Confessions of a Jaded Negativist - #4

The biggest problem facing the Christian cynic is reconciling the spirit of Scripture with their negative, pessimistic outlook. No doubt, there is plenty for us to rail about in this life. The Bible adds fuel to the cynic's fire by making numerous gloomy (albeit accurate) assertions about the world and those who live in it. In fact, many of these assertions are foundational to a Christian worldview. For instance:

Man is estranged from God, his impulses and moral faculties are warped, his nature is permanently corrupted.

Because of our sin and spiritual rebellion, the earth is cursed and each successive generation inherits the genetic drag.

We live in a state of cognitive dissonance, knowing God's law but compelled to forever break it.

Apart from God's saving grace, we will die in our sins and dwell in eternal torment.

The world system is intrinsically evil; civilization will get worse and worse, exceedingly violent and depraved, until God intervenes.

Hell is the destination for all those who reject God's grace; that road is wide and many walk it.

No wonder there are so many jaded negativists! The Bible confirms the fact that people are screwed up (this includes celebrities, diplomats, game show hosts and Dr. Phil), the world's going to hell in a handbasket, and if we don't pull our heads out of our rectal cavities, we'll find ourselves in the mix.

The Christian worldview is built upon a series of blunt, bald, unglamorous declarations about the state of things. Like it or not, there is reason to distrust others, be suspicious of anything popular, eschew all things rosy and buck utopian ideals. Armageddon is inevitable.

Thankfully, the Scripture doesn't stop there. If it did, we could rightly slink off into despondency or smug judgementalism. And herein lies the Christian cynic's dilemma: The same Book that charts Hell and the handbasket we're heading there in, proclaims hope to the captives, rest to the restless and cheer for the chronic pessimist.

To the dismay of cynics everywhere, the last book of the Bible sounds a note of eternal optimism.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 22:1-5 NIV)

Whereas Genesis opens with the Desecration of Earth, Revelation concludes with its Reclamation. For now, evil reigns. As do cynics. But a Day shall come when the tares are plucked from the field, the chaff torched and the Garden restored to its former beauty.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Rev. 21:4-5 NIV)

And therein lies the rub. While Scripture permits us a critical, unbelieving eye as it pertains to the things of earth, it does not allow us to remain there. We are faced with an ultimatum: Either God wins or He doesn't; either the Son rises or the Night prevails; either the new comes or it's same old, same old.

And this is the crossroad -- the point of impact -- where every Christian cynic inevitably arrives.

At the heart of terminal cynicism is unbelief -- an unwillingness to take God at His Word, to trust Him to bring about what He has promised. Yes, I have reason to be skeptical, critical, derisive and suspicious. But I also have reason to rejoice, to have hope. When I padlocked the door to my church and hung up my robes, I had the option of wallowing. Did I get a raw deal? Possibly. Was the church to blame? In part. Did I have issues? You bet. But I couldn't open the Bible without verses like this tugging at the cancerous root:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NKJV).

Call it wishful thinkful, Pollyanna, rose colored glasses -- whatever. Either it's true or it ain't. Either God can work all things together for good, or He can't. For all my regrets, my frustrations, my anger, and my disgust, I have come to believe it's true. God wins. Cynicism must ultimately yield. In the end, I'm still a jaded negativist. But, let's just say, I'm becoming more skeptical of myself.


Jeanne Damoff said...

Hmmm. Sounds like you're more of a jaded negativist wannabe. (Or usetabe?)

"At the heart of terminal cynicism is unbelief -- an unwillingness to take God at His Word . . ."

True, true, double true. I still struggle with cynicism, but the "all things together for good" has proven itself over and over in my life, and most often in spite of a bruised and broken heart. So I choose to ride the crest of hope, no matter what the wind and waves are doing to my right or left.

Good words, Mike. May we be found believing.

Ame said...

It's not that we are ... it's whether or not we choose to stay there ... hence, as you said, do we believe or not?

"those who are called" - we're all being called by something and someone, including God

"according to His purpose" - God calls us according to His purpose which is always in our best interest, for our own good; everything and everyone else calls us to their own interest.

So, do we choose to love God and accept His call? Or do we choose to love someone/something else and accept their call.

It's not that you're a jaded negativist - we all are - it's that you consciously choose to believe the Truth despite what is thrown at you - and you choose to fight to believe the Truth.

michael snyder said...

Not only is this an outstanding and thought-provoking series of posts...but you managed to squeeze in the phrase "rectal cavity" as well...Priceless.

Seriously, great stuff. (Maybe you should consider a career in writing?)

Kelly Klepfer said...

I haven't buzzed your blog for awhile.

First thought on the title. "Really? You? Nah."

Then I read it. You may not believe this, but I so struggle with the mindset of negativity. I blame it on my Irish roots. : ).

My constant pull is not cynicism but it's evil twin cousin - the poison puddle of discouragement.

James 1:17 and 1 John 1:5 have become ropes I've clung to during times of darkness in my life. Once I grabbed ahold of the thought that people will always fall short, and disappoint and even hurt me, but that God is not a person per-se, I could actually gulp in fresh air.

For some reason, God sees fit to dump difficult situations and people into my lap.

I'm choosing to believe He does this because He is teaching me something valuable. And I can believe that, because He is God and I am not. Which is a good thing for everyone.

The word tells us to fear not, to take courage, and encourage one another. Discouragement has to come from the enemy then.

Thanks for baring your soul.

Michelle Pendergrass said...

Hmmm. I believe it was Paul who said that his flesh did what he didn't want it to do and he wrestled with that quite often. Yep. I think that explains it.

I don't want to be negative. It just happens. Then the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear and I'm outraged at such startling accusations. Then I concede. And confess. Lord help me in my unbelief.

Thanks for the series. It was truly inspiring.

Mike Duran said...

Hey, thanks for sticking with this series guys. This stuff is really close to my heart and the scab gets ripped off easily. It's comforting to know others struggle with the same thing. Jeanne, perhaps you can teach all of us how to "ride the crest of hope." However, I'm afraid my surfboard will require training wheels.

Kelly, I'm glad you buzzed my blog. Your experience of reaching certain conclusions -- what you call "ropes" to cling to during dark times -- seems pivitol to combatting cynicism. There must be an objective compass, independant of our emotions, we can rely on. This is, in part, the role God's Word serves in our lives.

Thanks again for all your wonderful, heartfelt comments. (Especially Snyderman's reiteration of "rectal cavity.") Grace and Peace!