Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

4.30.2010

Do You Know What Today Is?

A few weeks ago, I was browsing audio books for download on a site, and came across one entitled Letter to a Christian Nation. The title piqued my interest, and so I clicked on it, to be greeted with this quote by the author, Sam Harris, taken from his “Note to the Reader” in the book:

“Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years. According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry here on earth. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen—the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves—socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.1

That quote is as much of the book as I have read, therefore I am not in any way recommending it. However, Sam Harris’s perspective is both faulty and challenging. It is as deceptive as it is convicting. What I mean is this: to a secular humanist and atheist our belief in the coming of Christ is a threat. Moreover, it is despicable to him that we will not pull our share of the load in “creating a durable future for ourselves” because we believe in storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Therefore, in summary and in case you were wondering, we are supposedly irresponsible members of society who, with no intellectual validity, believe in the fairy tale of Christ’s return and would throw a party in the event that New York goes up in flames. This is the deceptive part. Mr. Harris’s errors of judgment are multiple, including the fact that he rebukes Christians for planning for the future based purely on religious dogma, when his plans for a “durable future” are based purely on his humanistic belief in man as god, his belief that he can create some sort of everlasting, idealistic world if only everyone pitches in to help. It is no wonder, then, that the thought of a righteous God returning to judge that world and of the earth ending is his greatest fear! His other error comes with the assumption that because we are on our way to heaven we disdain even to love our fellow men on earth when in reality God created us all, loves us all equally, and desires that we show His love to all.

But this article is not a rebuttal of Sam Harris’s book, for I’m sure many rebuttals have been written, more well-formulated than mine could be. Although, as I said, Sam Harris’s note is faulty and deceptive, it also challenged and convicted me with this thought that instantly filled my mind: If I really believe that Jesus could come back at any time, not just “in the next fifty years” but rather any time at all, why do I not judge every second of my life with that thought? Why do I not wake up every single morning, sit on the edge of my bed, and speak to Jesus: “Jesus, you might be coming back today. I hope you are, and please show me where I need to prepare for your coming. But if you aren’t, show me, Lord, what you have given me this day to do.”

Sam Harris points out a belief very dear to Christians, the belief that Jesus is coming back, and he follows it to the logical end—that we are not on his bandwagon of creating a durable future, for our home is not here. He applies this belief in a way reminiscent of Matthew 8:20: “And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” I have to question my own materialism in light of this verse and the imminent coming of Christ. God desires us to have vision for generations and years to come (Ps. 45:17), but to live each day as if it were our last.

The difference in Sam Harris's application is that he is worried that we may be facing a “moral and intellectual emergency,” and I am only worried that his fears of being overwhelmed by Christians living in anticipation of Christ's Second Coming are ungrounded. If I believed that Christ could return any second, then there is a whole list of things that would be positively ludicrous for me to spend my time on. If I only had one last day before Christ returned, youtube would never enter my head to visit, that novel I was going to finish would just have to be unfinished, a nap would be laughable, and anger at someone who ruined a possession of mine would be pointless. I would not spend my time worrying about money, nor would I fritter away hours of precious time as I am too often prone to doing. Things I would do in that last day? Witnessing, nurturing and discipling my siblings, and reading God’s Word from cover to cover as a handbook for what to expect in the days and eternity to come. Simply stopping to smile at someone or to revel in the beauty of God’s creation would round out the day. But Matthew 24:42 reminds me that this day is to be treated in the same way, and every day that God gives me: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

Sam Harris wrote his Letter to a Christian Nation intending to convince people like me how nonsensical my beliefs are, but so far, he has instead convinced me of the opposite—that today is the day Christ could come back, that every morning with the chirp of my alarm should come this guiding thought: Jesus could come back today.

1. http://www.samharris.org/site/book_letter_to_christian_nation/

2 comments:

  1. Non-Christians' critiques really can be revealing to us, can't they? I recently heard of (and tenatively began) a book entitled "Why God is Not Great," where, according to the person who had read it, the author's sole arguement against the greatness of God was the actions of Christians. Talk about convicting! One is forced to wonder if more people would be won to Christ if more Christians lived each day as though Jesus were coming "in just a minute." Another good, convicting post, Lauren. Thanks for challenging us all.

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  2. I've never understood why those sorts of atheistic propaganda books are the bestsellers in the "religion" category. I'll have to get your cliff-notes of Why God is Not Great when you're done--it sounds interesting in a very blood-boiling sort of way! (-:

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