On Willful Blindness & Cultural Marxism

In my previous post, I mentioned the “willful blindness” of some evangelical leaders. I said I had some ideas as to why this was happening, but that I did not have the space to address it. I have since been asked to elaborate on these reasons. This is my humble attempt to do just that.

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First, by willful blindness, I am not suggesting nefarious intentions or lack of intelligence by all of these leaders. While there are surely people with bad intentions in every group, these are not the men I am addressing here. Willful blindness is a reference to the dismissive spirit I mentioned in the earlier post. By this, I mean the blatant refusal to even consider the possibility that cultural Marxism is influencing their thought processes and that this influence is a problem.

Why is it there are so many leaders being dismissive when biblical wisdom calls all of us to carefully consider the correction of mature believers? This concern has prompted my writing, not any belief that I have it all figured out. 

Also, considering the corrections others offer does not mean that all critiques we receive are true, or that we should accept them  all on the spot. But we should be humble enough to carefully consider these corrections in a spirit of humility before God and his word. 

This spirit is missing and that is alarming to me. So why is willful blindness so prevalent with this issue? Below are four reasons why I believe this issue has so much blindness accompanying it. Not all four reasons will be true for everyone in this discussion, but I see elements of each one of these in the movement as a whole.

  1.  Many of these people feel guilty. Guilty people are easier to manipulate. In fact, cultural Marxism thrives off of the feeling of guilt, but not only your guilt. It wants us to feel guilty about other people’s sins, especially people we are connected to via their grid of identity politics. Christians are particularly susceptible to this because we recognize guilt is real because God is a moral God. The problem with feeling guilty about other people’s sin is that it can make us self-righteous. It turns us into Pharisees. When we feel guilty about our own sin, it can humble us, but when we feel guilty about someone else’s sin we feel justified in our snobbish attitude toward them. "How can they not be enlightened like I am? They are not as woke as I am." In his message, Ligon Duncan asks for forgiveness for his own decade's long blindness toward racism. I believe him. I believe he wants to confess and repent of his personal sins. It is good to take personal responsibility when we have sinned. He feels some guilt for himself, but his words also allude to him feeling guilty for his predecessors. The problem is this, while guilt over real sin can be good, it is only good when it leads to real repentance and life (2 Cor. 7.10). Cultural Marxism appeals to Christians because it offers a pseudo-penance which deceives Christians into thinking they are actually repenting. But if our repentance is real, then we would be finding our healing and standing in the blood of Christ alone. Instead, this movement’s solutions to their guilt is found in advancing cultural Marxism, bigger government, warped views of justice, and warped views of diversity. There is no real healing there. There is no real forgiveness there. Culutral Marxism perpuates unending guilt as a way of controlling people. The gospel shows us our real guilt and then it is removed by the merits of Christ.  It is no surprise that the SBC is being run afoul by this perpetual guilt. Its origins are shameful and sinful. But it has long since repented of those sins. If that repentance was genuine, which I believe it was, then they are totally and finally forgiven. Christ’s blood is enough. Marxism will only enslave us more to our sin and guilt.  The command of Christ was to forgive seventy times seven, not to repent seventy times seven for the sins of others. If we actually care about real repentance, we would direct all sides to be practicing a disposition of forgiveness toward each other. Rather, in the mold of cultural Marxism, what is being promoted is guilt, divisions according to identity politics, and a never-ending penance which is as ineffective as the balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8.21-22) at healing our wounds. Brothers in Christ should be in a constant stance of wanting to forgive each other because we have been forgiven much. At the center of all of is the blood of Christ, not the ideology of Marx.  What I see in this movement is self-righteousness permeating our ranks. Self-righteousness always promotes blindness to our own sins and it magnifies the faults in others which may or may not actually exist (Matthew 7.1-5). When there is a log in our own eyes we are too blind to correct the faults of others. 
     
  2. Evangelicals care far too much what the world thinks of them. We think by jumping on the bandwagons of our day we will be relevant and be able to reach the world with the gospel. I am all for reaching the world with the gospel, but we will never do that if we are an echo chamber for the progressives of our day. The hope of the gospel is fundamentally different than the rhetoric which permeates our culture. The church needs to spend far more time caring about what God thinks of us than caring about what the world thinks us. We also need to come to terms with the reality the world will never like Christianity. And in its dislike for us it will never represent us fairly. This has been true since the time of Christ and it remains true today. The best way to reach the world is not to look, think, speak, and feel just like they do. The best way to reach the world is not being tossed to and fro by every wind of their new doctrines. The best way to reach the world is the way of contrast. To show that we are different. That we are consecrated to God, not man. This means worldviews which are hostile to Christ must be thoroughly rejected. It means we must think, argue, and pursue justice in uniquely Christian ways. This is how we bring life to a dying world. 
     
  3. There is an evangelical elite who want to distance themselves from “those brothers.” In the wake of Trump’s election, the blame was laid at the feet of “white evangelicals.” Since then, many who fit that description have tried to distance themselves from anyone who would be viewed as unclean by the secular world. No eating with Trump-supporting tax collectors for these Christians. This is really a combination of the above two points: we feel guilty and we care about what the world thinks. So how do we remove the guilt? Prove we are not like those sinners Christians over there. We must prove we are better than those people. The problems here are many, but two will do for now. First, who’s standard of right and wrong are we operating by? Are we going to allow the relativistic world to enforce a moral code on us? Preposterous. Second, we would rather be seen as cool by the cool kids than to be seen with those who Christ has died for. Let that sink in. I do not think it is too much to say there is a snobbery in the evangelical leadership which looks down upon rank and file evangelicals. If they are not careful, evangelical leaders will see a backlash in their ranks similar to the one which ushered Trump into office. I recommend a close reading of 1 Corinthians 1-3 as a remedy to this way of thinking. Please note none of what I said either supports Trump or rebukes him. This is not the place for that. This is just an analysis of what his rise has meant for the evangelical movement.
     
  4. Some evangelical leaders think Marxism is a more biblical option. While this does not make up the majority of leaders I have referenced it does cover some of them. When listening to some evangelical leader's messages, when reading their books, and reading their tweets it is clear they believe Marxism is at least partially good. Some have openly written on it. The blindness to critiques about Marxism is precisely because they think it at least partially aligns with Christianity better than its alternatives. It is a remarkable claim, but it is no different than the claims made by liberation theologians and those who advanced the social gospel. I can remember sitting down for lunch with one of these leaders and listening to him explain his political ideology; it was openly bent toward cultural Marxism. I remember sitting in his class and reading the books he assigned. These books were not only unbiblical in their thinking, but they were progressive to the core. These books were not just counterpoint books for the class, but one of these authors was described as one of the teacher’s favorites. With a such an announcement, it became commonplace to see people reading this author all over campus and talking about how much they loved him too! It should be of no surprise that such individuals will not consider any critiques of cultural Marxism because they believe it is right, or at least more right than the alternatives.

All of this blindness reflects what I mentioned in my first post—a lack of humility before fellow Christians and Scripture. I will say it again—you reap what you sow. What is needed is more humility and more searching out of what Scripture says about these issues. We need to resist the temptation to be driven to and fro by the secular agendas of our day. If we can offer the clear contrast the gospel of Jesus Christ offers, then and only then, will we reach a dying world with the life Christ offers. 
 

Post-Modernism, Cultural Marxism, & Evangelicalism's Future

Over the past year here has been an ongoing discussion around issues of justice within American evangelicalism. Some of this discussion has been helpful, some of it not so much. In this discussion there is one area that I am growing increasingly concerned about. The claim has been made, and in my opinion well substantiated, that much of the language and reasoning evangelicals have been using has not been biblically ground, but has rather been based on cultural Marxism (here, here, and here). My concern is the dismissive response this claim has received. It is this dismissive spirit, the lack of even being willing to engage  the critique, which most alarms me. I have seen in many places this past year and it reminds me of something else I have seen.

An example of this dismissive response can be found in Ligon Duncan’s message at this year’s Together for the Gospel. Duncan, who is the chancellor of Reformed Seminary, said the following about any potential influence of Marxist thought in his reasoning, “There are a lot of things to worry about in life, don’t ever worry that Lig Duncan really grooves on cultural Marxism.”

  Duncan preaching at Together for the Gospel 2018

Duncan preaching at Together for the Gospel 2018

We can all rest well tonight knowing Duncan isn’t sleeping under USSR sheets and cuddling up next to a Karl Marx doll.  But in all seriousness, while his response drew a lot of laughs, it shows how far down this path we may already be.  I believe Duncan and others like him intend no wrong, and in fact that their hearts are in the right place, but that does not change the danger evangelicalism is currently facing.

I have seen this dismissive spirit before. It mocks any call for introspection before Scripture as coming from conspiracy theorists. About a decade ago I was a member of Christian institution which was in great turmoil about whether or not post-modernism was causing theological drift. Mature, well-respected people from within this community bravely brought these concerns to leadership. The leadership summarily dismissed even the possibility of it being true. What followed for the institution was a time of strife, chaos, and decline in biblical fidelity. Instead of careful thinking, trying to understand the concerns, and a return to measuring all things before Scripture the concerns were mocked and the people who made the claims were vilified.

The charge of influence from post-modernism really should not even have been debatable. Post-Modernism, and its stress on moral relativism, was and still is the very air we breathe in our society. No one who lives in the West can claim to be impervious to all its influences. To deny this would be akin to a fish denying it is in water. The question is not if, but how much we have been influenced by our culture. So then the question should become, “How do we as Christians counteract this influence?”  

When the leaders of this institution refused to even consider they were being influenced by Post-Modernism, it proved how influenced, blind, and vulnerable they already were. If your enemy is at the gates and the king refuses to acknowledge his city is in any danger, the city will surely burn to the ground. In biblical terms, it is wrong to say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.  Saying there is peace when there is war is a recipe for defeat. 

About a decade has past since this incident. Where is the institution now? Sadly, there are people on staff today who publicly support homosexuality, people who deny the institution's doctrinal statement, and people who reject the Christian worldview at every turn. This would have been unthinkable twenty years ago. The warnings were not only correct, but they underestimated the severity and immediacy of the threat. It stands today as reminder for serious consideration for how our culture is influencing us. 

Cultural Marxism is an offshoot of post-modern relativism. The two go together. Post-modernism is the fertile soil cultural Marxism grows in. If any of us think we cannot be influenced by this subversive teaching, then the chances are we have already have been. The only way to stand against the spirit of the age is to clearly identify it, and then to intentionally work against it by searching the Scriptures. The dismissive spirit of evangelical leaders like Duncan is reminiscent of what happened at my institution. When we refuse to acknowledge a problem exists it only makes matters worse. 

I do not believe most of the evangelical leaders using cultural Marxist language and reasoning are doing so for nefarious reasons, but this does not change the danger we face. I have learned much from these men, and I have seen them think precisely and biblically on many issues. This is why it is so alarming they seemingly refuse to do so here. It is out of character for them. What is driving their willful blindness? I have some thoughts on that, but I will not share them here. 

Christians have seen how this story ends many times throughout church history. This is how theological liberalism spread like a cancer. This is how it killed churches and denominations which were once faithful. This is how my former institution became infected and is now in the process of spiritually dying. Change does not happen overnight, but gradually. Decline happens when valid concerns are dismissed and laughed off. It happens when those who expresses such concerns are vilified and ignored. It happens when we refuse to humbly consider the critique of godly men. It happens when we fail to take every thought captive to Christ.

Here is my warning, God is not mocked. You reap what you sow. If you sow post-modernism, then you will reap moral relativism, Marxism,  and infidelity to the morality of Scripture. If you sow theological liberalism, then you will reap spiritual death. If you sow cultural Marxism in the church, then you will reap its fruit—spiritual decay, unfaithfulness, injustice, and death. God is not mocked. If we seek to build his church on anything but his Son and his Word, it will collapse. This has played out many times in history. You will reap what you sow. This is God's world, we just live in it. The good news is that it is not too late to take this issue seriously and measure it carefully before Scripture. God honors repentance, but first, we must be humble enough to consider we may be wrong.

So my plea is for humility. For evangelicals to measure these things carefully before Scripture. To remove this prideful and dismissive spirit.  For us to view correction from other mature believers not as personal attacks, but as a chance to grow together in wisdom.  My plea is for us to cultivate the attitude behind Proverbs 27.6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” If we are willing to do these things, then there is great hope for the future of evangelicalism. If we sow cultural Marxism, we will reap death. If we sow humility, repentance, and fidelty to God's Word we will reap life. 

Is There No Balm in Washington?

Last week marked another tragedy in our country—more children dead at the hands of a peer. The story is all too familiar and it reflects how desperately sick we are as a people. The chaos, strife, and anger in our hearts have flooded into our streets, our schools, and our discourse. As a people, few of us would say we are healthy and are heading in the right direction. Our trajectory is clear, yet we are blind, or unwilling, to admit it. The latest tragedy is just that, the latest one. There will surely be more of the same.

Evils like this do not happen in a vacuum. There are a lot of contributing factors which have led to such tragedies being commonplace. Mass shootings are not the disease, they are the painful symptoms a society which has been declining in health for some time. What is the illness? Sin. Specifically, high rebellion against God in every area of a life. The disease of unbelief has spread like malicious cancer into every corner of our society and its fruit is evident for anyone observing from a Christian worldview.

The driving ethic of our sin is replacing God with lesser things. We have told ourselves and our children that life is all about me. My goal in life is to seek myself, to be true to myself, to do what makes me happy. The problem is we cannot satisfy ourselves, let alone make ourselves happy. When we turn inward to replace God with ourselves we always come back dissatisfied. The further down this path we go the worse it gets. In order to justify our pursuit of the self, we have told our children there is no right and wrong. Do what is right for you.

This pursuit of the self is killing us. We have convinced ourselves we are descended from animals, and then we are shocked when our kids act like animals. We have held survival of the fittest as the ethic by which the universe moves forward and then we are dismayed when people live like its true. If it isn’t wrong for a lion, gorilla, or shark to kill his adversaries, then why would it be wrong for us? Ideas are important. They have consequences. We cannot teach these things to entire generations and expect it to not bear its fruit. To reject God always leads to death. 

In response to the latest tragedy, Christians have rightly offered prayer. They have turned to the God who hears and who saves.  The response of many has been to attack prayer as useless to our problem and with this we go further down the rabbit hole. What would the secularists then offer as hope? They turn to their god, the government. They plead with Washington D.C., “Save us! Do something!” In the vacuum we have created by rejecting God something always takes his place.  The problem is the government not only can’t stop our current downward spiral, turning to the government instead of God is just another step toward death, chaos, and strife. Things will only worsen because there is no power in Washington to heal our wounds. 

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In Jeremiah 8 the prophet laments the state of his people, Israel. They had rejected God in favor ofidols and the wisdom of the world. The result was the same as it is for us today—chaos, strife, discord, and violence. The people were falling apart. Their sin was consuming them. This always what sin does. This is God's world and if you reject him, it will not go well for you. 

In Jeremiah 8.21-22 the prophet says, “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”

Jeremiah weeps for his people and their current suffering, just as we do. Then he asks the important question, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Israel had turned to Gilead time and again to fix their problems, but it wasn’t working. They turned to the wisdom of their age, to the medicine of their day, the doctors of their day to fix what was ultimately a spiritual problem. The point Jeremiah is making is obvious, “Why do you keep hitting your head on the wall and expect a different result? Why do you keep going after that which is killing you expecting it to save you?” If there was actual power in Gilead to save, then Israel would have been already been healed. Instead, it was Gilead who had taken the place of God in their hearts.The pursuit of healing from Gilead was killing them.  

This is us. We turn to our politicians, our government, and our rebellious ways of thinking expecting it will bring healing. The problem is: the farther we go on this road the worse our illness gets. Is there no physician in Washington to heal us? Is there no balm there? If there is, then why are we getting worse? 
The solution for Israel and for us is the same—turn in repentance to God.

I am not advocating for belief in a general god. Most Americans profess belief in a god (who happens to look a lot like us). What we need to do is turn to the God who is there, the one who created everything. The one who has revealed himself in Scripture and through his Son Jesus Christ. This is the only way for healing to ever truly come. 

As a people, we need to do an about-face, a full 180. We must walk the long road of repentance in all areas of life and it must start now by acknowledging our sinful rebellion against our Creator and his Son. The truth is there is healing available, but we must humble ourselves before God in dust and ashes. I am not calling for the mere mental belief that God exists, but genuine faith which is marked by hearts broken over sin and a humble obedience to the commands of God.

This must pervade every area of our thinking. Man is not an animal, but he is made in the image of God. There is a universal moral standard of right and wrong. Life is not about pursuing ourselves, but about dying to ourselves and following Christ. Parents are to raise their kids, not to look to schools to replace them. Ideas have consequences. If we will walk this road of repentance, then we can find the healing eluding us. There is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is power to heal and to change hearts, but first, our sinful hearts must be replaced with hearts of flesh by repentance and faith.

So I will continue to pray. To pray for widespread repentance and faith. This is our only hope, and it is a glorious hope because unlike Washington it has the power to heal the wounded, forgive sinners, restore families, and bring people into right relation with God and others. To this end, the church of Christ must labor by preaching the gospel of Christ's sacrificial death and his victorious resurrection. 
 

What Tolkien Can Teach Christians About Our Current Moment

One of the great things about JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is his uncanny ability to relate truth about the human condition through his made-up fantasy world. This is what brings me back to the books again and again. Of late the evangelical community in America has been in turmoil, almost as if it is at war with itself. As I have watched this unfold, I keep coming back to Tolkien’s great work. There is a section in Tolkien’s work which offers us guidance with our current issues—the Scouring of the Shire.

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At the end of the major conflict in The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits return home. They expect to find it as they left it—peaceful. Sadly this is not the case. Despite having experienced victory, their homeland is overrun and their people are oppressed. This reality shocks our heroes, yet they are prepared to handle this challenge precisely because of what they just went through. Their experience showed them the cost of denying reality and compromising with evil-- it only makes matters worse. For the Hobbits, the worst part is not the actions of their enemies, but the state of their own people.

There are three groups of Hobbits living under the new order who all have responded differently. It is these groups which illustrate the various camps within evangelicalism today as secularism, Cultural Marxism, and progressivism assault the church. Like the different groups of Hobbits living under oppression, evangelicals have responded to our new found reality in different ways. Here are the groups in Tolkien’s work:

  1. The Peasants- The majority of the Hobbits fall into this group. They lived in constant fear of their oppressors and what they might do next. This fear did not drive them to resist, but to submit even more to those who were actively destroying them.  When Frodo and his friends return, they are unaware of all the new rules they are supposed to obey. So they start accidentally breaking rules, which causes the peasants to tell them to “Stop!” The philosophy of the peasants can be summed up as: “Don’t rock the boat, you are only going to make matters worse. If we obey, things will at least be better than if we don’t.” The problem is things were already terrible. It is their ongoing inaction and cowardice which led them to this oppression. Eventually, Frodo and company begin to intentionally break the rules. More on that later.
  2. The Shirriffs- This group of Hobbits embraced the new order. Their job was to carry out the will of their oppressors, making sure their own people followed the rules. They are turn-coats, who either love power or who actually prefer the new way of life to the old freedom they once had. It is this group which saddens Frodo and company the most—how can someone turn on their own people and side with those who are seeking the destruction of their people? The Shirriffs turn out to be weapons of the enemy, and not really Hobbits at all in any meaningful way. 
  3. The Resistance- This group is smallest of the three groups. They wised up to what was occurring and revolted against the new order. This led to most of them being locked away. There are too few people in this group to launch any meaningful resistance. So they wait for their fellow countrymen to wake-up. Eventually, because of the leadership and rule-breaking of the returning Hobbits, most of the prior two camps join in the resistance and retake the Shire. This only happened because people were moved to active resistance. 

So what does all this have to do with us today? The evangelical movement is in a time of identity crisis. As the secular world increases its hostility to faithful Christianity we are all faced with a choice—to resist by remaining faithful or to compromise. Compromise can look like that of the peasants, who do so by remaining silent and submissive to the new overlords, or it can come by outright betrayal. We are currently seeing both.

There are also evangelicals striving to remain faithful, but whenever they sound the alarm, others tell them to knock-it-off—If we keep talking like this, it will only make matters worse.  It is here that we should hear the echoes of how Frodo and company were greeted when they returned, “You can’t do that! It’s against the rules!” The problem is we are already at a terrible place from where we once were. The boat needs to be rocked more, not less. Whose rules are we going to follow anyway? This camp in evangelical is marked by the same cowardice and shortsightedness of the peasants.

Cowardice is one thing, but betrayal is far more demoralizing. There are many today who call themselves evangelical who are nothing more than Secular-Shirriffs. They see their job as having to enforce the new ways of thinking and the new moral order of our day on evangelicalism. Whether it is in the guise of social justice (which rejects the basics of biblical justice) or the pursuit of supposed relevancy, we see on a daily basis an increase of the ranks of the Secular-Shirriffs. The problem is not only their presence but that they are exerting  influenceon the camp of peasants.

So what shall we do? What can we do? The same answer we are always are given in Scripture, repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you find yourself bent toward cowardice, you need to repent. Trust in the power of God to conquer the progressivism of our day. Jesus is King of Kings and he is currently ruling from on high. Refuse to convert to the new morality of our day and join the resistance—this is what repenting and believing will look like. We must come to terms with the reality that compromise and appeasement has led us to where we are today. It would be insanity to return to that vomit thinking it will taste better this time.  We need resistance, not appeasement. 

If you find yourself promoting the ways of the world as good, let me ask you this, “Do you love the Church as your people, or are you ashamed of the bride of Christ? Do you love Christ, or do you love the world?” You cannot love both. If you truly agree with the trajectory of our culture, then fully embrace it. Leave evangelicalism behind, as you already have in practice. Stop wagging your head at those of us who are loyal to Christ. If though you really want Christ and his kingdom, then return to his teaching and show allegiance to him and his people. Repent of your double-mindedness and throw yourself upon the mercy of God. Above all else and stop doing the job of those who are anti-Christ, and join the resistance.   

Tolkien’s work reminds us of our tendency toward both cowardice and betrayal when faced with persecution. He reminds us we can only overcome our current challenges by honestly identifying our enemies, working together as one people, and refusing to submit to the new order. Open defiance is not only the best strategy but the only one. This requires courage, a strong moral vision, perseverance, and a humble dependence on the grace of God. It also means we need to stop fighting among ourselves. Like the Hobbits, we too know the King has already won, and his Kingdom is coming. Now all we have to do stand and fight for that kingdom. 

Ecclesiastes, Easter, & Finding Gain

This Sunday I finished teaching through Ecclesiastes, which has been my favorite study to date. It is an oddly perfect time, the start of Holy Week, to conclude this study. This book is difficult to understand and has on more than one occasion left me scratching my head. Despite that, I have benefited greatly from wrestling with this book. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon struggles with the frustrations of living in a world which is broken. Since Genesis 3 mankind has lived under the curse of God. This brokenness is the righteous judgment of God upon mankind’s sinfulness, and we run head first into this frustration daily whether it is car trouble, problems at work, or drama at home. Life in this world is marked by sin and death. Ecclesiastes reminds us of the ever-present impact of sin and death on life.

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In Ecclesiastes, Solomon stares down the reality of death and the short-comings of life in a way that makes many of us in modern evangelicalism uncomfortable. It makes us so uncomfortable some scholars try to explain away the unity of the book. Yet any serious study demonstrates the unflinching unity and honesty of this book as it deals with the difficulties and tragedies of life. Solomon took the world as it was, and then he offers us wisdom on how to live in light of the vanity. His advice: trust God in the darkness. Live as creatures before the Creator knowing our limitations and his perfections.

It is here that Ecclesiastes helps us to better understand the beauty of Christ’s work. The main enemy in Ecclesiastes and all of life is death. It is death which drives the vanity of this life. It is death which darkens all of our pursuits. In Ecclesiastes, as in life, we cannot escape this great foe. Solomon searches for a way out, a way to beat death, but he cannot. He writes, “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” There is no hope found within ourselves, or in the world at large.  We are nothing in comparison to death. There is no gain at all in this life for death eventually overpowers all of us.

It is here the good news of Christ’s work resounds with unbridled hope. Christ has overpowered death. He has destroyed death by dying. That which defeats us, he has defeated.  Paul writes of this in Philippians 1.21, “ For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” When Paul wrote these words he was facing the possibility of execution. He knew that if spared he would continue to live for Christ, but if he were to die he would gain. I do not believe that word is an accident.  Paul knew his Old Testament backward and forward. I think he has Ecclesiastes in mind here. Where Solomon saw only defeat before Christ, Paul sees gain through Christ. By the work of Christ's death, that which has frustrated and defeated mankind since fall, has been overthrown.

In studying Ecclesiastes my joy has increased precisely because it shows me my limitations and my need for someone greater than me. It shows the world as it is, which highlights my need.  It has taught me to be gracious for the gifts of God, to trust in his sovereignty, and to come to terms with the frustrations of life in a fallen world. But above all of that, it points me to my need for Jesus Christ. It shows me that gain in this life is only found in dying with Christ so that I may rise again as he has. There is gain, not by my work, but by his work. For this reason, and many more, we should all take the message of Ecclesiastes to heart.