A recent article in World Magazine highlights what I see as a growing trend toward irrationality in our education system. In the past, the focus in mathematics was on getting the right answer. Now the focus is on the process and the correct answer seems to be a secondary goal. We are directly or indirectly telling our children that the process is more important than the result. This is more a philosophical position than a mathematical one.
Politicians think that it is acceptable for the government to spend more than it has. Rules that apply to the common man do not seem to apply to our politicians. These are the best and the brightest and they cannot figure out how to balance the budget and spend less than they take in. I am reminded of Muggeridge’s quip that they have “educated themselves into imbecility.”
On any given day many examples of the absence of common sense can be found in the news. For a country that prides itself in common sense and irrationality, many examples of the opposite of these can be found.
The question is, how should we respond as Christians?
First, we should not be surprised. Paul encouraged Timothy (and us) to expect this behavior:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1–5, ESV)
The lack of common sense that we see increasing around us is at its core a spiritual problem. In rejecting God and his standards, they have rejected rationality while claiming to worship it. Chesterton predicted that those who reject the God of the Bible are not in danger of believing in nothing, they are in danger of believing in anything. By rejecting God, their ability to determine right and wrong is eroded.
The proper response for Christians is to understand and live out the gospel as presented in Scripture. In verse 16 of 2 Timothy 3, Paul points to Scripture as the antidote to the cultural decay described in the passage cited above. It is the teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness that Scripture provides that can change the hearts and minds and get us back on track.
As the culture around us moves away from common sense, the church should stand out as the light set on a lamp stand to draw people out of the chaos. But to be that light on a lamp stand, we will have to live out the claims of the Gospel. We will have to understand that the answers that the surrounding culture are providing are either empty or insufficient. We will have to be willing to counter the culture around us.
A word of warning is needed. We cannot settle for a superficial non-conformity. For example, much of the church in the 60’s and 70’s smugly sat back and thought they were doing the right thing by not allowing the hair, clothing and music styles of the day into the church. The focus was on externals and they may have won some of the battles, but they lost the war. They did not conform to the world around them but the non-conformity was in behavior and did not address the important issues of the day.
We need radical non-conformity that focuses on foundational issues of the heart. We need a gospel lived out and proclaimed. We need a church that has been trained to present how Scripture speaks to the issues of the day. We need leaders who are equipping their congregants for the works of service (Eph. 4:12).
But most of all, we need to be honest before God as to our failures and move on in dependence upon Him for strength and guidance.