Author: Joel Oesch (page 2 of 19)

You Only Live Twice

The Easter chaos has ended.

After two days of Easter feasting with my extended family in Bakersfield, Tiffany and I braced for the long journey back to south Orange County. Googlemaps politely informed me that the trek was only 170 miles, but Googlemaps has never seen the Oesch kids in Sugar Mode. After all of the stops, breaks, and…yes…even changing flat tires (the epic 2015 nightmare), the trip usually tops out at an oh-so-wonderful four-and-a-half-hours.

This year was different. The kids were asleep, the parents were awake (enough), and the roads were clear. I feel like I can count on my hand the number of times my wife and I have been able to have a long, thoughtful conversation without interruption. When we hit Grapevine, Tiffany looked over and took advantage of the opportunity by asking, ‘What’s your favorite Bible story?’

Such a simple and wonderful question. I just started rattling off a few possibilities, quickly realizing that I love different passages for different reasons. Unexpectedly, the first one I mentioned was Paul’s time in Athens, recorded in Acts 17.

Paul spends the necessary time to acknowledge, even appreciate, the cultural influences of the people he wishes to engage. As a fellow who has been known to wander in and out of art galleries from time to time, I can envision the slow thoughtful stroll of the apostle moving to and fro between the marble sculptures of ancient Athens. A troubling walk, to be sure, when a shepherd sees sheep that have gone astray.

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you (Acts 17.22-23).

In his words to the Areopagus, Paul never once surrenders the primacy of the gospel message. And yet, he’s willing to appropriate the insight and clarity of Greek cultural artifacts. This is amazing to me. Paul actually quotes pagan philosophers/poets in support of his Christian apologetic later in his discourse.

Sometimes false prophets proclaim deep, profound truths. Sometimes they can uniquely observe the filth in the fishbowl.

Louis CK is one of my favorite comedians precisely for that reason. Sure, he’s crass and taboo-breaking. One minute he has me laughing out loud on a crowded plane flight, surely interrupting seat 15C’s attempt at breaking her personal best Sudoku time. The next minute, he says something that is so utterly repulsive that I instinctively turn the volume down … in my headset.

In his most recent Netflix special, he opens with the following two topics for his stand-up comedy routine: Abortion and Suicide.

Everyone laughs when he introduces the topic of abortion because they’ve expected Louis CK to talk about all the things no one wants to talk about. He delivers on that front in spades. Yet I also think that Louis CK is running intellectual rings around the people he’s entertaining. They’re laughing at his quirky delivery, his penchant for employing just the right metaphor, his ability to say one thing then disagree with himself two sentences later. But I think he’s feeding them potent medicine with the candy. He sneaks kale into the brownies.

This particular false prophet is busy at work laying out a simple truth. He’s communicating a fundamental ethical dilemma on a profound level, shaming his crowd—and perhaps himself—by laying out the bare naked options when considering something like abortion. According to Louis CK, either abortion is simply the dispelling of unwanted junk (his language is a bit more colorful) or it’s murdering babies. You do not get to hide in the lukewarm equivocating middle zone; it simply does not exist. It’s either one or the other. [caution: coarse language]

If you watch Louis CK carefully during this show, he occasionally reveals his mastery over the audience with a knowing smirk. His art has multiple dimensions. At the top is basic comedic entertainment–he knows how to make you laugh. Just below the surface is devastating social commentary (that is directed toward the crowd itself!) He uses misdirection to lay out a terrifying reality to the delighted crowd, and the crowd’s laughter confirms his achievement. They don’t even know that they are the joke. He has essentially made them admit that abortion is murdering babies. Louis CK, in a stroke of genius, joins the crowd in solidarity … offering reasons why this barbarism is necessary.

For the orthodox Christian, abortion is horrifying. Abortion is the endgame of a death-laden culture. Western secular culture has operated with a single-minded determination to eliminate all forms of theological tyranny for the precise purpose of destroying any form of virtuous living. The culture may be cloaked in flowery language of ‘freedom’ and ‘autonomy’ and ‘choice’ but once you strip away all the aesthetics, the dominant cultural message is this: Yes, you have our permission to destroy yourself.

No restrictions on sexual behavior. You may destroy yourself and others in this way.

No restrictions on drug use. You may destroy your physical self, too.

No social mores on language, decency, or virtue. You may destroy yourself and bring society down as a whole.

Louis CK recognizes the endgame and, to his credit, takes the position that’s nothing if not consistent. He concludes, ‘Life isn’t that important.’ If life isn’t that important, then the moral law that protects life and society may be discarded as window dressing. If God does not exist, everything is permissible.

For your Easter reflection, consider this false prophet’s words. Of course, I am not defending his conclusion that abortion should be left to the sole discretion of the mother—but I am asking us to consider the stark choices we are left with in this day and age:

Either we are people of life, or we are people of death.

Either we sacrifice ourselves to preserve life in its dignity, or we choose our own path to destruction.

Either we worship God and submit, or we worship ourselves and act accordingly.

. . .

No one wants to hear that they are a willing party to death. But unrestricted freedom will always drive one to that end.

For Christ-followers, we’re more than people of life. We are people of the resurrection. We hate death so much that our central claim as Christians rests in hope that those things that were once wholly dead can be made alive again. People of the resurrection recognize that a man’s heart naturally bends toward death, and therefore, we submit ourselves to an authority who can reshape, remold, re-bend our heart toward the Life Giver.

Being under authority is the single doctrine that the contemporary world cannot tolerate. It’s also the only possible avenue toward meaning and value. Being under authority subdues the ego while dignifying the person. It murders you and heals you in the same instant.

People of the resurrection consider life as precious, so their lives are naturally imbibed with a sense of duty to others. Christianity necessarily cuts across the grain of the pagan culture, speaking that this life matters because we have been given responsibility for it as creatures of the Creator. The Christian life calls for service, even rejoices in it. That’s what living people DO because that’s who living people ARE. Our living bodies bear the witness of Christ’s death and resurrection (II Cor 4) as the central feature of our identity. Indeed the call of the Christian is to be conformed to the likeness of the Son; the Son who lived, died, and lived again. He IS risen.

Bearing this identity gives us supreme freedom, a different kind of freedom, to proclaim God’s truth and go boldly into a world that is filled with false prophets seeking when and where we can appropriate a culture’s insights as useful to the kingdom. Free to fear God, free to serve one another … that’s a full to-do list. But you’ve got time.

After all, you only live twice.

© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

When Worldviews Wobble…

Ideas are dangerous things. They disorient our way of looking at the world. Shoot, they topple worlds.

I’m building a table-top garden. Our backyard is just a slab of concrete enclosed by a wooden fence, so if Tiffany and I want to grow some herbs and vegetables we have to get creative. Enter Pinterest. I think I’ve found a design that’ll do—about 12 square feet of table space set on four legs with wheels. My current internal dialogue has to do with stability: What’s the absolute most I can get out of this table (weight, height, depth of soil) without comprising its structural integrity? This kind of question is usually code for: How many ways can I justify using my power drill without looking ridiculous to my wife?

I’ve come to an obvious conclusion: The stability of the legs will directly correspond with my little garden’s usefulness and longevity.

We construct our lives—our worldviews—as tables. The surface of the table, if you will, is our view of reality—how things work and why stuff matters. The tabletop is our way of organizing and explaining the massive amount of information that the human person encounters every single day. Probe below the surface, however, and you will find all sorts of beliefs and ideas that support our worldview; these, like legs on a table, are often hard to see.

As an example, a middle aged woman might identify deeply with her vocation as financial advisor; she’s worked hard to ascend to her position, providing for her family through her effort. Because she loves her job, she reads it into the relationships she has—it affects how she votes, who she trusts, and how she interacts with the law. Her table.

What are the ideas/beliefs that serve to buttress her perspective on the world? Perhaps she believes strongly in capitalism, the American Dream…  Maybe she was taught at an early age that debt was a bad thing… Or, perhaps her father instilled in her a sense of responsibility for her own destiny. The legs.

All good things, yes?

Ah, but there’s a catch. Worldviews are constantly subjected to outside pressures. They never exist as perfect models untouched by outside forces. Rather, our worldviews have their own plate tectonics; they must deal with city-wrecking earthquakes and the subtle aftershocks that precede or follow. These ‘shakers’ could be ideas. They could be experiences. Both can rock us to the ground.

Imagine a young man’s worldview built on the following statement about reality: God exists. Everything in his understanding of reality flows from this central feature. It’s a table top supported by a few important legs: 1) The Bible is reliable; 2) God is good, and I have witnessed such love and goodness in my life; 3) My parents are Christian, and they would not lie to me; and 4) all my friends are Christian.

Now imagine this same young man is a soldier sent off to war. In a faraway land, he is forced to confront the horrors of the battlefield, broken bodies and animalistic urges of aggression and self-preservation thrown into perpetual conflict. His scars, both physical and mental, are borne by truly painful experiences, experiences that nobody back home can really appreciate. Considering this hypothetical case, it is not difficult to see how the supporting legs of his above worldview are now under assault, particularly in leg 2. The honest and appropriate question, ‘How can a good God allow such evil to flourish?’ is asked for the first time and the table begins to wobble.

For any person—Christian, atheist, or other—the wobbling of the table leads to only two possible outcomes: Repair or Collapse.

Repair mode. The worldview in question has to find a way to shore up the legs that are serving as buttresses. In the above example, leg 2 is under attack because the young soldier can no longer say that he has a broad-based experience of goodness and love in his life. So, in repair mode, he looks for a new way to interpret this foundational belief in order to preserve the worldview, and so he might reformulate leg 2 to say: God is still good, and the presence of evil demonstrates how much the world needs his love. Crisis averted.

The worldview stays intact as long as each modification to the leg seems reasonable in the mind of the person. However, if some jumps are just too great, then we run into…

Collapse. I can imagine few things as terrifying as discarding a worldview. When a leg gets knocked out of a table the whole thing is going to come down. It’s just a matter of time. Again, to reference the above example, imagine leg 3 is under assault. The parents of the soldier announce their divorce. Now the parents have ceased to be a moral authority in his life, calling into question their statements about the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospel. No simple repair can save this soldier’s world from collapsing and thus his initial belief that God exists, at least not at first glance.

. . .

The dynamic nature of this metaphor has convinced me that adult conversion is an outright miracle. When an adult willingly gives up his/her fundamental understanding of the world as a godless place … well, this can only be considered an act of sheer grace by God and insane bravery by the individual. People will hold on to failed worldviews at almost any cost, regardless of the reality. They often bury moral and philosophical contradictions down to the depths of their being, hoping that the bug won’t cause the whole system to crash.

Worldviews are dictators. They have to be overthrown with overwhelming force. Otherwise the cost of introducing widespread instability is just too great.

Jesus pokes at the legs of the Jewish worldview throughout his ministry, but perhaps most strikingly in the Sermon on the Mount. ‘You have heard that …  …but I tell you …’ The threat of these statements must not be overlooked, as Jesus is implying that hundreds of years of Jewish thought and tradition may need significant overhaul. Jesus is an expert at reinterpreting, re-imagining, shaking down and building up.

Worldviews are dictators. They have to be overthrown with overwhelming force.

An open disposition toward the ongoing chastening of Jesus is a good start. Perhaps you and I could use a little disorientation, a move where God’s Word shifts the ground underneath us in order to conform us more to the likeness of the Son, rather than the opposite when we forcibly conform Jesus to the likeness of ourselves.

If Christianity is going to offer itself as a worldview that is intellectually honest, then we have to be willing to feel the aftershocks of alternative explanatory systems, both big and small. Let me be as clear as possible on this. I am not suggesting that every challenge that the scientific community directs at the Christian faith must be absorbed and polished into our understanding of the world as holy writ; this only transfers divinity from God to the laboratory and thus becomes a simple form of idolatry. However, I am offering that such challenges be afforded the respect of an attentive ear. The Great Conversation regarding origins, nature, humanity, sin, evil and governance can enjoy the contributions of a wide variety of fields.

When these alternate voices shake your table, don’t run for the hills. Instead, look for the fault lines. Seek out the places where faulty assumptions exist, both in the arguments of your conversation partner as well as your own. Gentle conversation can draw these flaws out; such inconsistencies are a force to be reckoned with. Christian apologist Greg Koukl refers to this disequilibrium as, ‘putting a stone in another person’s shoe.’

The most stable structures are not the most rigid. They are designed to withstand a little flex here, a little tilt there. When the Bible speaks loudly and clearly about something, then we have the responsibility to treat these doctrines as inflexible beams that make up the strong tabletop of Christian doctrine. However, a thoughtful Christian also recognizes when interpretative ambiguity is present. We have the responsibility to tread carefully when the Bible chooses silence over statement.

© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Worship Life in the Cult of Celebrity

For the past few years, I’ve taught New Testament during the Spring semester. One of the best parts of that arrangement is that Lent seems to coincide perfectly with my course schedule. Right at Ash Wednesday my students and I are neck-deck in the events of Passion Week.

During the Palm Sunday lecture (which usually means, lectures), I proposed a simple question to the class: ‘Who makes you star-struck?’ Not surprising in a class of 22 girls and 5 guys, the leading vote getters this year were Ryan Gosling, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lawrence. The point of my question was to lead the class down another rabbit hole, a hearty discussion on what fuels a cult of celebrity. How does the idea of celebrity function? What does it require? How is it manifested?

I’m convinced that it’s important to think of a question or comment that you want to ask your super-celebrity in case you run into them in real life, avoiding the ‘oh, my gosh, you’re _____!’ face. In my case, I’ve got to figure out what to ask The Edge on the off-chance U2 finds its way to Baja Fish Tacos in Lake Forest next Friday.

For Palm Sunday, the problem of celebrity is not theoretical. Jesus encounters throngs of supporters shouting, ‘Save! Save!’ They lay down their cloaks and tree branches, directing Jesus to the stage of Jerusalem, not entirely unlike a red carpet directs Meryl past the flash bulbs to the relative safety of the first row at the Oscars.

I can’t help but wonder how Jesus interpreted the crowd’s reactions. On one hand, he willingly accepted the raucous scene, for he essentially received it without malice. On the other hand, he surely must have had sorrow in his heart knowing that he alone understood that the impending coronation included the crown of thorns. Adulation and humility make for strange bed-fellows.

‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there…’
George Clooney tells his agent, ‘Go and get me an earth-colored Prius for my grand entrance.’

And Jesus sat on the donkey. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, shouting praises…
George walks out of his Prius to the shouting of the fans in the stands, ‘George, look here!’

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred…
With his wife Amal in tow, Clooney smiles and waves—knowing that this type of celebrity requires a nod to those who made him famous, regardless if he reciprocates any true affection.

The people of Jerusalem asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee’ [1].
George walks into the door that separates the stars from the plebs, hearing a photographer say, ‘He might be the most recognizable person on the planet.’

. . .

The Cult of Celebrity is a fascinating phenomenon, particularly at this juncture in American history. I find it deeply ironic that Hollywood stars of all stripes have (almost) uniformly risen up in rebellion against our Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump. Meryl Streep, the first lady of Tinseltown, created a stir when she had some mic time at the Golden Globes, suggesting that Trump uses his position to bully others and urging the press to ‘hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage.’

I’m not sure an industry known for its excess and vice welcomes such widespread accountability. In fact, the movie industry fundamentally relies on the premise, ‘no publicity is bad publicity.’

The very engine that drives the value of an actor or actress—at least at the mega-star level—is the very same engine that drove Donald Trump to victory. Hollywood and Trump circle each other like two binary stars doomed to face each other in a tightly bound orbit neither able to look away to the outside universe. The Church of Celebrity, after all, can regularly rely on two types of worshipers, the elites of entertainment and politics, respectively [2]. They tithe, they perform rituals, and they sing in the hallowed halls of stardom.

This is not a reflection on Donald Trump’s capacities as President, nor his policies for that matter. That’s a discussion for another time. I’m just noting how, when celebrities move on politicians or vice versa, this sounds like the dog protesting to the owner, ‘why do you feed the cat?’

The Cult of Celebrity feeds off of our discontent; we yearn to witness a version of our lives with more talent and less self-control.

The simple truth is that we have created celebrity worship, and therefore, we’re responsible for both Beyoncé and Donald. We simultaneously love and loathe them because they are us. Trump says the things what we want to say but are afraid to voice publicly. Or, perhaps better put, he says things the way we think but don’t dare utter—it’s the voice of the id, the appetite, the non-restrained Self. She flies on jets we wish we could board and buys the things we wish we could afford. We want the shameless excitement of a sex tape, to look good enough (and have a partner equally ‘gifted’) to be physically coveted. We want people to ask us our opinions on politics and sports, all the while fawning over our fashion sense.

The Cult of Celebrity feeds off of our discontent; we yearn to witness a version of our lives with more talent and less self-control.

. . .

Rita Hayworth once bitterly quipped, ‘Men go to bed with Gilda, but wake up with me.’ Part of being an adult is recognizing the disconnect between perception and reality. Even the faithful followers of Palm Sunday were, in part, deceived. Many saw Jesus and considered him a prophet (v.11) or the political messiah sent to overthrow Rome, repristinating the Temple along the way. While true by letter of the law, they were misleading themselves in spirit, missing out on the grand design of God’s singular plan of salvation.

Is it possible that the modern Christian Church is doing the same thing today? Are we willfully accepting half-truths at the expense of The Big Truth?

Are we following Jesus, or the Cult of Jesus? Are we worshiping him, or the ‘idea’ of him?

I truly wonder if we have been following his celebrity much to our own undoing … a celebrity that Jesus neither asked for nor created. Divorcing Jesus from his central task (reconciling the divine-human relationship by atoning sacrifice) allows us to sign him up for our own pet projects. Our savior thus becomes domesticated, and we replace genuine worship with a form of self-worship. Jesus becomes an instrument, a rubber stamp, to endorse our view of the world, in opposition to a biblical orientation where Jesus uses us as his instruments of restoration in a broken world.

The difference between the two should shock us a little. It’s the difference between following Jesus and following a cult.


[1] Excerpts and paraphrasing from Matthew 21.
[2] Trump might be one of the few people on the planet who can claim legitimate membership in both of these circles.

© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


The Banality of Miracles

Of what use is a miracle-worker in a world where miracles can be readily manufactured?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Space-X, recently commented on the future of human capability by arguing for the merging of humans with machines in order to avoid becoming obsolete. He speaks of this as an inevitability, not as a distant project more likely framed in terms of science fiction. This is very much … well, fact.

In the short term, Musk argues that the emergence of driverless cars—once dismissed as a Disney-like dream—will dramatically increase the convenience for the average person’s travel schedule. I was once the direct beneficiary of one of these technological miracles of science.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Lasik vision correction procedure, the entire surgery takes about 5-10 minutes per eye. The ophthalmologist uses some numbing drops on your eye (didn’t know my eye could feel stuff, actually) and employs a strange foam piece to force your eyeball open, Clockwork Orange-style (not quite). Everything proceeds swimmingly. There are light flashes and weird sounds but no discernible discomfort, no cause for fear. That is, until you hear the following words from your doctor’s mouth, ‘Okay, Joel. For this next step, your eye will be open but you won’t be able to see anything.’

And that’s precisely what happens next … you are consciously aware that your eyeball is indeed open, but no light is coming in. It’s black. For a panicky minute or two, Lasik patients are completely blind.

Eight minutes later, I was walking out the door of the surgery room when my doctor said, ‘You can put your eyeglasses in that box over there. You’re not going to need those for the next forty years. See you tomorrow for your check-up appointment!’ In less time than it takes to get your food at a Macaroni Grill, I left the world of annoying contact lenses and blurry morning interpretive exercises (‘What does the alarm clock say? Is that a 5 or a 6?’).

It was a revelation. A modern miracle.

My Lasik experience has cast a new light on the sight miracles in Scripture. Perhaps the most famous is found in John 9, when Jesus encounters a man who was blind from birth. Mud, spit … voila! … his sight is restored.

I know, at least in a trifling way, what it means to go from blindness to vision. I can imperfectly empathize with the helplessness, the utter reliance upon the others in my life, the lack of self-determination. Jesus’ healing touch removes the blindness, the fear, and the isolation—and yet provides a new identity, a palpable joy that overwhelms the former beggar.

Perhaps we should hail Lasik (and other modern miracles of science) as similarly liberating, but I’m afraid that the flip-side to that particular coin isn’t pretty. This is not to say that these awesome procedures aren’t useful or truly remarkable ways to promote human flourishing. Rather, there are some unintended consequences that, I believe, are just now revealing themselves and being aware of them could be of great benefit.

Today, the miraculous is no longer particularly noteworthy. The fields of science and technology have afforded the average person an astonishing array of capabilities once thought to be the realm of science fiction—with an emphasis on the word, fiction. We carry with us the ability to contact most anyone in the world, research just about any topic in the world, and do it from a device we can comfortably keep in the back pocket of our Levis. Miracles come cheap. About $600.

Is the by-product of our human miracle-making an inevitable de-mystifying of our Savior? In other words, has the present age made our Lord and Savior’s command of the natural forces of this world somewhat commonplace? Banal?

Christianity today suffers deeply from a self-inflicted, domesticated view of Jesus, a view where he’s comfortable, friendly, and chiefly responsible for giving us a foundation for moral living. This kind of Jesus is entirely non-threatening which allows some deeply mistaken church bodies to claim that Jesus is one of them—he came to Earth so that you could be wealthy and influential. He came in order to justify your every whim because he’s always sided with the outsider, whoever that outsider might be. It’s enticing. And entirely non-biblical.

Jesus resists domestication. Just when we think we know him, he offers a stern rebuking to the proud. Or, conversely, he offers mercy to those who, for all intents and purposes, should be rightly considered guilty. The comfortable Jesus is not an allowable option for us to hold. No God-man who commands the forces of nature could allow such comfort, for when people saw his divine power, they often asked him to depart. After all, Peter beheld Jesus’ divine abilities after a miraculous catch of fish, then says, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ (Lk 5:8).

Just when we think we know him, he offers a stern rebuking to the proud. Or, conversely, he offers mercy to those who, for all intents and purposes, should be rightly considered guilty.

We don’t quite know what to do with miracles…even as believers. American Christianity often turns to one of two extremes: Skepticism or Challenge.

In the first option, we allow ourselves to accept the Jesus that we assume we know, but reject the Jesus that does not fit within our preconceived notions of what a Savior is and isn’t. Call this the Nazareth Option. In Luke 4, Jesus basically shakes the dust of his feet and leaves his hometown, saying, ‘No prophet is accepted in his hometown.’

Surely I would have done the same if I was a member of the Nazareth community. After all, I may have learned the Torah with Jesus at a young age, played with him in the streets, shared meals with him. When he formally opens up his ministry of teaching and makes a case for his unique sense of authority authenticated through miraculous signs, I would have been incredulous, too. No, Jesus, I’ve seen you blow your nose. You are not the Son of God.

The Nazareth Option refuses to see the Jesus of divine authority because it threatens an individual’s ability to be self-worshiping. How can you, Jesus, call me into account?

The second option has a different beginning but the same ending. I call it the Pharaoh Option. Like Pharaoh in the Old Testament, this attitude doesn’t dismiss the possibility of the miraculous at all. Rather, like the Egyptian ruler before Moses, we submit Jesus’ miraculous acts to a challenge.

Since ‘miracles’ are so commonplace these days, we have the temerity to put Jesus on the defensive, saying, ‘Great miracles, Jesus. But my court magicians can do that, too.’ Jesus heals the blind man; we say, ‘That’s great. But we have Lasik.’ Jesus walks on water; we show him the floating city of the U.S.S. Enterprise. What’s left is the same exact position: apotheosis. We elevate ourselves to the level of the divine. We become the arbiter of whether or not Jesus’ miracles are worth our attention; whether they are worth more awe and praise then we give ourselves.

I’m guilty of both of these extremes. I’ve made the miraculous historical event of the Incarnation just another story—like a common table prayer that comes out as a collection of syllables rather than the genuine request for Jesus to ‘be our guest.’ Too much familiarity … not enough awe.

As Christians strive to be light and salt to their communities, perhaps we might be wise to remember:

  1. Miracles were not the reason Jesus came, but by a singular miracle Christians have hope. New Testament healings and exorcisms were authenticating marks on the Son of God, but his purpose transcended them. He came to save. He did it through the cross and empty tomb.
  2. The central problem of today is the central problem of ever. We still want to be god. All the technology in the world will not overcome our lust for sin; it will just complicate how our lusts get satisfied.
  3. When technology becomes the source of that which is good and the ultimate defense from that which is bad, we’ve made it into a god. A simple truth, catechism-style.

 Technology walks a fine line, and we walk right behind it. We all want the latest innovation, but deep down, we know that techs often nudge us toward the edge of some uncomfortable moral ledges. If we remember that humanity’s main problem is technology-proof, then we stand ready to place our hope in the God who stands outside of technology. If we don’t, well, we’d be like the Lasik patient: Eyes open but can’t see.

© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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