Whenever Mega Millions jackpot enters uncharted territory, many previously disinclined to “gaming” join the gathering throng. Not only are they willing to pay the piper, it’s inestimable how many who haven’t prayed since second grade, may be cameoed briefly closing their eyes, muttering a supplication, before purchasing “that winning ticket.” There’ll be a load of genuflecting, finger crossing and chanting incantations, when the estimated odds of winning at 1 in 88 quad-trillions. Nearly the same as Elizabeth Warren being Native American.
Years ago a savvy Wall Street investor was asked in a survey, “Would you ever pray?” He replied unapologetically, “Of course! If there was ever something I couldn’t buy.” Does that ring familiar? Off-springs intuitively learn to parrot such fatuous rhetoric. Existentialist Soren Kierkegaard’s theology was surely unorthodox, yet this observation’s irrefutable, “Trouble is the common denominator of living. It is the great equalizer.” Prince or pauper, sparks will fly. What are we willing to risk for what we want? At what cost? In our age of immediate gratification, too many belatedly discover that the infinite, personal God, isn’t like the lottery, after offering a small perfunctory deposit, we win the cosmic jackpot. One’s perfidious personal credo, “I believe in the man upstairs,” is dangerous ground to tread up-on, when religious mumbo jumbo is eclipsed by existential reality and life’s vicissitudes.
It’s hard to ignore the prototype prayer of this second grader, “Dear God, please, please, help me remember my spelling words for this test… that I didn’t study…and please, make my annoying little brother disappear into thin air. Amen.” Fortunately, many have moved beyond this self serving level. God apparently ignores such selfish supplications. It may be “cute” on a human plane, when one is seven. It’s shameful for would-be adults. Lounging back, arms folded, impatiently waiting for God to promptly dispense, from heaven, desirous stuff, like “winning lottery tickets” at our beckoned whim. An impoverished mentality that’s reinforced by a culture dominated by cupidity.
Where do we get such notions? Apparently, it’s more like a contagion, and nearly as deadly. The bitter fruit of this trend leaves our culture void of objective faith in a historical, Biblical God, when estranged from scriptural moorings. Familiarity with a “favorite verse” is wholly inadequate. It’s not happenstance that the secularized academy, with a vested interest in a “scienceocracy” artifice, cling to denial of a bona fide place for historical, theological principles to compete in the market place, relegating it to the realm of fable, myth or sacred hallucination. Such erudite scholars have reportedly, moved beyond such fables.
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In one’s feeble defense, its origin is ancient. Don’t forget, Christ’s desultory disciples, who were in the inner sanctum and traveled in close proximity with Him for a span of three years, were at times woefully ignorant of His ways. When Jesus foretold his impending death, His disciples appeared clueless in Jerusalem. His reply, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip?” His disciples lacked our advantage of the printed canon at our disposal. A recent survey reported most Americans own at least one dusty Bible.
At the pinnacle of Evangelical thought is our conviction to “share the Good News of the Gospel.” In so doing, we point to the inexorable teachings of Christ, His life, death on the cross, and Resurrection, as historical proof of His claims. Our progressively secular culture, and the alarming rise of cults, have numbed the spiritual senses of many Americans. This trend, where unbridled skepticism reigns, has predictably led to a generation as theologically vulnerable as an unarmed London Bobby in a Islamic Terrorist attack.
Individual experience plays an important, even indispensable, role in personal verification of truth. Yet, it’s insufficient apart from the veracity of what the New Testament reveals about Christianity. Otherwise, man’s fallen state prevails. History’s rife with distorted and bizarre religious views that plague us to this day. Since the death of the first generation of Christians, we've no chance to interview first hand eyewitnesses of Christ’s thirty-three years. That’s why we’re dependent upon the residue of written testimony found in divine scripture. These writings are utterly reliable and trustworthy, as attested by first century Roman historian Tacitus, a valid and authentic non-christian confirmation of the Gospel accounts and Jesus’ crucifixion.
Some recoil, asking, “What difference does it make in this sophisticated society?” The destruction and evisceration of historical objectivity challenges our Christian apologetic and orthodoxy. In a culture increasingly hostile to a body of possible divine revelation, on which one can rely, responding rather to a “faith in anything” approach to redemption, encouraging an insatiable appetite for alarming doctrinal latitudinarianism. Absent existential content or legitimate theological boundaries, the door’s left ajar for sophistry and cults and philosophical meandering, clamoring to fill the vacuum. Even secularists, who warn of a “far right religious theocracy,” will sardonically tolerate a small dose of impotent religion. Just watch the 2020 Democrat debates, when eight out of the top twelve candidates, last November, invoked a Bible verse, as part of their campaign strategy. Should one pray earnestly for a winning lottery ticket? Ask Him next time you talk.
What does this all mean? Future generations will surely mimic our theological inclinations. Be sedulous, not disarmed by any spiritual ruse, marked by odorous rhetoric, wholly impervious to historical examination. We mustn't fall prey to a secular portrayal of “providence” that’s capricious and spurious, like a cosmic lottery. False hope’s a cruel taskmaster. Our opportunity’s plenary. Aren’t we obligated to discover what God wants from us? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s is a Ravalli County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org