Why is it we think everything modern is best and the past has nothing to offer us? Can we so easily toss aside Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, just because they are old? The same goes for our faith. Some of the most brilliant Christian theologians, preachers, and scholars lived long before the internet. It is hard to imagine sometimes that life really was rich and profound even before Google or Apple.
A friend of mine gave me a set of bookmarks a couple of years ago for Christmas that reminded me of that. There are printed quotes on them from some of the greatest Christians voices of any time. Things like John Bunyan (1628-1688) saying, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” John Owen (1616-1683), “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.” And, my favorite which is from, Augustine of Hippo (354-430), also known as Saint Augustine. Augustine is considered to be one of the most important Church Fathers. Augustine was a theologian, philosopher, and bishop in Roman North Africa. The quote on my bookmark could have been written for the twenty-first century just as easily as the fifth. Augustine says, “If you believe what you like in the Gospels and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself.”
Wow. I encounter this nearly every single week. Even though the Bible speaks clearly about numerous moral and ethical dilemmas we face, and have been facing for millennia, we still appear free to reject whatever we do not like. Never mind God tells Israel, “Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you” (Deuteronomy 4:2), or “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5), or even Jesus Himself reminds those in the Temple, “…you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered” (John 10:35). So many people today still think the Bible is just a book and we get to be the editors.
Just because something is old, say two-thousand years old, does not mean it no longer matters. Does not contain truth. The Bible is truth. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16). It does not go out of style and we do not know better. Augustine knew it then, and we should listen to him now. He may be old, but he is still right. “If we believe what we like in the Gospels and reject what we don’t like, it is not the Gospel we believe but ourselves.”
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