We need to uphold absolutes without absolutism, practice rationality without rationalism, make assertions without arrogance and offer a defense without defensiveness. In doing so, we need three priorities: right thinking, right practice, and right attitudes. Even when the first two are clearly maintained, the third is sometimes lacking. The defense of the gospel is most effective when combined with the demeanor of Christ.
— Art Lindsley, TRUE TRUTH, Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World, IVP, 2004; page 172
Some secular groups like the Boy Scouts are still “religion friendly” and allow for various degrees of religious expression. That can be a good thing, and I’m glad for it, but culture’s view of ‘pluralism’ and demand for tolerance(!) typically overrule any biblically-faithful practices (such as preaching or praying or explicitly speaking of ‘Jesus’).
At BSA summer camp this past week, they scheduled a brief time for “chapel” in a beautiful place near the waterfront late on Thrusday afternoon. I’ve attended their chapel services in the past and found it little more than a bland religious exercise.
This past week, I overheard how some adult leaders explained the chapel time to scouts who’d asked about it. Let me paraphrase a few of the comments I overheard….
No, chapel is not required, but it’s good for you.
[Yet that adult did not attend chapel that day]
It’s non-denominational, and not just one religion, so anybody can go.
It’s generally about good ideas and values we should think about.
They sometimes sing, or do readings and such, but it’s pretty short.
What dominates the rationale for chapel here is a self-improvement mind-set: It’s good for you, it’s not too demanding, it can make you better…. Interesting to note the absence of any talk about God, or giving to Him the worship He deserves — even as we enjoy the great outdoors He has made! My sense of this was intense (sadly) as the service was underway that day. Lots of nice thoughts, and even a few generic citations from the Bible woven into the principles of scouting — but nothing of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, sin or salvation by grace. We did sing “He’s got the whole world, in his hands” but with nothing explicit about who HE was or is. There was nothing solid here; no ultimate foundation for the behaviors being commended.
Yes, religion can make one “better” in the eyes of the world, but it is really just moralizing and positive peer-pressure (all the while giving false assurance and temporal comfort to these folks). We know from the Bible that such man-made righteousness falls short of what God demands — which ONLY JESUS CHRIST can supply! That is why the gospel is such good news, since it speaks of our obtaining such from Jesus….
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” [Romans 1:16-17, esv]
Oh, that these religious scouts could hear this good news, and meet the one true and living God, and experience the great joy and soul-satisfaction of worshipping Him in spirit and in truth.
Pray with me to that end.