Wednesday
Apr222009

Recession or Depression

As pen meets paper, the entire world is struggling to break free from a terrible economic recession, the causes of which will be debated for decades, but which surely include greed and dishonesty.

Some have even questioned the potential for another depression, not unlike the one our grandparents endured in the 1930s, when only a world war was enough to rescue the victors’ economies. Recession and depression are discouraging themes, but the spiritual state of our world has been slipping in that direction even longer.

For decades, we have witnessed a spiritual recession in the currency of biblical interest, even among the people of God. An unhealthy collision between itching ears and glib doctrine produced a generation that counted religion to be a matter of entertainment and recreation, of almost absolute tolerance and compromise even where conviction should have stood fast.

And little wonder, for Paul warned long ago that, “in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (First Timothy 4:1-2). Biblical mastery receded and the joy of the Holy Spirit was misinterpreted to mean fun. Worship had to be fun. Bible class had to be fun, and if it wasn’t, it was augmented with snacks and prizes or replaced altogether by video games and dodgeball. 

Like profit-hungry bankers, certain preachers and elders contributed to this recession of reason by satisfying the ear-tickling demand. Conditions in the time of Hosea were revisited. To the teachers, God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you” (4:6). God’s rejection, however, is too subtle for the apathetic observer to notice. Sermons were drained of scriptural content so that humor and philosophy could better display the preacher’s charisma (First Corinthians 2:1-2). The work of the church tilted away from the soul and toward the social. Sin was seldom identified so to avoid alienating the sinner; the recession deepened beneath the surface.

Gradually, this spiritual recession became more pronounced and seemingly irreversible. Moral poverty came upon the saints “like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:33-34). We entered a self-inflicted biblical dust bowl – “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Here we are.

The Great Depression ended as nations ramped up for war, but now our world suffers from a much more personal form. Only when the soldiers of Christ renew their militance for evangelism and discipleship will this depression show signs of abating. “Fight the good fight of the faith” (First Timothy 6:12). “Preach the word” (Second Timothy 4:2).