How Do You Feel About This?
Basket of Figs, July, 2008
Ralph Waldo Emerson did for education what Finney did for religion in America. Emerson, as the leader of the New England Brahmans was more enamored with Hinduism than he was Christianity--in fact, he thought that Christianity could be reduced to a single emotional response, an approach that is still bearing bitter fruit in our churches. The perfect spokesman for his point of view arrived with the emergence of the poet Walt Whitman. Whitman's opus "Song of Myself" was the foreshadowing of modern preoccupation with self and bodily processes. If religion is self-absorption with feeling, then self-absorption triumphs in sexual pleasure, personal gratification, and complete selfishness.
Finney brought the same principle to evangelism and religion. Objective truth was abandoned in terms of preoccupation with man's decisions and feelings. In Finney's revivals Emerson's ideal came close to being realized as doctrine and church structure was abandoned for personal ecstasy and irrationalism. "Truth" was no longer defined in terms of propositions that can be contradicted and examined, but in terms of the "experience" of God. How you felt about religion was far more important than what you thought.
The modern deconstruction of doctrine and truth is the result. It is interesting that the church once confessed the truth in terms of creeds and doctrines that could be understood and preached. Modern Protestantism has degenerated to where the greatest evidence of the Holy Spiritís work is in irrational mutterings and peepings. Go figure.
ďAnd when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?Ē (Isa 8:19)
I had rather be a Muslim that lives for something than a goofy Christian who will live for nothing. But I am neither. I am a minister of the Reformed Church in the U.S. who loves the truth of the creeds and the great doctrines of the Scripture, and am proud of the privilege to confess them.
The Bible not only tells us that we are saved by faith, it also describes what faith is, so that we wonít be deceived. True faith always saves because it is directed to Christ and His cross. Because the Holy Spirit is the author of faith, He also softens our hearts to repent our sins and love our neighbor. Hence, hatred for our neighbor is incompatible with faith.