Andy Kind is the evangelist at Redeemer King. In this blog series Andy shares his weekly adventures sharing the gospel.
I was in a café, chatting to a friend who has been following my blogs over the last few weeks. Just as I sat down with my Eggnog latte, he said, ‘Mate, I’m worried that you’re putting all your trust in an old book’. I covered my mug with a caramel waffle, to keep the heat in and so the caramel would have melted by the time I finished responding to him.
His challenge is a good one. My instinctive response is to ask, ‘as opposed to what?’ If it’s wrong to put my trust in the Bible, where is it right to place it?
I’d like to make three comments. Firstly, we all put our trust in something – all of us. We all have a foundation on which we build our behaviour – a number of deep-seated beliefs about how things are, which then permission us to act as we act. That foundation might be ‘I am loved by God and I can always have hope’, or ‘I need to work hard and succeed because I have a family to support’, or ‘the universe is godless and has no ultimate purpose beyond what I create for myself, so I can do whatever I like.’ Our foundation might be anything, but it’s never nothing. Nobody lives as though nothing is true.
Whatever our foundation is, every major life choice we make is based on that and measured against that. But everyone puts their trust in something. Even staunch agnostics (people who claim that we can’t know very much about God) don’t wriggle out of this, because agnostics don’t live as though they don’t know anything. Even the phrase ‘we can’t know truth’ is a claim to know that the phrase ‘we can’t know truth’ is true. Agnosticism is just as foundational as biblical Christianity or nihilistic atheism when it comes to guiding practical life choices.
So even if my life is based upon trust in ‘an old book’, it’s only a problem if it shouldn’t be – if there is something else that I should be basing my life on. But there’s a problem here. Because if there’s no God, then there isn’t actually any right or wrong thing on which to base our lives, so then it doesn’t really matter what we do base our lives on. An old book is as good as a new book, or family, or career success, or notches on a bed post, or the quest for a long-lost amulet. All things are equal in a godless universe – there is no ‘should’, so there can’t be a ‘shouldn’t’.
Secondly, the fact that something is old doesn’t discredit it unless the only thing which is really true is what’s happening now. If truth is just fashion, then it’s not really truth. By that standard, in 200 years everyone will be looking back at us and justifiably deriding us as primitively of our time.
‘They thought Eggnog Latte was a good idea? Morons.’
You would expect, if there is an eternal God who wants humanity to know him, that the wisdom he had to offer might have been given a while ago. If the Bible is true then it’s God’s word and not a Austin Montego – so it isn’t prone to decrepitude in the same way.
Here it’s worth pointing out that only a tiny fraction of the world’s population would have a problem with drawing wisdom from, and putting trust in, ancient books. Christians use the Bible, Muslims use the Qu’ran, Hindus use the Bhagavad Gita, Jedi’s used all those books that Luke Skywalker destroyed when he was in a huge strop. Again, for those people who would say it is wrong or foolish to place trust in something old, you have tell me why your foundation is better and truer than mine. It’s tempting to say that as a human race we are progressing, getting better, growing in morality. But the evidence just doesn’t support that. You and your mates might feel ‘progressive’ – you might be quite tolerant, you might feel safe and secure. But there is more slavery in the world than there has ever been.
Thirdly, and most importantly, no. No, I’m not putting my trust in an old book. I’m putting my trust in a relationship with a God who is revealed primarily – although not exclusively – through the pages of this book. This is where I think someone who decries putting faith in an old book could do with actually opening it. Because you know, the world and people in it are constantly trying to make claims about who you are. L’Oreal will tell you you’re worth it as long as you buy their products; bosses will tell you you’re the future of the company until a new prodigy comes along; school friends might tell you you’re boring, parents might tell you you’re a let-down, partners will tell you you’re not as attractive as you used to be. You are constantly being told who you are and who you should be. The things in which we place our trust and security eventually turn to vapour and our identity becomes conditional upon our circumstances. We end up building our lives around our insecurity.
This library of books we call the Bible also makes a claim on your identity. In it we find a God who wants you to know that, no matter what anyone else tries to tell you about yourself, He spoke first – and will have the final say. And what does He say about you? He says ‘I know you. I knew you before I created you in your mother’s womb. My thoughts about you are more numerous than grains of sand on a beach. I know everything about you, and I still love you. You can’t change my mind on that. And I am offering you an identity which istotally secure, and not dependent upon people’s spontaneous words but upon my eternal Word. An identity – a relationship – in which you can know love and joy and hope and freedom like never before. Want me to show that I mean what I say about you? Ok, I’ll die for you. Want to me prove that I can deliver what I promise? Ok, death won’t be able to hold me.
We all put our trust in something. I’ve chosen to put my trust in a relationship with a God who loves me so much he would lay down his life for me and you; in a God who routed the grave so that death and all its minions – addiction, depression, self-harm, anxiety, brokenness – don’t get to have the final say in our lives.
When we choose to trust Him, we start to realise that He is entirely trustworthy. We realise that everything else we had been putting our trust couldn’t actually protect us from our deepest fears about ourselves.
Obviously, by the time I said all this my Eggnog Latte was freezing and my friend had long since left to find a new friend. Some people just can’t be trusted.