Have you ever hesitated to ask a question of your teacher or minister because you feared “revealing your ignorance,” sounding stupid, or appearing ludicrous? Because of this attitude some never show any natural inquisitiveness. Their silly pride keeps them in the same old rut of mental stagnation. Of course, the better trained we are doctrinally, the more intelligent will be the questions that press to the forefront of our minds. Therefore a Reformed young person will ask more intelligent questions than the youth of Fundamentalist persuasion. We should, however, be encouraged to give free vent to our inquiring spirit by the assurance that our patient instructors can be relied upon to furnish comprehensive, trustworthy answers.
Recently, while Evangelist Billy Graham was in Australia, he was approached by young people and asked, as he puts it, certain “penetrating questions.” One youth asked, “Is it possible to be a Christian and have fun?” The answer give was, “Yes, you can have fun. Joining hands with God can be a thrilling, exciting experience.” Now though the inquirer reveals them ost superficial thinking, we do not criticize him for this. We encourage the inquiring mind, no matter how undeveloped. Yet the question itself needs doctoring. For accept a sick question and there very well may result a sick answer. Jesus often showed His inquirers how they might have better put their question. For example, the rich young ruler who queried, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus indicated to him that his question should not have presupposed Jesus to have been good unless he also was convinced He was God! Also this inquirer should have been taught that it is far more fundamental to ask, Is it possible to be a Christian? Then there would be an opportunity to inculcate the doctrine of total depravity, the truth that no one can become a Christian merely by deciding to be. (Without Me ye can do nothing.”) Also it should be shown that the question is self-centered, and chiefly concerned, not with being free from sin (wherein lies the being a Christian), but with having a good time, and probably, in addition, toys with the idea of being a Christian on the side while mainly enjoying the pleasures of sin. The question would be more interesting if it could mean, Can the Christian enjoy the same earthly things that others enjoy? I.e., does the Christian have earthly enjoyments in common with the wicked? The answer is, we have the enjoyment of all things in common with the wicked, except the enjoyment of grace. However, the question should have been primarily concerned with the thought, How may I as a Christian be well-pleasing unto Him? The answer actually given is worse than disappointing. It is based upon the thrill received in “holding hands.”
Then a young woman enquired of Graham, “If I get religion, will it interfere with my career?” His answer was, “Assuming that you choose a legitimate career, being religious should increase your chance of success, not lessen it.” To this he appealed to the witness of John Wanamaker and J. C. Penney, at the same time warning against the impression that religion necessarily makes one materially prosperous.
We may readily understand that these questions come from the untrained and the unchurched, but the answers are calculated to pander to mere human desire, and to render the cause of Christ palatable to sophisticated tests. The questions were, generally, presumptuous, yet were naively entertained as though they were in every respect valid. This query may justly be paraphrased, Will being a follower of Jesus interfere with following my own interests? This deserves the answer Jesus gave to a would-be follower, that even foxes have holes and birds have their nests, “but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Luke 9:57). Such an answer plainly teaches that Jesus would find no place in a purely worldly career. Nevertheless the question does not come up to the level of the frame in which we have put it. It is concerned with only the acquisition of a smattering of religion. But religion never interferes with the earthly pursuit of anyone. It was not religion which interfered with Jesus’ career; not a soul in the world would have interfered with Him had He merely founded another religion alongside the world’s popular religions. It was the true religion which brought against Him interference and contradiction of sinners. Indeed, if Jesus had done no more than to foster a religion, and not as He did, to proclaim the one only true religion, He would greatly have increased His chances (?) of worldly success, and the scores of ostensible disciples never would have gone back to walk no more with Him! Christianity does not permit less than absolute allegiance to Jesus Christ. The question might better have been, If I belong to Jesus, what vocation should I enter? (Lord, what wilt Thou?”
There were other, similar, crassly selfish question asked, such as, Can the Bible give me a workable philosophy of life? Won’t being converted make me unpopular with the gang? I’m all for religion, but will I still get a kick out of life? Will being a Christian really bring me happiness? In answer we were informed that the Bible is the only workable philosophy; that “a truly religious way of life is almost certain to increase one’s popularity;” that finding proper kicks is “to find the music in ourselves;” and that happiness is the “built-in ability to take whatever life offers,” yet “not as an innovation of one’s own, but in a strength given of God.” Not only are the questions faulty, implying as they do the philosophy that self-love is the supreme good or the highest motive in human conduct, but the answers are not on a higher level and are identical with those which frequently appear within the context of the “theology” of Modernism. We have much more than a religiously-colored humanistic philosophy. We have the Reformed Faith (truth of Scripture), and the glad salvation of God in Christ. Because of this we are not concerned with whether we are popular with the throng, but that we belong to our faithful Saviour. And early in our Christian training we learn that the chief end of man is not the ability to inflate ourselves to a certain temporary pressure of excitement, nor to attain an ethereal and elusive happiness, but to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever. Although they are wrong questions we felt they are deserving of the right answers!
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No 8 December 1959