see we have been here before and what happened. At the risk of getting ahead of myself, a great revealing is at hand.
Just think of Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
You see it there? “[S]ome revelation is at hand,” Yeats wrote. Yeats, no orthodox Christian, saw there was a revealing occurring in his lifetime. He witnessed the West turning its back on God. T.S. Eliot saw it, too. The Waste Land, Eliot’s sophisticated lament about the consequences of secularism, is summed up in one of the title’s words: waste.
In a Bible class I teach at our church, we are looking into the gospel in Isaiah. God used the prophetic voice of Isaiah in the 700s B.C.
Listen to the words of both judgment of sin and hope from Isaiah:
And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:14-15 ESV)
What a juxtaposition! God is both “high and lifted up” and yet “with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit.” Both. Simultaneously. That is remarkable. God is majestic and transcendent, yes, but he condescends to the humble. He is near to the brokenhearted. He is a revealing God who reveals to us our need of him and his gospel.
I have a peer at work who has a unique way with words I just love. I do a lot of listening when she has something on her mind and on her heart. But one of the most striking things she has said to me a lot over recent days is, “This is a time of revealing, chaplain. Folks are gonna see who is who and what is what, and there won’t be any hiding.”
I think she is right. It’s not because I needed her to tell me that. I knew that already from what has been revealed. As the writer of Hebrews puts it,
. . . no creature is hidden from his [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)
Yeats asked, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Well, One was born in Bethlehem, and you will face that reality. Maybe not today but you will face it. Now matters, you see. It has everlasting consequences. Why? Because the clock is ticking. Because what you do regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ is determinative. Because he is the One who was, per the Apostles’ Creed,
conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
A great revealing is at hand. A remnant was saved in Isaiah’s day. God revived (gave new life). He made a new heart for the contrite (Isaiah 57:15b). That is the gospel in Isaiah, folks. The revealing God has spoken. As Schaeffer wrote, he is there and he is not silent.