Modern Ruins in Christian Evangelicalism

Modern Ruins in Christian Evangelicalism

Lunch at the Ark of Ham

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When after years of planning, scheming and working, seemingly unattainable dreams finally come to fruition, how do you respond?

One response is to look to the future. There are the formative experiences for the children [few of whom are seen in the photo, although they would most likely be in school anyway] and family memories. From a Christian Evangelical perspective, there is the ‘apologetic value’ of such projects.

One could also talk about God’s goodness, how God led the project, provided for the project, protected the project from accusations of fiscal malfeasance. With our latest extravaganza in place, God’s intention seems quite clear. Obviously, this was God’s plan all along. But the word ‘latest’ indicates another possible cause for reflection and ground for perspective.

Another response is to remember the past. Sure, it seems counter intuitive in the midst of ‘doing great things for God.’ Who wants to read history when you can make history? Yet history has a way of imposing its verdict on us despite our best efforts to lock it away in the closet.

Modern Ruins

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‘Reflection and perspective’ came to mind on reading Lauren Davis‘ categorization of another evangelical extravaganza under ‘modern ruins.’

Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m intrigued by social contradiction. And few things in life seem more contradictory to me than paring what is social with desolation. And what has this to do with the Ark of Ham? It so happens that this isn’t the first time that Christians have embarked on great adventures that ended well before their anticipated time. Consider Jim Bakker’s Christian theme park.

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Davis’ article recounts that after opening in 1978, ‘Heritage USA’ soon drew some 6 million guests a year. Then came scandals, then the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status, and then came Hurricane Hugo. Barely into its second decade of existence, Heritage USA closed for good.

History has a remarkable propensity to teach us about humility. Before we adulate and exonerate our vision, ingenuity, motives and successes, we might ask why we expect that our efforts will end so much better than many other equally-well intended evangelical extravaganzas.

What exactly do we leave in our wake? What do our best-laid plans and works actually achieve for God? It is one thing to point to ruins, modern or ancient, and say that they display the futility of human endeavor without God. But Christian fundamentalists notoriously recruit God for all they do.

Christians confess that their works will be tested by God. But they are tested also by time. Rather than proclaiming the meaning of our labors and achievements, we might wait with quiet patience and humility. Good marketing practice is isn’t. But it let God weigh in on topic. God says:

‘Come now, you who say, “today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil’ [Ja 4:13-16].

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