ROMANS 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.
2nd TIMOTHY 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth [non-fiction] and wander off into myths [fiction].
The passages above are no doubt familiar to most of you. The two-edged sword of the Word of God is powerful… and dangerous if not deployed with wisdom and grace, in the context of its whole counsel. Unfortunately, the way I often see these texts used is as cudgels, as in: “You are a fool; your heart is darkened; you are not listening; your thinking is futile”… all of which may well be true… except that stating so explicitly may not be the smartest evangelistic tactic. The unspoken subtext may be heard as: “I, by contrast, am none of those things.”
Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners… in danger of falling into traps laid by the enemy. We need to be praising and seeking God constantly, in humility, so as to avoid doing so and to be forgiven when we do.
The reason I mention all that is because those uses can obscure a hope-enhancing way of looking at those specific texts. In particular, I’ve been thinking more lately about how they offer us an eschatological diagnostic — a way of telling what time it is.
Knowing that God foresaw and fore-ordained all things, including the widespread and increasingly resolute turning from sound teaching to myths, we can rest easier. We don’t have to rail at the darkness, angry that it’s not light. We simply need to be sure that the light in us is truly the light of Christ and not our own imitation. (‘Be holy as I am holy.’)
In that context, with several lightning-rod items in the news recently around marriage (e.g., the Chick-Fil-A thing, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s we’re so tolerant that we don’t want you or your jobs assertion of pride and guilt), the following caught my eye:
…the Damson Dene Hotel, a 40-bedroom retreat… has made the bold decision to replace the Gideon Bible in each room with the smash hit “Fifty Shades of Grey” by [British author, Ms.] E. L. James. On his blog Innkeeper Jonathan Denby explained the decision noting the world is a more secular place, no one reads the bible (some even dislike that it’s in their room), and that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is something everyone seems to want to read at the moment…
Since my website, Hitched, focuses on married life, it’s been impossible to avoid discussions of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I personally think the Damson Dene Hotel made a clever move… I know my website’s readers would want to visit that hotel now…
Embracing the public’s interest in “Fifty Shades of Grey” may not be for your business. And while the Damson Dene Hotel looks to fill their rooms by switching out one book for another, finding the right cultural touchstone for your business could drive attention and fill your coffers. To that I say, “Amen!”
I could comment at length but, sadly, the piece speaks for itself.
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating.
Unlike Ms. James’ ‘Christian’, John Bunyan’s protagonist, in his classic allegory, “Pilgrim’s Progress” is named that because he is one. His journey is not about shades of grey, but about light piercing and pushing back darkness — i.e., about black and white. The name Anastasia is the feminized form of Anastasius, which means ‘resurrection‘. Especially in light of the way in which this book is being substituted for the Bible, the name choices seem deliberate.
The Amazon synopsis continues:
The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.
Does this dynamic remind anyone else of the scene between Eve and the serpent? (“Did God really say you must not eat…?”) How about if I were to note that the whole thing about trees, apples, seeds and eating was very likely an allegory for something else? (See ‘Who is Cain’s Father?’ — note, for the mature only.) Lest that seem like a stretch, here’s how the Amazon synopsis ends:
Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever. This book is intended for mature audiences.
Possess you and stay with you forever? Yikes. At least nobody will be able to claim later they weren’t warned. Sometimes the enemy’s truth-in-advertising is so blatant it’s almost funny.
JOHN 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
LUKE 11:34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.
REVELATION 3:4 Yet you have still a few names [literally, 'denominations'] in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments [i.e., made them a shade of gray], and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels… 14 To the church at Laodicea [literally, 'of the people'] write… 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see… 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.