In his new book, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, author Jason K. Stearns recounts the true story of a pygmy who was brought to the USA from the Central Congo in 1904. The poor man, Ota Benga, was displayed in a monkey house at the Bronx Zoo. Every day some 40,000 guests visited the exhibit, which also featured an orangutan in order to highlight the similarities between the small black man and the large ape. When some Americans objected to the inhumanity and insensitivity of this humiliating spectacle, the influential New York Times responded with an arrogant editorial. According to the editors, “Pygmies are very low on the human scale…The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.”
This sorry crime could be committed only because the diverse minds of science, American culture, and the church all came together as willing accomplices. The elites of science and culture seized this opportunity to affirm Darwin’s theory of evolution. Through the power of evolution and the ingenuity of liberal social policy, the dream of a Super Race of human beings seemed much closer to becoming a reality. (Adolph Hitler would soon champion this idea.) Sadly, the church was involved because Mr. Benga had been transported to the States by an American missionary returning from Africa.
The story of the pygmy in the monkey cage came to mind again this week as I read about the latest efforts of many Christians to win the respect of the culture. Why do we behave as though every decree from the New York Times is somehow timeless and true? Why are we so hell-bent on changing what we believe or how we operate simply because the lost world sees things differently? Shouldn’t we expect unspiritual minds to operate differently from transformed ones? Nevertheless, the race to fashion a trendy, more relevant church continues.
- The doctrine of Hell is under fire from prominent church leaders who insist it is an affront and a stumbling block to thinking people in the secular realm. How can they put their trust in a God who seems so vindictive and unmerciful?
- Other authors and pastors argue that the theology of the cross must be adapted. Educated men and women in our 21st Century culture are horrified at the idea of a God who set up a system of justice so barbaric that his son must be executed on a cross to advance some religious or philosophical ideal.
- Needless to say, the authority of God’s Word is also under attack. “Sensitive” Christians warn us that we tend to take the Bible much too seriously. Why insist that it must be accurate in matters of history, science or mathematics when the spiritual message is all that really matters? Why argue with scientists or historians when the Bible was written to describe the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the processes of life on Earth?
There’s a reason Paul once wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16.) He wrote those words because many in the Roman Church were apparently embarassed by the lack of sophistication of the Gospel.” Thinking Romans were fairly certain that all roads lead to God. The Gospel describes two roads: the broad highway to destruction and the narrow path of Jesus Christ. Sophisticated pagans had a history of indiscriminate sexual adventure, while the Gospel encourages followers of Christ to flee sexual immorality. Rome celebrated a god named Bacchus who lived for drunkeness and debauchery. The Church celebrates a Savior who died to extend God’s grace and call human beings to holiness. And amazingly, the Gospel that Paul refused to glamorize is still alive and well while the Roman Empire has been dead for centuries.
The fads and fashions of any age are fleeting at best and destructive at worst. They are destined to fade. Why would a believer suppose that the timeless Gospel should be updated in the interest of conventional wisdom that will be discarded as foolishness in twenty years or less?
Yes, the appeal to be accepted is powerful! Apparently, the rush that comes from being embraced by the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and scholars from well-known universities is absolutely euphoric. But none of that emotional bling compares to Eternal Life. Just one day in Heaven will make all that earthly glory look like faded tinsel from Chistmas 1965! Only the pure and undiluted Gospel will ever get anyone to Heaven. Let’s refuse to exchange the Gospel of Jesus Christ to win 15 minutes of acclaim in the eyes of a dying world. The power of conventional wisdom will only lead me to a funeral. The undiluted Gospel of Christ will get me into the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
I”ll take the pure Gospel every time.