Death By RelevanceRelated Media
God created, orders, sustains, and owns everything. Apart from God we have nothing, can do nothing, and can know nothing. He determines our existence, purpose, and destiny, without whom our every pursuit reduces to pointless absurdity. Therefore, we owe God all love, honor, and obedience—with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength—forever. Nothing, then, is more relevant to every aspect of life than God and what He has told us about His person and works in Scripture. And nothing can make Him more relevant.
Understanding and Application
Different people mean different things when they speak of making God and Scripture relevant. Some mean the good and necessary task of using language and illustrations that make God’s truth understandable, a good thing. Others may mean the proper biblical task of showing how God’s acts and attributes apply to our daily lives, another good thing. Yet, for many, the idea of making God and Scripture relevant means something entirely different, something dubious and dangerous.
The “Fresh” Way of Irrelevance
For a great many folks, God and Scripture become relevant when they are re-interpreted to conform to the dominant beliefs of our culture. For some, truth and morality are relative, while the ancient and culturally conditioned reflections recorded in Scripture need “fresh” interpretations according to the spirit of the age. As a human work, then, the Bible’s “musings” are neither timeless nor absolute truth.
Views of Scripture differ along a continuum from the more conservative and orthodox view of inerrancy and divine inspiration to atheism and Scripture as a human work, with various shades in-between. Some accept the majority of what Scripture teaches, while modifying doctrines the culture finds particularly offensive. In any case, for unbelievers to see God and Scripture as relevant requires a new heart or a new God and Scripture. The latter involves accepting the preferences, beliefs, and faith assumptions of the unbelieving worldview, rather than challenging and exposing them as unjustified and contrary to reality. By failing to present unbelief as the rejection of God’s infinite excellence and authority, God and the Bible are molded to fit a worldview that denies what God has revealed about Himself, His Word, and His world. Thus, we dim the Light to suit those in darkness, though their greatest need is the Light. And while changing God’s message to make it acceptable to contemporary culture not only reflects disrespect for God’s authority and will by exalting our own, it paves a fast track to irrelevance when cultures change (and they always do). And worse, it guarantees irrelevance by conforming God and Scripture to the faith assumptions underlying all unbelief, in any age or culture. Transcendent and eternal truth becomes neither when chasing the latest cultural fad or popular manifestation of unbelief.
The Opportunity of Post-Modernism
Christians often struggle reaching a “post-modern” generation that rejects authority and absolutes, including (and primarily) the authority of Scripture, where the Bible contains a collection of stories devoid of historical accuracy and ancient speculations devoid of propositional truth. Yet, we confront nothing new or unique in the rejection of God’s authority and will—it began in the Garden of Eden and has lodged in every heart ever since. What appears unique in post-modernism involves a relatively greater willingness to openly reject God and His absolute truth and moral principles in a Western, post-Christian culture. In this sense, post-modernism represents a more honest display of unbelief without the facade of respect for God. A book named God Is Not Great would not have been popular 100 years ago, though the essential nature of unbelief remains unchanged.
Yet, despite its open hostility to Christ and the Gospel, the clear rejection of Christianity provides believers with an opportunity. Not only do the excellence of Christ and the Gospel shine brighter against a dark background, the false pretenses of life with meaning and knowledge of eternal realities apart from God and Scripture are more easily exposed when unbelief appears obvious. But, we squander the opportunity when we try to reach people by deemphasizing or denying God’s ultimate authority and the nature of Scripture as historically accurate and absolute truth—we muddy the waters of life and dull the radiance of Christ and the Gospel. Those purporting to help Christianity by this defense-by-surrender scheme affirm the legitimacy of unbelief and deny the nature of God and reality as He has created and explained it. Patients dying from poisoning need an antidote, not more poison.
The Terrible Cost of Unfaithfulness
Sadly, those trying to make God and Scripture relevant to a culture that rejects God’s absolute authority and truth may spare themselves a few sneers from their peers, or even gain a bit of respectability in the halls of unbelieving academia, but they also affirm a worldview that renders life meaningless and God as absent, impotent, or nonexistent. And regardless of motive, if we dilute the soul-saving medicine for a world Christ suffered infinite wrath to save, we help no one. Better we use our God-given abilities to proclaim and explain the God-given message of the excellence of God, without whom we have nothing, can do nothing, and know nothing. We proclaim the infinite God who stands as supremely relevant in any age or circumstance. To Him we owe all love, honor, and obedience—including faithfulness to the message He gave us to deliver to a dark world in desperate need of Christ.