Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Ultimate Contraceptive: The Spirit of the Age

On this Trinity Sunday, the Gospel reading reminds us of the absolute requirement that we must be "born again" and how that takes place.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, `You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." John 3:1-16
There are so many things that would abort that new birth.
As St. Paul wrote, 
" ...if you live according to the flesh, you will die" Romans 8:13 
Or as we might say today,
"If you go to bed with the spirit of the age, you will die." 
And as Thomas A. Tarrants, III, Director of Ministry at the C.S. Lewis Institute once put it,
"The world system, that is, human life organized without reference to God, expresses the values of fallen humanity and reinforces and gives them social sanction. Thus people are blinded to their plight and trapped in their sins."
So what exactly is the spirit of the age?  It is hard to define. As I wrote in a reply to a comment on last week's post,
"The spirit of the age seems impossible to get a grip on as it is always changing. The great attraction of the spirit of the age is that it distracts us from thinking about our eternal future."
The spirit of the age is perhaps the most effective contraceptive to being born from above. Through it we fill our lives with endless distractions, we go off chasing whatever new cause of the day comes around, we create issue after issue to argue about, and we never can resolve anything with the complete assurance that we have found the right answer. Because of it, Christianity loses its place of importance both in our culture and in our minds.

“Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” C. S. Lewis in "God in the Dock".

It does not make sense that we would pursue all of these earthly things rather than the kingdom of God. I have even heard it preached that by pursuing these earthly distractions we are building the kingdom of God, but that makes as much sense as inviting a burglar in to straighten up your house.

The Holy Spirit is who we should be letting in. He will straighten up our house.
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of-throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." -C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity" Chapter 31 


  1. Pewster,
    Thanks for taking this on. I am working on a homily about it too. I think the spirit of the age is best described as "the spirit of the ages" and it contains many elements. The original sin was disobedience and the desire to be God.

    1. I will be interested to see how you transmit this seemingly simple idea to the people most likely to be in its thralls.

  2. Pewster,
    Here you go!