Thursday, April 28, 2011

Join the rebellion

Praise is the great act of rebellion against sin, the great repudiation
of our wicked refusal to acknowledge God to be the Lord.
(John Webster, Holiness, SCM Press, p. 76)

Christians, eh? What a sad lot. Devoted as they are to a tedious life of drab, unthinking obedience. By way of contrast, the non-believer is a free spirit, a rebel who refuses to conform to the conventions of the age. In the film The Wild One, Mildred asks Mardon Brando's leather-jacketed anti-hero, "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" To which he famously replies, "Whaddya got?" That's the kind of spirit we so admire these days, disaffected rebellion against stultifying conformity.

But hang on a minute. Just who's the rebel in contemporary society? In these secular times it is hardly the one who scorns faith and lives as if there were no God saying, "Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." That attitude is now boringly mainstream and conformist. It's the message of the celeb obsessed glossy mags and also that of the cultured despisers of religion, Dawkins and Hitchens.

Christianity has long been sidelined as an embarrassing hangover from the past. These days secularism is the default option. Its outlook is constantly being reinforced in controlling yet subtle ways. The popular soap operas pump out a diet of postmodern morality, where the viewer's instinctive sense of what's right and wrong is subverted and corrupted. Anyone who dares question whether homosexual relationships are as valid as heterosexual marriage is roundly denounced with an intolerant zeal that would have pleased the bad old Spanish Inquisitors. In 'post-Christian' Britain the deep human longing for meaning and purpose in life is channelled into schedule-clogging reality TV programmes. Contestants wax existential on what it would mean for them to fulfill their 'destiny' by winning Britain's Got Talent or the X-Factor. Of course, the fact that for every successful Leona Lewis there is an embittered Steve Brookstein is quietly forgotten. The poor dupes have bought into the secular myth of purpose without providence.

This is a manifestation of what the Bible calls "the course of this world" (Ephesians 2:2). The mindset of the world is dominated by a preoccupation with the here and now, what the apostle John calls, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 John 1:15-17). This anti-God world is not, however, a secularised spiritual vacuum. Oh no. It is presided over by "the ruler of this world", the devil (John 14:30). He is the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4). He seems to offer his subjects freedom; freedom from God, freedom from law, freedom from accountability, but in reality he is the worst of tyrants. He binds this world in the heavy shackles of slavery to sin.

In his allegory, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis pictures the land of Narnia under the spell of the evil White Witch. Under her reign it is always cold, monochrome winter and never Christmas. She brooks no rebellion and small acts of disobedience attract her terrible revenge. But there is hope for Narinia and its inhabitants in the form of Aslan. The majestic lion will lead the rebellion against the tyrannical rule of the White Witch and set Narnia free. Note the way Lewis has cleverly turned the tables on the conventional wisdom that goodness is boring and evil is glamorously rebellious. The true rebels are those who follow Aslan, the lion who, although not tame, is good.

Just like the servants of the White Witch, it is the non-believer who is often guilty of unthinking obedience. Not obedience to an all powerful and all loving Creator, mind you. No self-respecting non-Christian would submit to God's self-revelation in the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, such is the slavery of sin, they can't. But their thinking and choices are all too frequently dictated by fashionable opinion formers and ad men. That means postmodern scepticism regarding truth claims wedded to a gullible willingness to believe that using Lynx deodorant will get you a girlfriend and that your life will only be complete once you've got the latest iPad.  

The believer dares to defy this sin-enslaved world and rebel against its god. Some of the Bible's great heroes have been rebels with a cause. Take Moses demanding that Pharaoh let God's people go. Take Daniel's three friends defying Nebuchadnezzar's command to bow before his golden image. Take Mordecai refusing to pay homage to wicked Haman. Above all, take Jesus. He refused to bow down and worship the devil, he resisted his every temptation and triumphed over him in his death for sinners.

Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by knowing Jesus. His cross and resurrection were the beginning of the great insurrection against the enslaving power of sin and death. Trust in him to deliver you from this present evil age. Find true freedom in following the Servant King. Go on, be a rebel.


David R. Nelson said...

Thanks, Guy. You show yourself to fall in line with rebellious Welshmen as Lloyd-Jones describes! Is it not the nature of sin to dupe it's victims into assuming that their way is the creative, intellectual path? Hence, Cornelius Plantinga entitled his 1995 book, "Sin: Not the Way It's Supposed to Be." Thank you for your insights.

James Miller said...

I enjoyed this post Guy.