Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Gospel According to Linus

Epic. Heartwarming. Legendary. There aren’t enough words to describe that feelings that are dredged up every time I hear Linus’ recitation of the Christmas story from the book of Luke in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The Creator of Peanuts, Charles Schulz claimed that Linus represented his “spiritual side.” Schulz, who was brought up in the Lutheran faith, was part of the Church of God as a young adult and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church. Truly, he was a man who once loved the Lord.

Yet later in life, Schultz abandoned Christian ideals. He said, “I do not go to church anymore... I guess you might say I've come around to secular humanism, an obligation I believe all humans have to others and the world we live in.” Secular humanism totally abandons the idea of faith, and seeks to find “truth” through science and philosophy.

But Schulz admitted he really wasn’t sure what a secular humanist is. He chose to believe in what he wasn’t really sure of.

I think of some of the people I’ve admired in my life. I love the music of John Denver. He was raised a Lutheran by his parents. However he disclaimed the one true God as he aged. He explored various philosophies, particularly Far Eastern models. He was into EST, always believing in a higher power but never claimed to be part of any religious organization. My favorite singer, Bobby Darin, brought up and baptized in a Bronx church, is said to have been cursing God on his deathbed using words I won’t repeat here. And it breaks my heart to know that one of my heroes, Thomas Edison said, “To those searching for truth - not the truth of dogma and darkness but the truth brought by reason, search, examination, and inquiry, discipline is required. For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction - faith in fiction is a damnable false hope.”

It’s interesting how things haven’t changed. Since the days of the early church, and even from the time the Israelites built a golden calf in the desert, people who have known the truth and have seen the very real evidence of God have just been walking away, searching for something else, and never finding the true peace that can only be found through Jesus Christ. Watch this from Acts Chapter 17:

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

The philosophers just loved to sit and argue, never actually reaching any conclusions. In fact, the Bible goes on to say, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” Today I believe those same Athenians and foreigners would be married to their computers and I-Phones, exchanging the latest ideas, and searching anywhere but the right place for the truth. Yet the book of Acts points out that one group sought answers from word of God.

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

This is what I find fascinating. They didn’t just accept the word because it sounded good. They searched the scriptures to find out if Paul’s preaching was on the level. The Bible isn’t true just because it claims to be. I could write a book full of lies in just a few hours and claim it’s true. No, the Bible is true because it’s an historical, verifiable account of the creation of the world, the genealogy of Jesus Christ and the Jewish nation, an accurate and exciting account of the birth of the early church, and most of all because the living word of God has been changing lives for centuries. No other book can honestly make that claim.

God doesn’t mind questions, because He already has the answers. They’re in the book He wrote – The Holy Bible. When we go looking toward human reason for the answers, we’ll always be left wondering. It’s why my heart breaks for my country and the moral state we find ourselves in. We’re shaping God to fit our mold, instead of allowing His word to shape us. If we would truly and honestly examine scripture in context, we would soon realize that He is Jehovah, the one true God, and His word is true, unchanging, and more relevant than it has ever been. In that sense, Mr. Edison was right - finding the truth does take examination, inquiry and discipline. That's what the Bereans did. It's what we ought to do.

And in searching for answers by asking the Creator, we are much less likely to wander from truth.