‘Time Magazine’ Christians
6 December 2006
A pastor once likened the lives of some Christians to Time magazine.1 He called them ‘Time magazine Christians’. By this he did not mean that they read too much of Time magazine. Rather, such Christians, like Time, have everything in sections—politics, business, science, art, cinema, etc., with their Christianity tucked away on a page towards the back, in a section labelled ‘religion’.
Creation Ministries International encourages Christians to abandon such compartmentalized thinking, to be ‘holistic’ Christians—so that our whole lives reflect the influence of Christ. Romans 12:1–2 says,
Underlying image from www.bigfoto.com
‘I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.’
This reflects the Lord Jesus’ exhortation:
‘… you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)
In other words, we are to worship God with everything. Every part of our lives should reflect the renewing influence of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, there are many today who think of their faith only in terms of Bible reading, prayer and church, and perhaps witnessing. They have not connected their faith to the real world—the world of history, science, business, ethical decisions, etc.
Sadly some have quarantined their faith in ‘a page at the back of the magazine’. This can be seen in ‘Christians’ who cannot be trusted in their business dealings, or who do not strive for excellence in their work. The apostle Paul encourages us that ‘whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men’ (Colossians 3:23).
Compartmentalized thinking sees Christians voting for politicians who live immoral lives and espouse such things as abortion ‘rights’, even late-term abortions, and even evolutionary indoctrination in schools in the name of ‘good education’.
It also sees ‘Christian’ teachers and lecturers happily teach a curriculum soaked in secular humanism (that is, a curriculum that ignores the things of God). In fact, many traditional ‘church schools’ strive so much to not allow Christian thinking affect what they teach (that would be biased!) that they turn out more atheists than the government schools.
One lady told me how, as a teenager, she learnt ‘God used evolution’ at a church school. She reasoned that if evolution were true, the Bible was little more than fairy tales, so she embarked on a life of atheism. Three failed marriages later—a trail of destruction—she heard the Creation-Gospel message from Peter Sparrow (of Creation Bus fame). She realized then where her life had taken the wrong track—back there in that church school that added ‘God’ to a materialistic curriculum. ‘God’ was relegated to a page at the back of the book, so to speak.
Many have put God in a ‘religion box’. Such people dust off their ‘faith’ for an outing at church once a week, or perhaps less frequently, but the rest of the time they are little different to the unbelievers they rub shoulders with every day. They are not the salt and light they are meant to be.
Where did this approach to the Christian faith come from? It goes back to ancient Greek philosophy pushed in the 1300s by Thomas Aquinas (c.1225–1274), a very influential Roman Catholic philosopher. He claimed that ‘nature’ could be understood apart from God—a separation of the secular and the sacred. Francis Bacon (1561–1626) took it further, declaring that there were two books—a book of nature (science) and a book of God (the Bible). ‘Nature’ was objective, value-free, and one could arrive at ultimate truth by studying it. This view increasingly took hold and is reflected in the design of the older museums of Europe: built to resemble cathedrals, since they thought of nature as revealing God (natural theology).
In the 1700s, influential philosophers went further, promoting the idea that people could work everything out using reason alone—without reference to what God has said, as revealed in the Bible (revelation). ‘Reason’ replaced ‘revelation’—this is the essence of ‘rationalism’.
A leap in the dark?
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard rejected this rationalism, correctly seeing that such materialistic thinking leads to loss of all meaning—as C.S. Lewis pointed out, a chance coalescence of atoms cannot provide meaning and purpose for our existence. At the same time, Kierkegaard did not fully accept the supernatural nature of the Bible—that God inspired it to be understandable, objective truth, so he had little logical basis for meaning anyway (rationalism had robbed him of such a view of the Bible).
Having a Christian upbringing, he wanted to have the comfort of ‘faith’ as a source of some meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. ‘Faith’ then became a ‘leap into the dark’—an irrational grasping after meaning where none can be known to exist. This became known as ‘existentialism’. Kierkegaard, in elevating the subjectivity of Christian faith, downplayed the objectivity of the Bible’ claims and paved the way for modernists such as the German philosopher Nietzsche, etc.
Nietzsche took the idea that God cannot be known in any objective sense further, concluding that ‘God is dead’, meaning that the very idea of God is dead because in his view the God of the Bible does not exist. Because there was no God as an objective source of morals and meaning, Nietzsche suggested that the State could impose these on people. He also espoused Darwinian struggle. Nietzsche’s views inspired Hitler, whose Nazism became the ultimate fruit of the evolutionary tree.
Interestingly, Kierkegaard, although a Dane, was very popular in Germany between the World Wars. In fact, the readiness of many churches in Germany to go along with the Führer could be attributed to the compartmentalized thinking and loss of authority of the Bible that existentialism encouraged.
Belief in the ‘cosmic Christ’ or ‘the Christ within’ might sound superficially nice. However, it is not the faith in the real Creator of everything whom the Bible reveals—the God who gave Law, such as ‘you shall not murder’, and will judge those who break it.
The call to ‘don’t think about it, just believe’ of some evangelists today is not Christian faith; it is Kierkegaard’s existentialism dressed up with Christian jargon. No, Christian faith is based upon the faithful testimony of those who saw and heard things that really happened (1 John 1:3); it is not a blind, irrational faith.
Compartmentalized thinking received a big boost when Christians started flirting with evolutionary thinking. Churchmen have mainly used the ‘two boxes’ approach to accommodate evolution. Pope John Paul II recommended this approach with his statement about evolution, where he proposed two ‘magisteria’, or sources of authority: ‘science’ and ‘religion’. Many modern theologians use phrases that reflect this approach, such as: ‘the Bible is not a science textbook’2 or ‘the Bible is about why, not how’, etc. Well-meaning people sometimes make these statements without understanding where it leads.
However, they are inadvertently disconnecting Christian faith from the real history of the world—a good Creation that became corrupted with death and suffering through the sin of Adam, and all his descendants share that corruption and the consequences of sin. Then Jesus’ death loses its saving power. Without the real first Adam, there is no meaning to Jesus Christ, the last Adam, dying and rising from the dead, taking upon himself the curse of death for the lost descendants of the first Adam.
Faith divorced from the ‘real world’ of history and science is not biblical Christian faith.
‘My head can now agree with my heart’
A man in Sydney had been attending a church for several months, attracted by the integrity and love evident in the lives of the Christians, as well as the sincere, meaningful worship. Yet, he found he just could not yield to the Gospel call. However, when he heard the Creation–Gospel message he said, ‘My head now agrees with my heart. I have wanted to believe for months, but my head was saying “This does not make sense”. Now it does.’ What had happened? The Bible had been connected to the real world. Such people are looking for permission to believe, but for them evolutionary indoctrination renders the Christian world-view incomprehensible. The very doctrine of evolution robs life of all meaning and purpose—the ‘universal acid’, as one evolutionist said.
Christians also find that ‘the heart cannot delight in what the head cannot believe’. A person who lends CMI DVDs told me of a pastor who had tendered his resignation from his church. He had lost all enthusiasm for preaching and teaching. When this pastor watched the videos he realized what had happened. Evolutionary indoctrination had gradually gnawed away at his faith and he had wondered more and more about the truthfulness of the Bible account of history. In the end he had lost all confidence in the book he was supposed to believe and teach. The fire had gone out. But he now repented of his unbelief and asked his church if he could withdraw his resignation. He now knew what he should be teaching. This church saw their pastor transformed and the church begin to grow.
Such is the importance of the message that the Bible is authoritative over all of which it speaks, beginning from the very first verse.
- Our Daily Bread 45(9), December 4, 2000, RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI, USA. A different version of this article originally appeared in Prayer News, 2001. Return to text
- Which is true, but that does not mean that when it speaks of matters of science it does not speak truly. And it is just as well that it is not a science textbook, otherwise it would have to be revised every few years! Return to text.