The Sin in Our Cynicism

A great article from Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God

Cynicism is a problem.

Maybe it’s not explicitly on your radar, but you’re sure to have felt its force. Cynicism is that sneering bitterness toward all things true and deep. It’s the subtle contempt trying to contaminate the cheeriest of moments — that slow, thick smoke of pessimism toxifying the oxygen in the lungs of our hope, suffocating any glad-hearted embrace that God did something meaningful in our lives and strangling our childlike faith to opt for “another angle” on why things happen the way they do.

It’s nasty, and it’s everywhere, especially today. Paul Miller explains: “Cynicism is, increasingly, the dominant spirit of our age. . . . It is an influence, a tone that permeates our culture . . . . [It] is so pervasive that, at times, it feels like a presence” (A Praying Life, Location 766).

Miller’s timing and assessment is right. The question, though, is why. If we’re going to overcome this influence, we’ll need to know where it is coming from. This new cynical spirit, so common to our generation, didn’t appear in a vacuum. What winds have brought it here? And how might we stand against it?

Emblem of an Epidemic

If we’re going to wrap our heads around cynicism (or loose its fangs from our heart), we need to start by understanding it’s a symptom of a greater disease. Cynicism, problematic as it is, presents itself more as the emblem of a wider epidemic — one that has grown over Western civilization for more than 500 years. I say “epidemic” not to be negative, but because it is relatively new and momentous for our Christian witness in the modern world. A better name for it, as coined by Charles Taylor, and mediated by James K.A. Smith, is “the secular age.”

Smith’s book How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor is a helpful summary and interaction with Taylor’s larger philosophical work, so large that it might deter most of us from a profitable reading. The main question at hand, for Taylor via Smith, is how in the world our society went from majority Christian in 1500 to largely secular and post-Christian today.

Without too much summary (of a summary), the axis of this shift has to do with the tension between transcendence and immanence. As long as the world is old, especially since the early Christian West, the relationship between that which is deep and that which is near has been on the forefront of the human mind. On one hand, the world is profound and mysterious, pointing to a greater reality beyond itself. On the other hand, cows must be milked, diapers must be changed, and if dad doesn’t get a paycheck we’re going to go hungry. In other words, there is the great and glorious out there, and there is the menial and necessary right here — and how these two relate has been kicked around for centuries.

Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.

There is power in the name of Jesus!

There is power in the name of Jesus! No matter what the struggle, remember Jesus has overcome this world. You can, too! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13).

Praise Him through the struggles, for He is always with you. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Give up the things holding you back, they aren’t yours to worry about any more. You have been given a source that never runs dry! “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

We are in the hand of the One who created everything, there is none greater! “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

So be of good cheer, we serve the Risen King! There is nothing this world can do, He has already won the fight! “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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Our Great Opportunities

Our trials are great opportunities. Too often we look on them as great obstacles. It would be a haven of rest and an inspiration of unspeakable power if each of us would henceforth recognize every difficult situation as one of God’s chosen ways of proving to us His love and look around for the signals of His glorious manifestations; then, indeed, would every cloud become a rainbow, and every mountain a path of ascension and a scene of transfiguration.

If we will look back upon the past, many of us will find that the very time our Heavenly Father has chosen to do the kindest things for us, and given us the richest blessings, has been the time we were strained and shut in on every side. God’s jewels are often sent us in rough packages and by dark liveried servants, but within we find the very treasures of the King’s palace and the Bridegroom’s love.

– A. B. Simpson

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We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speaker’s, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ: if we have repented these early sins we should remember the price of our forgiveness and be humble.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain