21st August 2023
Gerrit Scott Dawson offers
Faith in an Age of Unbelief
Breaking the Spells of Modernity
"Fake! Fake! Toy, toy, toy!" jeered Danny and Lynn as I showed them Big Dog, one of my stuffed animals.
I was about six years old, so they were about ten and twelve. I had claimed that my animals were real. They told me to grow up and stop being a baby.
My response was to fetch another animal, the one I called Big Bear.
I figured if I told them enough about him, they'd have to believe me. They only taunted more, "Fake! Fake!" I can still feel the humiliation.
But I also remember my belief.
Of course, I understood my toys were not real, not the way the family boxer dog was real. But I also knew there is more to the world than what our immediate senses comprehend.
I knew imagination and faith reveal more than what sceptics see.
And in days when our culture clashes over what is reality and how to describe it, that matters.
The fight over what is real runs through a thrilling scene from C.S. Lewis's 'The Silver Chair'.
English schoolchildren Jill and Eustace are sent to the magical realm of Narnia by the great lion, Aslan, to rescue the lost Prince Rilian.
He has been captured by the Witch-Queen of the Underland, a dank, stale region beneath the beautiful lands and skies of Narnia. Just when the children have found Rilian and set him free, the Witch appears.
But rather than subdue them physically, the Witch attempts to enchant them so they will never even desire to flee her dim, shadowy realm.
The Witch throws a magic powder in the glowing fireplace.
She strums a stringed instrument with "a steady, monotonous thrumming."
Then she begins to define reality for them.
The world of twentieth-century England (from which they came) was just imaginary. Narnia - with its talking animals, shining stars, bright sunlight, and vivid colours - was merely a fantasy.
"There never was such a world," says the Witch.
The children repeat back her words. Then she asserts, "There never was any world but mine". They parrot her again. They settle into the lie, and feel relief to stop fighting her spell. They are almost lost.
Is anyone casting a spell over you with the words "There never was any world but mine?"
They tell you that your antiquated Christian beliefs place you "on the wrong side of history."
The thrumming enchantment makes you wonder, "What if that's so?"
The Witch-Queen calmly, but constantly, repeats her lies. She tells you what every educated and enlightened person knows:
The world was not created 'out of nothing' by some personal God.
The underlying motivation in every individual or group is power.
If from the majority group, you can never stop being an oppressor.
If from a minority group, you ever remain a victim.
With nothing above us, we determine our own meaning.
An embryo inside a woman's womb is not a person yet.
"It" is just part of her body and under her sovereign control.
You can, however, always determine your gender identity no matter your biological sex.
To oppose any process of "transitioning" is hateful and leads to others' depression and even suicide.
"These are simple truths," today's Witch-Queen says as she throws more powder on the fire.
"Opposing them forfeits your right to speak, work, or advance. There never was any world but mine."
The children, and Prince Rilian, almost succumb to the enchantment.
After all, they cannot now see Narnia. Perhaps their memories are only remnants of dreams.
But they have with them one more companion on the quest to rescue the prince.
Puddleglum, is, as his name implies, a rather dour realist. But his gloomy personality makes him more resistant to enchantment.
Just before it is too late, Puddleglum rouses himself with great effort and moves toward the fireplace.
He stamps one of his hard bare feet into the flames.
The Witch rages. But the children start to come back to themselves.
Then Puddleglum confronts the Witch-Queen with some of the great lines in English literature.
"One word, Ma'am," he said, suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.
In that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.
Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.
Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.
"Four babies playing a game can make a play-world which beats your 'real world' hollow."
What we see through the imagination of faith (grounded in the revealed word of Scripture) is far more interesting and wondrous than all the seemingly sophisticated posturing of the self-centred world.
Article by Gerrit Scott Dawson
Pastor, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for 'Desiring God' that began inauspiciously in 1994 when John handed off the church's tape ministry to his assistant, Jon Bloom.
John Piper was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1980, sensing an irresistible call of the Lord to preach, John became the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he ministered for almost 33 years.
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