I recently finished Ben Patterson’s He Has Made Me Glad. Overall an enjoyable read and one I highly recommend, especially for clergy. Patterson’s thesis is that God’s people are invited, even commanded, to live lives of joy. Since one need not look too far to see that we aren’t living lives of “inexpressible and glorious joy,” Patterson wants to help us get there.
I buy most of what Patterson is selling. Perhaps all of it. But I think the direction he goes in chapter 4 opens a door he does not seem to realize he opens. He writes:
An evangelist was asked if it was hard to get people saved. He answered, “No, it’s not hard to get them saved. The hard part is getting them lost.” Part of the misery of being lost is not knowing you are lost. This lack of awareness of guilt and misery may be a uniquely modern difficulty. (p.56)
This is followed with a C.S. Lewis quote that says about the same thing.
It seems as though both Patterson and Lewis imagine that all pre-modern people were constantly conscious of overwhelming guilt and need for God.
To blame the non-Christian or unchurched for not being sufficiently aware of his or her own sin and concomitant misery is to blame the victim, as it were.
Modern non-Christians may well exhibit no clear and deep knowledge of sin and misery, but have self-professed Christians offered them a different life to observe?
If the characterization “lost” fits non-Christians, what is it they are lost from? What is it they have not found? Comapring their own lives to the Christians who live next door or down the street, who work in the next cubicle or sit in traffic in the car behind them, what real difference are they to notice? That we call them “lost”?
Alasdair McIntyre’s words, written some 40 years ago, that atheists are getting less interesting because Christians are giving them “less of a God in which to disbelieve” has only gotten wiser as the years have passed.
Instead of critiquing the lost for not knowing they are lost, how about of the “found” start to live like they have been found?