Category Archives: Religion in the Culture

My Comfort Zone is a Good Place

There is a great deal of cultural pressure for people to step out of their comfort zones. When I first started hearing it, I tried to apply the recommendation, because I did not want to be accused if living in the past and clinging to outmoded habits.
It turns out, however, that this pressure to embrace discomfiting experiences is not about using a smartphone rather than a flip phone. The culture wants me to abandon moral and biblical teachings that I was taught in the past. I am being asked to step out of the comfort of knowing that when I need to know what is right, I can go to the Bible.
The culture, including many Christians in the culture, is convinced that
1) The Bible is not the only place to find moral truth,
2) The truth in the Bible is only clear to people who have knowledge of ancient cultures, and
3) No truth in the Bible or elsewhere is absolute, anyway.
I have long understood the Bible as the Word of God. Taking my cue from Jesus himself when he rejected Satan’s attempts to divert him from saving the world I consider the Bible to be my Bread, my sustenance, the only way to live and therefore, it is my comfort zone, my safe place when moral ambiguity threatens my peace. Therefore, I am very richly comforted to know that the Bible is the right place to go for moral truth.
Further, years of experience reading and studying the Bible have made it clear to me that the moral truths of the Bible are expressed in language that is clear and simple. Scholars can certainly find plenty of material for deep study in the Bible, but the fundamental truths about life are not expressed in some intellectual code. They are simple, clear and uncompromising.
Probably the real reason the culture wants to prod me out of my moral comfort zone is that the culture rejects the whole idea of absolute truth, while the Bible teaches that absolute truth exists, and the Bible speaks unaltered, eternal, absolute truth at all times. The biblical truth for Abraham is the same as the biblical truth for me. My generation has not outgrown the Bible. We have not learned that homosexuality actually is not a sin. We have not learned that God actually wants a union of two men to be considered a marriage. The culture says we are evolving, but the Bible says we are exactly like our sinful ancestors. Just like them, we need to repent of sin, ask forgiveness, and be cleansed by the blood of Christ.
I am happy in my comfort zone, where the Bible is truth for all people at all times. I pray never to step out of it.

You Cannot Trust What You Can Understand

Recently a friend was diagnosed with cancer. She told her friends she would think positive thoughts and asked them to do the same. Later, she sent an email describing the biopsy, the treatment alternatives, and the likelihood that healing would be complete and her life back to normal in two months. The email ended with these words: “I love science.”

Having traveled the road of diagnosis and treatment for cancer with more than one friend, I take the information about her prospects with a grain of salt. Having seen science do its best to apply human understanding to medical treatment for cancer and many other assorted diseases, my respect for science us undiminished, but my confidence in the ability of human intelligence to conquer all diseases is flavored with considerable caution about its boundaries.

Disease of any sort in general and cancer in particular powerfully demonstrates a good reason not to put all your faith in science. Science is always by definition a temporary state of human knowledge, truth right up to the moment a flaw in its findings is discovered. Science takes us to the limits of human understanding. If we count on human understanding, we must always be prepared to find ourselves standing on a precipice at the edge of an unbridged crevice in human understanding.

My friend may love science, but science does not love her. Science is implacably neutral toward everything and everyone. If the physician who performed her biopsy failed to obtain a good sample of the tissue, if the pathologist who read the sample missed a crucial variant in color, texture, shape or etc., if the oncologist fails to account for one or several things, known or unknown at the time, or if any of a dozen other possible events go the wrong way, science will not lovingly cover the problem anyway and make her well anyway.

Science has no commitment to my friend. She is committing everything to science, but science is not committed to her. Whether she lives or dies, to science she is the solution to an equation. Humans know only a few of the variables in the equation. Their knowledge of variables and constants alike is limited by their ability to measure. The humans insert values they can measure into the parts of the equation that they think they know, blind to an uncounted number of factors they do not know and cannot measure. Whether treatment is a success or a failure for my friend, to science, it is simply the answer produced by the values inserted into the equation. Her doctor may care, but science doesn’t.

Before my friend went for her biopsy, I visited with her. We talked briefly, and I gave her a card on which I had written, “praying for you.”  She smiled and assured me she would prefer I just think positive thoughts toward her. She is convinced that a positive attitude will fill any gaps in scientific knowledge. I know what the writer of Proverbs knew—“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) We cannot trust human positive thinking any more than we can trust the limits of human understanding. We can only trust the Lord.

My friend believes in science so much that she entrusts everything to science. For her, life ends when her body ceases to function. If the solution to her equation during cancer treatment is physical death, she believes only the particles of her physical body will endure, consistent with the law of the preservation of matter and energy. She consistently has rejected the news that her Creator made her and all other human beings with an eternal dimension. She does not realize that Creator God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastical 3:11). She chooses to ignore God’s voice in her life, a voice that loves her and cares for her as no doctor or scientific discovery ever can care for her. The voice of eternity is always speaking, but she covers it up with the positive thinking bounded by her own understanding. Where will she turn if her treatment equation turns out to be a solution for the end of her time/space body?

I am praying for my friend to open her eyes and put her trust in the God whose equations always include eternity. I pray fervently fir her to learn that it is better to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” than to “lean on your own understanding.” When science’s equations solve for 0, God’s equations still solve for eternity.