Now, Dr. Seuss has been used before to some positive theological effect (see my friend Rodney’s use of Horton Hears a Who). But here’s the point: why is this sentiment on a church sign? And particularly, during the Christmas season when we are supposed to be celebrating Christ’s coming among us, why are we elevating man’s own effort? It seems this is just one further example of how the humanistic spirit has invaded the church.
I’m not trying to pick on this church in particular. I’m not trying to say that this pastor and his entire congregation are pagan humanists. But I do think it shows how far the man-exalting philosophy has come that we can put that on our church sign during Christmas, and no one seems to notice or mind.
With my brains and my effort I will do what I want. How different is that than the words of God’s Book? How about Proverbs 20:24, “A man's steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?” Or Romans 9:16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Or our Lord’s own words in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing” (all ESV).
Scripture makes it very plain that in with our own brains and effort and will we will end up apart from God, disobedient and rebellious. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about to begin with? That man in his depravity required such a great and merciful gift of grace that could only come through the cross, and so the Word became flesh and dwelt among us to give us grace upon grace? That’s why we sing “Joy to the world” after all, because God came to save us. But according to this church sign, we apparently didn’t need the help after all.
This whole thing just seems to be one more illustration how the “spirit of the age” has infected the church. We could talk about the whole church growth movement which points to entertainment and man made methodologies to bring folks in, as opposed to the simple preaching of the Word. Or we could mention the manipulative invitation system we’ve devised in the last century and a half to get folks emotional and “get ‘em in” the kingdom, as opposed to how things worked the first 1900 years of the church: God drew men to Himself. We could even mention the decline in the basic doctrine of sin; these days folks aren’t dead in their trespasses and sins, they are merely a little sick and misguided and can make their way back to the right path with the right effort and encouragement.
I’m sure all those things are lengthy discussions on their own, and maybe I shouldn’t just open a can of worms like that. It’s just that as the years go by, mankind seems more and more enamored with itself and the church, in it’s desire to fit in I guess, wants to buy in to the whole humanistic mindset.
Puritan John Flavel said that: “Every man, take where you will, and every man in his best estate, or standing in his freshest glory, is not only vanity, but altogether vanity.” I understand that; and I know the world is like that. But I thought the church was different; I thought we were to have the mind of Christ.
We need a healthy dose of the understanding which led another Puritan, William Secker, to say, “’Lord, what is man?’ Take him in his four elements, of earth, air, fire, and water. In the earth, he is as fleeting dust; in the air, he is as disappearing vapour; in the water, he is as breaking bubble; and in the fire, he is as consuming smoke.”
Once we have a clearer understanding of our nature and standing, maybe we won’t be quite as prideful about our brains and feet and the path of our choice. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll depend on Christ; which is why He came after all.