Obscuring the Gospel

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This sketch has been kicking around in a desk drawer for a while now. The remnants of a thought that had been doing a similar act in my head at a time when it was difficult for me to turn those thoughts in my head into words on paper (or a blog).

My family and I were traveling the PA turnpike on the way back from Harrisburg at the beginning of this year.

A couple hours of Central Pensylvania scenery.

Farmland.

Mountains.

A couple pretty impressive tunnels.

… and lots and lots of billboards.

One, in particular, caught my attention. It featured white friendly letters that said,

“In the beginning God created.”

Though it might not be quite as obvious on a dreary January afternoon, when you are more concerned about whether the road is about to freeze over than the passing scenery, Central Pennsylvania actually has a few ‘wow, God created’ type scenes in it.

As a verse of scripture, Genesis 1:1 actually plays pretty well among the backdrop of some beautiful mountains.

… but look at me, I’m missing the point.

The point of all of this is in the moderately sized black, white and red graphic situated in the top corner of the ad.

This isn’t a Christian ministry attempting to draw our eye to the heavens that declare the glory of God [Psalm 19:1], but a hokey piece of anti-evolution propaganda.

This wasn’t the only Christian billboard that we came across on our trek west. There is nearly enough scripture to on that stretch of highway to travel the Romans road on the physical road to Pittsburgh.

In the middle of these words of life, scattered between the state capital and its rust-belted sister, is a pothole in that road that promises salvation.

There is a quote that a friend has been fond of referencing recently,

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” ~ Thomas Pynchon

As an organization that enjoys living out loud, Answers in Genesis is actually very successful in convincing people to focus on the wrong questions. The have since built a theme park around a replica of Noah’s Ark that has managed to get all kinds of the wrong type of attention, but they first came to my attention from Ken Ham’s apparent need to draw eyes his way by arguing about evolution.

The creation narrative, as it is presented in scripture, is obviously something that we have to wrestle with once we have accepted that God exists, we have sinned against him, that sin has separated us from him, he came to us as a man and died to pay for that sin, then rose again as a testament to the day when we will rise with him. The people at Answers in Genesis are so concerned with stoking the flame of that cultural battle, that they have forged a large weighty stumbling block in the heat of that fire.

A stumbling block that they have the advertising budget to pepper our highways with.

I admit that I am probably a touch sensitive on this issue.

I had the privilege of sitting in a pew and listening to the man who baptized me send out a group of young people to college campuses, and the wider world, with the message that anyone who disagreed with his reading of two chapters of scripture could comfortably be placed in the category of “idiot”.

When we elevate internal debates on secondary issues into marketing campaigns as cultural warfare, we trade a message of good news to a needy world for an attitude of smug condescension.

When we are more concerned about winning arguments, and gaining cultural capital, than preaching liberty to the captives, then we obscure the gospel.

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6 thoughts on “Obscuring the Gospel

  1. Your not in agreement with Young Earth Creationists?
    The Catholic Church takes a more flexible view on the Creation Story than many Protestant Churches do. it’s not considered a test of Orthodoxy or Salvation to hold one view over another, as Fundamentalists insist. Catholics are at liberty to hold one view over the other depending on how they see the evidence.

    • I see it as largely a non-issue. I think that when we focus on that part of it we get distracted from what was intended for us. I actually have an old email that I wrote about this that I really should edit into a future post.

      My main thrust of it is that we overall make it way too big a deal with nonbelievers… to our own detriment.

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