Almost two weeks down the road I’m still thinking about Auschwitz and what led up to the gas chambers of Birkenau. Ideas have consequences. They are the cultural seeds that grow into movements which either build or destroy the civilizations of the world. The seed-ideas of Democracy, the Reformation and the Enlightenment quite naturally gave us the Modern world just as surely as the seeds of Darwin led to the Holocaust.
The evolutionists have been teaching us for 150 years that human beings have no special value. Evolved from nothingness into a quivering mass of organs and blood, we’re merely animals of the highest order. And among the children of primates are some, (in the case of Nazi Germany it was the Aryans), who are more highly evolved that others. Nazism at its root was a demonic device to speed evolution along by exterminating the inferior races. What could be more logical or more inevitable? Hitler was a great fan of Darwin.
The horrifying thing, of course, is that those same ideas are fueling another holocaust of terrifying proportions: to date, over fifty million unborn children, (one third of an entire generation), have been aborted in America alone.
Genesis confers mankind with honor, dignity and purpose while evolution strips away human value until we’re left on equal footing with the animals. Auschwitz was a wake up call for me: It’s time we in the church learn better to counter the ideologies of death with the simple, articulate Truth that leads to life.
Yesterday we took a brief excursion to the Terror Museum, a building in downtown Budapest that formerly housed the Secret Police during the occupying Nazis and the Communist years of Hungary’s history. Story after story of betrayal, persecution, forced labor, deportation and execution led us through the gloomy halls of the edifice. It is a truly shocking reminder of man’s capacity for cruelty and rebellion towards God.
Exiting the building into the tree-lined avenues of the city felt like a drowning man sucking in air. Budapest is a city that could have been built around the theme of beauty: Statues are strewn through parks and facades, trees and flowers are carefully set among the grand architecture of the Austrian-Hungarian empire while the beautiful Danube glides peacefully through the center. It’s a dream-city of wonder and charm and contradiction.
How the same human race who created such a magical city can turn around and send its neighbors to death camps and torture chambers is a question that only the Biblical account of man can answer: Fashioned in majesty to reflect the glory of His Creator-King, mankind has fallen under a spell of darkness that perverts and corrupts everything he sees. Man writes symphonies and sonnets. And he gasses his neighbors in death camps.
The good news for Budapest is that her exiled King has returned. Having entered our human darkness, He fought his way through the lies and deception and broke the evil spell of sin. The kingdom He holds before us now would make the Austrian-Hungarian Empire look like a poor starving village. Pray that the word will spread to the streets.
I don’t know which gripped my heart first: a love for the Kingdom, or a love for Truth. There’s no difference, really, because the Kingdom is the totality of Truth, and Truth is the Kingdom. In fact, the King himself declared “I am the… Truth.”
One of the greatest grievances I carry in my soul is the abandonment of truth I see in today’s culture, (both Bosnian and American, I’m sad to say). Living here in Sarajevo has worked in me an utter detestation of lies: They kill. They destroy. They create wars, poverty, bondage, prejudice, broken relationships and emotional illness. I suppose its simpler to recognize it here because it’s always easier to see someone else’s lies than your own.
Several years back my friend Bill Burtness gave me a little formula for knowing truth:
- We’ve gotta be honest. A dishonest person can never grasp truth because his very being rejects it.
- We must know why we believe what we believe.
- We must know why we don’t believe what we don’t believe.
- We must be willing to change.
It’s all such hard work, really: thinking and honesty, and being willing to change. I have to say it’s a daily challenge for me to to sift through information and news and even the perceptions of my heart. But for all the annoyance, it’s worth it to occasionally find a little nugget of the Kingdom hidden under the rocks of illusion. It’s like discovering treasure in a field.
“The pursuit of truth shall set you free – even if you never catch up with it.”
– Clarence Darrow
I’ve had some encouraging conversations the past few days. I needed them, as I’ve been distressed by what feels like a hard place in the minds of so many friends. What’s the deal with us humans that we can want change so badly, and yet dig our feet in at the smallest suggestion that maybe our ideas need to be changed? Stanley Jones says we should take our brains out every so often and jump up and down on them just to keep them from calcifying.
Ideas are like seeds: they always produce predictable results. If you want tomatoes instead of beans, then you simply exchange the bean seeds you’ve been planting for the past generation and plant tomato seeds instead. Presto! Good and true ideas ALWAYS produce good results. And ideas that have no basis in truth ALWAYS produce death, poverty, joblessness, and despair. Whoever we are, whether American, European, or Bosnian, it’s a good exercise to investigate our ideas to see if they’re producing the results we’re wanting. And if they’re not, it’s time to consider a change. I’ve encouraged today because I see a few friends asking the right questions about their ideas.
Earlier this week I had an opportunity to teach a conversational English class in another Bosnian city. It happened to be all girls, which was refreshing in itself. But it was also exciting because these young ladies were real thinkers, mostly university students with active minds. And we were talking about the worldview concept that “ideas produce consequences.”
Year ago, I learned that it never actually works to tell a person, or even to suggest to a person what he/she ought to believe. Even the Father of Jesus didn’t demand unreasoning belief. But rather he placed the evidence before us and challenged honest seekers to “Come… let us reason together,” (Isaiah 1:18) and to “test all things, and hold onto what is good.” (1 Thes. 5:21)
In a world where all truth is God’s truth I’ve seen that when people are challenged to honestly seek the Truth, they will inevitably be led towards the God of all Truth. Even though most of these girls fit squarely into a secular worldview, (products of an educational system that avoids even the mention of God), by the end of our class the conversation had gravitated quite naturally and squarely towards Him.
I love the way Jesus doesn’t make demands. He simply entered our world and walked among us as the Truth in sandals. And yet it feels like I’ve only begun to understand what that means.
I’ll have another opportunity to speak with some of these girls next week. Please pray for all of us here in Sarajevo.