Art Imitating Life?
Updated: Mar 19, 2022
I'm an avid reader. Years ago I learned to speed-read, a science which has been helpful when it comes to recreational reading. Basically, I can read faster because I have learned to read groups of words rather than single words. Anyway, that's not the point of this post.
The other night I began reading a novel by Jon Land called Murder at the CDC (I am partial to murder, mayhem and mass destruction). The story basically revolves around biochemical terrorism. I was reading fairly quickly until I came to page 88. Let me paint the scene: The leader of the terrorist group is speaking to his followers. He says: "We've tried prayer, haven't we? But it hasn't worked, and we let ourselves believe that God wasn't listening. So we wallowed in our failure and our pity, not realizing He was waiting, waiting for us to act. He's done listening, because He's as frustrated as we are about how things have gone so wrong in this great nation. The blessing being that it's not too late, that we still have time to set things straight, to get America back on the tracks it had been riding until a whole bunch of folks hijacked the train and drive it off the tracks."
A couple of years ago I might have sped over the paragraph, tucking away in the back of my mind another piece of the general picture of what was happening in the story. But I stopped and read the paragraph again—several times. It reminded me that art often imitates life. The reverse is also true. What is described in the paragraph also describes the belief system of real people, of people who claim to be followers of Jesus and practitioners of the truth of His Word.
Without getting down into the weeds, look at the paragraph from Land's book again. Look at the lie. God is frustrated. The dictionary definition of frustration is this: "the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something" and "the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something."
In the book, God is unable to achieve what He wants. But He will be able to achieve what He wants if the terrorists act on His behalf.
The lie is a basic one: God needs using order to accomplish His will.
On the surface that sounds right. But it isn't. That God USES us to accomplish His will is quite different from God NEEDS us to accomplish His will. This second, particularly as it applies to some of the more radical and false popular theology of our day, implies that God is not sovereign, that He can't do anything unless we let Him loose, that He is "frustrated." There are groups out there, false prophets and teachers who incite their followers to "unleash God." Sometimes the instructions are as innocent-sounding as praying to God and making declarations on His behalf based on verses torn out of their Scriptural contexts. Sometimes the instructions are more militant and political in nature.
Whatever they are, those instructions are based on a falsehood—that we drive God. That, to describe it as it is—is blasphemy. God is sovereign, That means that He has supreme and ultimate power and authority and can act independently and without outside interference.
Peter's warning about these false prophets is clear: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute." (2 Peter 2:1, 2)
The Almighty Creator of the universe we know, and whatever might be beyond what we know, to whom the very breath in our bodies is owed, who reigns over authorities and powers and to whom every knee will one day bow, doesn't need us to give Him instructions or to remind Him of His promises, or to dictate to Him what His will is, or should be, or to give Him permission to act, or to pave the way so that He can act.
I have moved beyond page 88—the story is a good one. But I think about the real-life false prophets out there who are driving their followers to actions that in no way imitate the way of Jesus. Our Lord reminded His disciples and His audience on many occasions that He had not come to establish an earthly kingdom, especially one taken by force, but a heavenly one. And that mission—to share the good news that Christ Jesus died to saved sinners—is the mission that we, as His followers, need to focus on.