Friday, April 30, 2010

Praise in the City

So I was skiing in Slovenia a couple of weeks ago with some of the students from the chapel and we studied the book of Ecclesiastes. Whilst being a book of resounding encouragement there were great warnings which took me by surprise and left me rather struck. The following verses are particularly challenging:

Ecclesiastes 8:10-11: "Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This is also vanity."

The great warning for me is that the wicked can and do go in and out of the holy place. Now this may well refer to just non-Christians who frequent upon church, but what if it were also extended to Christians and our leaders? Worse still are those who are praised for living such hypocritical lives - those who live for false religion.

No one pretends that Christianity is easy- we all suffer great pressure from the world to conform to its standards (as Jesus said it would be). Yet we are attempting to become 'other' as God is 'other'. Therefore, given the tension we experience between the created and the Divine we must allow the Divine to win out and be opposed to the world and the burden of expectation it places on us. That being said we are a dynamic community - times and challenges do change. Yet our dynamism lies in our anchorage to the solid Rock: the Bible gives us the foundational precepts of God upon which we can address any issue we face. Sure the problem changes but our answer remains timeless. The cry still goes up though that the Church remains stolid and unyielding in the face of a changing society - the church should and must change to suit a more liberal society.

My last post spoke of our inability to handle the moral power and knowledge of God - given that, I am always concerned when there are calls for the Church to liberalise. We are still fallen humans, children of this world, and do not know when to stop. Each step leads us inexorably towards spiritual ruin. God does not make mistakes - so His word is to be adored and His principles adhered to. After all given we trying to attain Christ-likeness, why wouldn't we follow in the footsteps of the only man to ever please God? Why bring death - that most unwelcome of visitors - into the House of Life?

When faced with issues within and outwith the Church and new moral challenges not explicitly spoken about in the Bible (such as euthanasia and abortion) we need to return to the Bible. When we are told to liberalise and change so that we can fit in with society and its enlightened values we always need to ask what does the Bible have to say on the issue? Do we do it so that we may be praised within the city walls? What does the Bible teach us on continual sinning when a Christian? It certainly doesn't make grace abound.

I worry that I would be included amongst the wicked and seek praise within the city. In these times of great medical uncertainty I look to the Bible for grounding and resist the calls for me to adopt consensus view. I yearn for true religion. I turn to the Valley of Vision:

"I ask not to be enrolled amongst the earthly great and rich, but to be numbered with the spiritually blessed. Make it my present, supreme, persevering concern to obtain those blessings which are spiritual in nature, eternal in their continuance, satisfying in their possession."

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