The Biblical Creation Vision and American Christianity
God's glorious vision and purpose for man was given at man's creation (Genesis 1:26-31). Man was to be the creature made in God's own image and likeness and to have dominion over the rest of God's creation as his Creator's steward. Man was to live out this vision in obedient, chosen love to the Creator Who is love and had created alt things not Out of any compulsion or need but out of love in glorious liberty. The command to man not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17) was given so Adam and Eve would have a genuine gift of love to offer their Sovereign, Almighty Lover even their choice of obedience. C.S. Lewis fitly describes what is involved in his story of Perelandra, the Venusian Eden:
I think He made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that?
Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?
Adam and Eve did not choose to make that gift. They listened to the serpent, whose goal it was to make God's creation vision for man of none effect. In the Genesis account of the creation and the fall we see a striking anticipation of Christ's message to five of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. Here we read that Ephesus had left her first love of the Lord; so did Adam and Eve when listening to the tempter. Pergamos tolerated those who taught fornication with idols, as did Thyatira which went further, accepting a selfstyled propheteSS named Jezebel who seduced Christ's servants to commit idolatry. Even so Adam and Eve first tolerated, then fell under the seduction of Satan. Sardis had `~a name that she lived and was dead." Even so Adam and Eve still seemed to be living after partaking of the forbidden fruit, but were spiritually dead the instant they tasted it. Finally, Laodicea was neither cold nor hot but lukewarm, for which Christ would vomit her Out of His mouth. Worst of all, she herself believed herself to be rich and in need of nothing. Even so Adam and Eve dressed themselves in fig leaves, believing themselves covered though appearing before God in the "shame of their nakedness" as fallen sinners. They dared argue with Him and implicitly blame Him for creating them when He sought them Out, as though they were not His enemies ("cold") but still His acceptable children ("hot").
Now perhaps we, professed members of the "Bible-believing remnant" of Western Christendom today, have read the account of the good churches of Revelation 2 and 3, Smyrna and Philadelphia. Perhaps we have likened ourselves to Philadelphia who had "a little strength," kept His word and did not deny His name. (The glory of faithful-unto-death Smyrna surely rests today not upon us but upon our faithful fellow Christians persecuted in Communist countries.) But are we in God's sight like Philadelphia of Revelation 3:7-11 or could it be that we, like Ephesus, have left our first love, like Pergamos and Thyatira have tolerated idolatrous teachers and committed idolatry ourselves; that we like Sardis have a name that we live while we are really dead; that we like Laodicea are neither cold nor hot but lukewarm, a vomit in the mouth of our Lord and Saviour Whom we profess to know and love? And have we, like Laodicea or like Adam and Eve, fancied ourselves rich and in need of nothing in fig-leaves or our own making with no glimpse of God our Maker's vision of ourselves?
In his lead editorial in the October 1984 NationaI Federation of Decency Journal Rev. Don Wildmon pours out his heart as follows: Eight years ago . . . I fully thought the problem was simply sex and violence on television. Now, eight years later, howl wish that was the problem.
We are caught up in a great battle, one which (is among) the most important in the history of mankind. The struggle we are engaged in is one to determine whether or not Western Civilization will continue to use the Christian view of man as its foundation, or whether the Christian view will be replaced by a humanist, secular and materialist view. There is a great war under way a spiritual war and the overwhelmmg majority of Christians aren't even aware of it . . . we are losing by default. The struggle is. . . against a philosophy of life . . . as hostile to the Christian faith as the powers of early Rome. How difficult it is to convince the average Christian pastor of that fact. . . . we have grown blind to the world around us.
The tragedy is that most of us see this struggle only in bits and pieces -abortion, homosexuality, pornography, etc. . . . We fail to see the relationship between these issues because we view them only as bits and pieces.
Pastor Wildmon's is not the only voice crying in the wilderness of today's lukewarm, blind and naked American Christendom. The Chicago Tribune recently (October 1984) published a summary of the book Vital Signs. This book was co-authored by William Paul McKay and George Barna of the American Resource Bureau, a research firm based in suburban Chicago. These researchers have reached the following sympathetically critical conclusions about American Christianity, explicitly defined as "born-again" Christians:
-Many "born-again" people want faith to be easy. They are not interested in hearing about, much less experiencing, the suffering that following Jesus may demand, or the seeking of God's will, or the material sacrifices expected of those who are devoted to their faith.
-There is no "great awakening" among American Christians, despite the large number claiming deep commitment to orthodox Christian beliefs (50 million Americans).
-Christians, as a rule, do not possess political philosophies that transcend the superficial; every issue is viewed as an isolated incident.
-American Christianity is sorely afflicted with "secular assimilation," as shown by' the frequency of divorce, and an increasingly liberal attitude towards abortion, even among professed "born-again" individuals.
-Christians are politically illiterate. The majority of Christians remain inactive and unconcerned about policy developments.
-Despite the millions of dollars spent on media ministry and evangelistic publishing, there has been no real growth in the size of the Christian population in the last five years.
-The United States has become "a hedonistic heaven" and American Christians, no less than avowed secularists, have "fallen prey to materialism, hedonism, secular humanism and even to a jaded form of Christianity that rejects much of the commitment required of faithful Servants."
-Fewer than one-third of young people surveyed by the authors regard religion as a "very important" aspect of their lives.
-84 per cent of the "born-again" people in America believe that the United States is too materialistic, but the same people do not perceive themselves to be part of the problem.
We are perishing because we have no vision. We have lost Sight of the vision of our glorious God as Creator, and hence His vision of ourselves as the creatures with the unspeakably glorious privilege of being created to be perfectly like Him in chosen, obedient love (Matthew 22:37-40).
The Christian vision the Christian all-embracing philosophy of life the Christian view of man relating all areas of human action and all present-day individual political or social issues so none stands alone begins with the biblical creation of man by God in His own image and likeness. This creation, glorious and awesome as it sees each and every man as a "little Christ," is followed by God's blessing upon Adam and Eve together with His creation mandate: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Genesis 1:28). This is the foundation upon which all else concerning man is built. To the degree we do not stand upon this foundation in our preaching, teaching and daily walk, our individual lives, our churches, our Schools, our marriages, our families, our society, country and world are perishing. If we neglect this foundation, we are doomed to fight the spiritual war of our generation in bits and pieces. We need not look about for Some new overall philosophy or some new formulation of the meaning and purpose of our lives as Christians. The biblical creation vision is all we need; we need but recover it and live by it. It is all already there in the Gospel according to Genesis, the good and glorious news that we are called to live, to be restored and revived so God's original, invincible creation purpose might be fulfilled in us by Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit (Genesis 3:15).
Let us remember that our Lord Jesus Christ was called JESUS because He came to "save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Salvation from sin, true salvation according to Christ, is to be restored in the image and likeness of the holy, sinless God Who created us for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11). By the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity Who brooded upon the waters in the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:2) and inerrantly inspired the record of that creation (2 Timothy 3:16), we are to be changed into the image of the Lord "from glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). By this perfect law of liberty wherein we are to behold ourselves (James 1:25) God's people are to be holy and perfect, even as He our Creator is holy and perfect (Matthew 5:48, 1 Peter ~ :15-16). Let us behold the vision and praise the Lord for His invincible creative decree, the expression of His everlasting, unchangeable, sovereign, free love of the world, for which He also gave His Only begotten Son (John 3:16)1 George MacDonald, the beloved saint whose inspired preaching converted C.S. Lewis, had this vision of the "glad Creator." Yet he wrote: "I fear only lest, able to see and write these things, I should fail of witnessing and myself be, after all, a castaway no king but a talker; no disciple of Jesus, ready to go with Him to the death, but an arguer about the truth." 0 how we need to beware of the notion of "revival" as, so to speak, applying and receiving periodical verbal "jolts" from the outside
Can we not see that something is wrong with this approach when all the mass revivals, all the media efforts have not even produced a growth in the total numbers of professing Christians for five years? Without a true vision of Him and His perfect will for us we perish; the outward stirring produced by a "crusade" will not in itself truly and lastingly convert us. This, unfortunately, was the impression given by an evangelistic film, aptly critiqued in a midwestern newspaper in part as follows:
The story revolves around the lives of a family who live in a posh neighborhood (but have many problems) Life crises are hitting (all the family members). But, not to worry An evangelistic crusade is scheduled for the town in just a few weeks. Could that, might that, turn the tide? Revive their enthusiasm for the right life? Bring them back to the faith they have neglected?
The film, all too predictably, ended with the "decision" by the family during the crusade, implying that they all lived happily ever after. But true revival, true living Out of the vision of our Lord, truly "knowing Him" is, as Jesus Christ Himself clearly tells us, the seed of God's word falling upon good ground. That good ground "are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with parience" (Luke 8:15).
Let us pray to our just and merciful God daily, instantly, constantly, that He might imprint His glorious creation vision in our hearts and thereby begin to make them honest and good, and bless us by enabling us to keep it and bring forth fruit with patience. Let us choose to respond to His glorious, creative, holy and perfect love for us with freely given, obedient love moment by moment. Let us remember that His creation vision is all-embracing, so that each issue -abortion, divorce, inordinate love of pleasure and comfort, gluttony, greed, homosexuality, pornography, or whatever sinful thought or deed might manifest itself in our individual or corporate lives is only part of the whole. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). Christ came to fulfill the whole law in every particular, and to be restored in His likeness we must beg for His grace to live as did He (Matthew 5:17-20). Oh that we might truly grieve, not rending our garments but our hearts; that we might appear before our just and merciful, holy and perfect Lord Whose image and likeness we are meant to reflect perfectly, not as the pharisee in his Laodicean smugness, but as the publican, beholding ourselves in our Lord's perfect law and crying out to be made as we should be to please Him Oh that we might love Him, on fire with His vision, with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength Amen.