The Bible Is Counter-Cultural

In my post, The Psychology of Unbelief , I surmised reasons why we refuse to believe in God. 

We often hear another reason from the unbeliever. We might call it “the difficult passages” reasons. People who don’t want to believe God “cherry pick” the most perplexing passages where God seems excessively harsh. For those who want a solid, logical, biblical, loving answer, I recommend the book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan. There are answers to these “difficult passages.” 

However, I think it is the passages that the unbeliever does not mention that are actually the most difficult passages for them to accept. Such passages are counter-cultural. Such passages are counter to the spirit of self-centeredness and self-sufficiency that pervades our hearts apart from Christ. Such passages pervade the Bible from cover to cover. Let’s consider just one: Philippians 2:1-8. 

The Bible Is Counter-Cultural to Our Self-Centered Lifestyle: Philippians 2:1-5

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:1-5). 

You won’t hear too many unbeliever’s railing against the ethics of this passage—at least not verbally/externally. Who could or would suggest that it is wrong, old-fashion, cruel, or dogmatic to: 

  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit
  • In humility consider others better than yourselves
  • Look not only to your own interests
  • Look to the interests of others 

However, in our hearts, believer or unbeliever, we don’t want to believe and live out such a passage. Our fleshly hearts prefer to live for self, to put self first. The culture of the world screams, “Me First!”   

Why refuse to believe in Christ? Here’s the unspoken reason: “Christ calls me to live for others and I want to live for myself!” “Christ calls me to put others first, and I insist that I am number one!” 

This is a “difficult passage” that truly makes believing in Christ difficult. It is difficult, in fact, impossible in the flesh, to surrender to the other-centered ethic of love embedded throughout the Bible and embodied in Christ Himself. 

The Bible Is Counter-Cultural to Our Self-Sufficient Attitude: Philippians 2:6-8

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8). 

And here we have the most difficult part about this “difficult passage” that makes entrusting oneself to Christ so difficult. It is difficult, in fact, impossible in the flesh, to surrender to the Christ-sufficient ethic. 

We insist that we are the captain of our fate. Christ insists that He must be our Captain by faith. The choice is clear. 

As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians, Christ’s death on the cross is foolishness to a world that believes in standing up for self. Unbelief asks incredulously, “Why could, how could, a supposed Supreme Being allow Himself to be killed by the very creatures He created!? It makes no sense!” 

Yes, from the foolish, self-sufficient, self-protective perspective of the world, Christ’s death on the cross, Christ’s submission to His Father and His substitution for us makes no sense from a worldly perspective. 

In our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mindset, in our “I don’t need anyone but me” mentality, Christ dying for us is just too humbling. Christ’s humiliation humiliates us. It stabs a knife deep into our proud heart. When it does, we either cry “Uncle!” or we cry “Fool!” We either “tap out” or we raise an arrogant, angry fist. We either refuse or we submit. And the last thing our arrogant, self-sufficient heart wants to do is submit. The last thing the proud heart wants to do is be dependent upon Another. 

In our self-sufficiency, we reject the reality of our desperate need for Christ. We refuse to humble ourselves and become Christ-sufficient by clinging to Christ alone. 

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Which is more difficult for you: going against the world’s flow of self-centeredness or swimming against the world’s tide of self-sufficiency?

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  1. Theophile said:

    Hi Bob, It’s pretty refreshing to see Paul quoted as he probably intended. I have to admit I kind of cringe when I hear/read a sermon/blog which begins: “the apostle Paul said…” because it usually is in the context of promoting the heresy: “the old testament is the old covenant, it’s all done away with.” when Christ clearly said: “Moses and the prophets they testify of Me,… and… if they won’t believe Moses, they won’t believe even if one returns from the dead.” Have You checked the frequency count of the words faith and faithfulness in the Bible? Faith shows up 2 times(that’s all) in the OT. Each time Jesus used the word, it was concerning doing miracles. Paul used the word 168 times, and by shear numbers has become the default definer of the word for Christians. Faith and Paul’s words have become the focus instead of God, and His word. When it is faithfulness that God is looking for, in obedience to His Word. When God listed the most abominable things going on at His sanctuary: Ezekiel 8, how many Christians have taken the time to Google Tammuz, or the queen of heaven, or consider the “sunrise service”, on that 6th year 6th month 6th day? As a Christian I for one, want to know what God finds abominable, as to avoid even the appearance of doing such things, sadly though, most don’t even know God made this list, or condemned keeping the day of the sun god Baal(Sunday), or any day other than His Sabbath, as a day of worship.

    September 8, 2011
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