We defend the truth of the Gospel against those who would deny the existence of any ultimate truth at all. Disguised in false humility, we hear of those who present themselves as humble seekers, but not jubilant finders. In fact, anyone who “finds” is held suspect, because the underlying philosophy here is that there is no absolute truth, and therefore the Christian journey is reduced to nothing more than a quest, but a quest that has no object, like an Easter-egg hunt without any eggs. And what we are finding in our young people is the frustration and dismay of such a quest. Post-modern philosophy, spewing forth from our universities and even through our high schools, touts a world that has no ultimate answers. The result? Get what you can while you can. Enjoy life to the fullest, for there is no universe of meaning out there. And look what is happening, especially in Western civilization: we are hot in pursuit of entertainment and personal peace. Billions of dollars are now spent in and through the entertainment industry, and the difficult truth-questions are left unaddressed. Even if there is an interest in Christianity by those in their teens and twenties, the question often is, “What’s in it for me?” I have recently talked with Anglican leaders who are dismayed that the younger generation of ordained clergy seem more concerned about their salary and pensions than about the Gospel and its demands upon their lives. Diacletian, one of the Roman Emperors during the decline of the Empire, once said, “Give them bread and the circus, and that will suffice.” In other words, keep the masses fed and entertained, and they won’t give you any trouble. Today, we Americans are, for the most part, well fed and highly entertained, and the truth questions drift by us as we go to our movies, our sporting events, play our “gameboys” and try to improve our skills at bridge or golf.
More insidious is the use of familiar language that conveys objective truth to us, but has been eviscerated of truth by its user. This demands of us the constant question, “What does that mean?” For example, an Episcopal bishop says, “I don’t say the Creed, I sing it.” What does that mean? Or the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church remarks, “Jesus is our vehicle to the divine.” What does that mean? Or even the seemingly comfortable affirmations that “we, too, believe in Jesus, the Bible, and the Creeds.” What does that mean? The temptation is to avoid the hard work of careful study and clear articulation of the faith. Someone can say, “I believe in the Bible,” and mean nothing more than “I admire and acknowledge the Bible as the ancient chronicle of human efforts to understand spirituality.” But look at what such a statement doesn’t say. And at the risk of appearing persnickety, we must confront the world with the truth question and continue to ask, “What do you mean by that?” No longer can we assume that words mean the same thing. Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass, understood the total collapse not only of language but of meaning itself when this world-view is adopted. Listen to this exchange from Alice and Humpty-Dumpty:
When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’
Being master ”“ a world without ultimate Truth becomes a world without meaning, which means we must assign meaning to the world for ourselves. We become our own masters. We cannot assign meaning to the words “Jesus,” “The Bible,” “The Word of God,” “The Resurrection” or any number of other critical words in the Christian lexicon without changing the meaning of the Christian faith itself. We at Christ Church stand to affirm a universe that has meaning, described by words that have meaning, and we recognize that we are not to assign our own meaning to those words, but allow their historic and constant definitions to remain. Now, intellectual honesty may demand from us that we say “I cannot believe this or that,” but it will not allow us to fudge the meaning of the words and then proclaim, “I believe!”
Read it all.