Since the first vending machine, in 1888, in NY City, dispensing Adam’s gum, few have been exempt from a familiar frustration. Not getting the item, for which we deposited our money. Worse yet, we didn’t even get our money back. Outrage is eclipsed only by a litany of expletives spewed forth, and a “righteous kick” for good measure. Even with advanced digital technology, there’s no guarantee we’ll get the item we selected from that “unsympathetic machine.”
A successful financial mogul of the past century was asked, “Would you ever pray?” he replied unapologetically, “Of course! If there was ever something I couldn’t buy.” Does that ring familiar? We often speak of our inadequacy to get “beyond our human dilemma,” yet relying on a flimsy personal experience alone. “Pulling ourselves up by our humanistic boot straps,” some reply. Off-springs quickly learn to parrot such rhetoric when life pummels them relentlessly. Existentialist, Soren Kirkegaard, whose theology was unorthodox, however, this observation is irrefutable, “Trouble is the common denominator of living. It is the great equalizer.” Prince or pauper, the sparks will fly with certainty.
It’s a matter of where we mortals turn in times of tumultuous travail. Most ultimately discover, that the infinite, personal God, isn’t that “handy vending machine” down the hall in the “break room,” to be pushed at our whim, after a perfunctory, small deposit. Then we’re on our way, until the next vexing predicament that’s beyond a personal credo, “In Man We Trust.” Dangerous ground to tread. When religious “Mumbo Jumbo” is eclipsed by reality of the day.
This child-like prayer of a second-grader is not atypical, “Dear God, Please, please, help me remember my spelling words for this test… even though I didn’t study…and please, make my annoying little brother disappear into thin air. Amen.” Fortunately, many of us have moved beyond this self serving level. And, God, apparently ignores such selfish supplications. It may be “cute” when one is seven, on a human level. It’s shameful for would-be adults. Sitting back, arms folded, waiting for Him to casually dispense spiritual gifts, talents, and “winning lottery tickets” at our beckoned whim. Entitlement mentality.
“Where do we get such notions?’ some ask. Apparently, it’s more like the measles-airborne transmission. It’s what theologian, Clark Pinnock, labeled as our “faith in faith.” The bitter fruit of this trend leaves our culture void of “faith in a historical, biblical God,” separated from the historical documents of the Old and New Testament. “Desire trumps biblical truth.” Biblical truth is ignored and exchanged for the “consensus of the community.” Whatever that is. Familiarity with a “favorite” verse is wholly inadequate, contrasted with a solid grasp and understanding of the workings of sacred Scripture. Some recall Jesus rescued Peter when he was doomed to drown, with a smartly brief plea, “Lord, save me!” Yet, ignoring the Apostle Paul’s thrice request for removal of a “thorn in his flesh,” that he apparently carried to the grave. It’s easy to “push the button” for the former, yet ignore the latter.
In our feeble defense, its origin isn’t recent. Christ’s disciples, who were in the “inner sanctum,” and traveled in close proximity with Him for a span of three years, were at times woefully ignorant of his ways. In fact, when Jesus foretold his impending death, his disciples appeared clueless. His reply, recorded in John 14, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip?” They were chided for their ignorance. What about us? His disciples didn’t have our advantage of the printed canon of Scriptures at our disposal. Most Americans own at least one Bible-stashed somewhere. Do we avail ourselves of this treasure? Or have the “cobwebs” obscured any perusal of truth?
A lynchpin of evangelicals is our conviction to “share the Good News” of the Gospel. In so doing, we point to the inexorable teachings of Christ, His life, death on the Cross, and resurrection, as proof of His claims. Ignorance of the Scriptures’ no excuse. Our progressively secular culture, and the ominous rise of cults, have numbed the spiritual senses of many Americans. Counter to this troubling trend is that where skepticism exists, marked by bleak despair, the Gospel of Christ abounds, yielding our richest joy. Understandably, experience plays an important, even indispensable, role in personal verification of truth and redemption. Yet, it cannot stand alone apart from the veracity of what the New Testament reveals about Christ. Since the death of the first generation of Christians, there’s no chance to interview first hand the eyewitnesses of His life, death and resurrection. However, that’s why we’re dependent upon the residue of written human testimony found in Divine Scripture. These writings are utterly reliable and trustworthy. Theologians call it inerrancy.
Sadly, generations of Americans are willingly ignorant. This slippery slope to “spiritual chaos” is tragically portentous. We have a population obsequiously “picking and choosing” scant passages, or inferior religions that support a “vending machine” approach to “God’s goodies.” Not unlike the second-grader. Cupidity reigns.
Some recoil, asking, “What difference does it make in this sophisticated society?” The decision of an otherwise intelligent mankind, is based upon objective, rational considerations. The destruction and evisceration of historical, objectivity has challenged our Christian apologetic. In a culture increasingly alienated from a body of possibility of Divine revelation, on which we can rely, responding rather to, a “faith in faith” approach to redemption, encourages a public that’s embraced a “vending machine” mentality of a “God” absent existential content or legitimate theological boundaries.
Gullibility masquerades as truth. Future generations will mimic our theological inclinations. It’s a serious challenge to speak truth into the public square-before it’s totally impervious to our message. Don’t fall prey to a secular portrayal of “providence” that’s capricious and spurious. Christian apologetics is our imperative. The opportunity’s plenary. Aren’t we obligated to discover what He wants from us? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt is a Natrona County resident. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org