“…holding to a form of godliness, althought they have denied its power….always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:5,7).
Anyone looking for the smoking gun which will explain this generation’s gradual, casual descent into despair and darkness need look no further.
In Second Timothy chapter 3, the Apostle Paul, facing a second trial before Caesar which would end in his beheading, is alerting God’s people to the dangers awaiting them. He says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, althought they have denied its power, and avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
And that’s just the church people! (see note at the end)
Two things in particular stand out about this generation–if indeed we apply the term “the last days” to our own generation–and qualify as “the smoking gun,” referred to above.
1) They are religious to a fault, but their religion means little to them.
I live in one of the most religious cities in America. And arguably one of the most wicked.
Drive through the inner city of New Orleans where crime is rampant, where you would be afraid to walk a block after dark, and you’ll find a church of some kind on every street corner.
Religious people abound; spiritual power seems in short supply.
The obituaries will speak of the involvement of the deceased in various ungodly enterprises throughout their lives, but will almost invariably begin with something like “On Tuesday, January 15, Bill was ‘gathered into the arms of his Saviour Jesus Christ.'” They live any way they please but they all go to heaven, if the obits are any indication.
We know what “having a form of godliness” means. They go to church, they wear symbols of the faith, they know the language of the church.
What does “denied its power” mean? Such people do not pray in any kind of meaningful way, faith is a foreign concept to them, and they hardly know one end of the Bible from the other. Nothing has changed in their lives as a result of the indwelling Jesus Christ. Their church-going is out of a sense of obligation and having been there, they check this off their list for another week. Their salvation is a matter of works.
Christian author Madeleine L’Engle said, “Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.” (From Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Faith”)
Anyone who thinks I’m talking about only “those of that other religion” in our city is sadly mistaken. Everything we’ve said here applies to a lot of people in any typical Protestant church in America, as well as all the others. And that’s the saddest thing I know.
2) Such people are well educated and love to learn, but don’t try to pin them down as to the non-negotiables.
Because their religious activities are lifeless and meaningless, they know little and stand for even less.
They have no clue what the healed blind man meant when he said, “One thing I know–I was blind and now I see” (John 9:25). Or Paul when he said, “For I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12), or John when he said, “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).
What do you know?
A generation ago, Professor Allan Bloom published “The Closing of the American Mind,” a best-seller with the imposing subtitle: “How higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students.”
As a young professor at Cornell, Bloom debated a professor of psychology on the subject of education. His opponent claimed his major goal in the classroom was getting rid of the prejudices of his students, that he “knocked them down like tenpins.” When Bloom asked what he replaced the prejudices with, the man had no answer. Bloom responded that the man reminded him of the kid who brutally told him the truth about Santa Claus when he (Dr. Bloom) was 4 years old. The boy shot down an erroneous belief of the child but put nothing in its place.
Today’s generation of young adults, Bloom asserts, prides itself on being open-minded to the point of standing for nothing. Any “absolutism,” the students feel, is ignorant, narrow-minded, and old-fashioned. So, Bloom puts a question to them right out of the history books.
“If you had been a British administrator in India, would you have let the natives under your governance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?”
This practice, called “suttee,” was carried on by the Hindus for generations, and according to some reports, still exists.
Bloom writes that when he poses the question, “they (the students) either remain silent or reply that the British should never have been there in the first place.”
Their devotion to openness is a barrier to their taking a stand on anything.
Anyone wondering what is happening in our nation because of its dedication to pluralism need look no further. Truth is relative, absolutism is ignorance, and only openness is to be tolerated.
Of course, the funny part of that is watching these “liberated, open-minded” students shout down a conservative who tries to speak to them about Americanism, capitalism, or the Christian faith. So much for their tolerance.
In his book “The Case for Faith,” Lee Strobel heads each chapter with quotes representing both the positive and the negative aspects of the subject. Here are a few of the best quotes…
From R. C. Sproul, theologian: “Moses could meditate on the law; Muhammad could brandish a sword; Buddha could give personal counsel; Confucius could offer wise sayings; but none of these men was qualified to offer an atonement for the sins of the world…. Christ alone is worthy of unlimited devotion and service.”
Charles Colson, former legal aide to President Nixon and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries: “Christian faith is not an irrational leap. Examined objectively, the claims of the Bible are rational propositions well supported by reason and evidence.”
So, what do you believe with all your heart? What do you know for a fact? What have you learned to be false and thus to believe it would be foolish and foolhardy? What have you put in its place and what would you stake your life on?
How we answer tells the story on us.
(Note. In a previous article on Second Timothy 3, we said this passage pertains to church people for the simple reason that the world’s crowd have always lived according to this pattern of disobedience to parents, grabbers for money and pleasure, and such. A couple of people challenged me on that, which was to be expected. However, the context of chapter 3 makes it clear Paul is referring to members of the so-called faith community, and not to the wicked people in the world at large. This is a point church leaders must take into account as they train themselves and dedicate their lives to preaching the Word and giving spiritual direction to the Lord’s church.)
A generation ago, Professor Alan Bloom wrote “The Closing of the American Mind,” in which he pointed out that to the younger generations today, to be educated means to be completely open-minded about everything.