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January 30, 2009 / beidson

The Devil’s Condemnation: How Novelty, Sophistication And Conspiracy Theory Can Ruin A Man

We are neophiliacs by nature.  Whether it’s a new idea about self-government whispered by thecoffee deceitful serpent in Eden, the desire to build a new tower to the heavens, a new King, the search for new information on every subject known to man, a new political system, a new philosophy, a new religious belief, the New World, the New Deal, or a new iPod, we are in love with all things new.  And this is why the gospel is so compelling, since it speaks to our greatest need for deliverance from the old self, and to gain the new life given to us in Christ Jesus.

But many times we take “new” to a new level, and this is nothing new, of course.  At the center of this search for “new” is our ultimate desire to escape not boredom, but brevity–the brevity of stuff and the brevity of life itself.  Things wear out, and our bodies grow old and die.  We want “new” because we don’t want to get “old.”  But herein lies a great problem.  There is nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon wisely remarked.  In fact, there is a sense in which the answer to our problems is very old.  Ages ago, it was the Word who created all things, and by whom all things continue to exist.  The word which was spoken in the beginning, “Let there be . . . ” is the same word which speaks to us today, thousands of years later.  But rather than listen to the eternally existing Word, we would rather, by nature, hear a new word or see a new thing.  Rather than submit to the “Let us make . . .” uttered by God in the beginning, we would rather speak in agreement with those who shouted against God at Babel, “Let us build . . . ”  By nature, we prefer new over old, and this is not always a good thing.

So what does our love for “new” look like today?  It looks like a snotty middle class sophistication, which boasts in Starbucks Coffee and NPR and hybrid vehicles, and thinks charity work is cool and intolerance is intolerable.  This “new” wants to distance itself from fundamentalism and traditionalism in their many manifestations, such as the nuclear family and monogamy.

“New” looks like a middle-aged man who believes there is a grand conspiracy orchestrated by an evil, power-hungry elite.  He doubts the reliability of the Scriptures to inform us about government, celebrities, war and aliens.  Rather than believe Jesus is the only alien being to visit our planet, and the King who rules over all lesser kingdoms like D.C. and Hollywood, he is obsessed with secrecy and disbelieves the obvious.  This “new” is clouded in cynicism and fear, and is always working against general knowledge, i.e., aliens don’t exist and there is no plan for George Bush to rule the world.

But “new” has a less noticeable face too.  This type of new is young, hip and evangelical, in the loosest sense of the word.  It prefers jeans over suits, unkempt hair over the classic part-on-the-side, and saving the world, not from sin, but from misunderstanding Jesus.   It would rather condone than condemn and forget than forgive.  This new is eager to be up-to-date, so it is defined by liquidity, always moving with cultural trends, ebbing and flowing in mainstream realities.

And of course, there are the rest of us, who maybe are not so infatuated with lattes and aliens, but who nevertheless grow weary of our wardrobe, are suspicious that our boss is out to get us, believe God still speaks to us through Oprah, and seek sophistication in political savvy and health foods.  We are no different than the neighbor who is looking for Elvis–we’re just looking for a different kind of discovery.

The Bible speaks clearly to our neophilia.  In Acts 17 we read about the Athenians, who “w0uld spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (v. 21).  Paul also warns against placing new believers in positions of authority, such as the office of pastor/elder.  The reason?  “He may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).  That an inexperienced pastor could be guilty of Satan’s crime because of his “novelty” speaks volumes about the danger of having knowledge and power without wisdom and self-control.

In the Gosepl of Matthew we read of the Jews conspiracy to keep secret the resurrection of Christ, spreading the lie that his body was stolen by his disciples (28:13).  And in 2 Timothy 3:7 we read about godless people who are “always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth.”  ‘Tis the nature of conspiracy and novelty.

In all of these things, we find the common threads of unbelief and suspicion, and a man-centeredness that exalts autonomy and rejects authority.  Whether it drinks lattes or looks for lights in the skies, this quest for the “new” is perpetuating the same old problem.  Doubt and unbelief do not lead us to Christ, unless of course we are beginning to doubt our unbelief.  Those who practice suspicion regularly, that is, those who always doubt truth and truthfulness, objectivity and revelation, will soon learn that the only knowledge which is suspect is that which is contrary to Scripture.  Rather than lead them to new heights of learning, this quest for new will eventually ruin them, if not in this life, then most definitely in the next.

So how do we temper our neophilia?  By delighting in the “new” offered to us in Christ, who makes all things new.  Then we will not live for “new” itself, but for him who can make us new, who can deliver us from the bondage of brevity, and who can keep us from the devil’s condemnation.

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