Slope Lube


From Wikipedia’s list of logical fallacies:

Slippery slope: argument states that a relatively small first step inevitably leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant impact

If my own life and the experiences of the last nearly 47 years are any indication, as much as people want to call slippery slope a fallacy, Slippery slopeI’ve seen very few cases where whatever was heading down the slope reversed course. One could argue that civil rights are in much better shape than they were when I was a child of the 1960s, but most everything, especially in pop culture, whirls to the bottom of the downward spiral.

I wrote earlier this week (“The Money God“) about yet another voter proposition in Ohio arguing for casinos. It seems every other year for the past 20 we’ve encountered one of these darned things, and every time it gets closer to passing. That relentless chipping away…

One of the most pressing arguments this time around in favor of the casinos is “Indiana has them, and so do other states.” I find this tactic amusing, as it falls into the category of moms everywhere yelling, “Well, just ‘cuz Jimmy got a shotgun doesn’t mean you should have one too!” Any ad that trumpets that Indiana is stealing Ohioans’ money—cold, hard cash that Ohio itself could be stealing from Ohioans—is about as slippery slope as it gets.

So we get our casinos. And legalized drugs, prostitution, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, bestiality, and so on are at the hilltop gate waiting for their own race to the bottom.

Someone should have told the Holy Spirit He was committing a logical fallacy when He encouraged the Apostle Paul to write this:

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
—Galatians 5:9

Or this:

…evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
—2 Timothy 3:13

I’ve read a few things by Christians lately arguing that Halloween ain’t so bad. Well, that may have been true back in the 1960s, but a trip to the local Halloween chain store today will have you wondering whether it’s owned by H.R. Giger and Larry Flynt. One 6-year old running around as a zombie drenched in fake blood and the “bedsheet ghost” of not-so-long ago seems like a relic from the pages of Little House on the Prairie. Halloween 2025—well, it’s hard for me to imagine what kind of ghoulish, occultic bacchanal that might be given the astounding amount of grease on the hillside already.

The Church is not exempt.

No matter where we stand on the issue of the ordination of women in the Church, the result is the ordination of homosexuals.

No matter what we might think about psychology, the synthesis of it and the Bible only further taints our contemporary theology.

No matter how we feel about modern Bible translations, the latest ones always seem “dumber” and less reliable than the ones before.

No matter what we think of megachurches with satellite branches driven by widescreen TVs, the result is a loss of genuine Christian community.

No matter what our opinions on capitalism and its ability to raise standards of living might be, we now treat God and the Church as commodities.

I’ve written Cerulean Sanctum for more than six years now. I could probably write another hundred “no matters…” for today’s list. But what I want to write about more than anything else is that someone, somewhere who is resisting the downhill slide. I want to hear more stories of Christians who washed the slope clean of grease rather than added more lubrication.

So if you would like to add a slippery slope example that just rots your insides, then please do. But also give us a story that ends not in the valley but standing atop the pinnacle of hope.

God knows we need to be hearing more of those positive stories in the days ahead.

The Church of “Tomorrow? What Tomorrow?”


In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:

It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
—Aesop, “The Ant and the Grasshopper”

I lost my faith in American business years ago. The reason? I started working in American business.

In no time at all, the average worker (like I was) will pull back the curtain and confront the engine that drives American business: expediency. Today, mention long-term planning at a shareholder’s convention and you’ll get hoots from everyone. They’re only thinking about next quarter. Business summons its finest wise guys who know how to massage the numbers to please shareholders, and when another quarter goes by and everyone’s still got a job, they’ve been successful—at least until the next quarter.

No better indicator exists that the American Church has been wholly corrupted by business practices than the fact that we’ve lost our eternal focus. We’ve become the Church of “Tomorrow? What Tomorrow?” If we can keep the shareholders—pardon me, “congregants”—happy through Forty Days of Purpose and then another fifty sailing on that high, then we’ve had a successful quarter. The offering plates are full now, the church is growing, the youth group is still bright and shiny, and we’ve got good buzz in the neighborhood.  Everything’s spiffy!

Or is it?

Laser-like, we concentrate on that moment of justification, but aren’t certain how to address the sixty or so years of sanctification and discipleship that come afterwards.

We set people up for experiential spiritual highs, but when we can’t maintain that warm fuzzy feeling forever, we watch them drift off to whatever Church of the Moment thinks it can.

The Ant and the GrasshopperWe throw ourselves into ensuring Our Best Life Now and not our Infinitely Better Life to Come.

We pour all our energy into trying to train up our children to be good Christians, but we’re not sure exactly what the end product should look like anymore because we’re not so sure we’ve got our own faith down pat.

We build multi-million dollar edifices we call “church” that can burn down in an instant, but we don’t seem to be preparing the next generation for any sort of deeper life than to be consumers that build multi-million dollar churches.

We’re increasingly dispensational and premillennial because God knows we’ve got no plan if we’re not Raptured out of here the second things get a tad bit nutty.

The only time we think about the future is when we repeat our pseudo-Christian mantra of “Some day I’ll tell my neighbor about Christ. Some day I’ll go on the mission field. Some day I’ll volunteer at church. Some day I’ll read through the Bible. Some day I’ll stop committing that sin I can’t stop committing. Some day I’ll visit the sick, feed the poor, and clothe the naked. Some day….”

Expediency. As long as we feel fine about ourselves at the end of the quarter, we think we’ve done well. It’s a hard habit to break because many in the Church can find verses substantiating living only for the day. Consider this widely quoted one:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
—James 4:13-15 ESV

But that passage isn’t about living for the moment. Look at the context:

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
—James 4:12-17 ESV

That passage argues against haughtiness and judgmentalism by showing the lack of humility in the lives of those who are presumptive. Wise planning is not being presumptive. On the contrary, it’s required of us. If anything, God considers those who fail to plan foolish.

Consider the following parables of Jesus:

The man who built his house on the rock

The five wise and five foolish virgins

The talents

The wedding banquet

The persistent widow

All of these carry with them the idea of preparation for the future, be it the Lord’s return, being ready to face the storms of life, or persevering even when the moment doesn’t look promising. Jesus is not against us thinking about tomorrow. His only correction is that we let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day by not dwelling so much on the future that we ignore the present. Again, like so many things in the Christian walk, balance is needed.

Last weekend, I was in a small group meeting discussing marriage when I brought up one of my pet issues: starting marriage and family classes for children as young as ten in order that they be better prepared to be godly husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. My pastor is a part of that group and he immediately noted that parents would object to the church usurping that responsibility.

And he’s right. Some parents would complain. But by backing off completely, we open ourselves up for the same disappointments that expediency always brings. Kids in the youth group start having sex, a couple girls get pregnant and may even have abortions, and we’re left picking up pieces from shattered lives that may never have been broken had we thought long-term.

We can see the issue of God’s sovereignty creeping into this can’t we? Some would argue that long-term thinking attempts to play God or force His unforceable hand. But I’ve read the Bible and none of the Psalms begins, “Que sera, sera….” We have not because we ask not. Some kinds don’t come out except with prayer and fasting. Slay lambs and spread their blood over the lintels. Noah build an ark. Freely we have received, freely shall we give.

God doesn’t rain down manna from heaven to feed the poor, the orphan, the widow; He asks the Church to do the feeding or else it may very well not get done. Our godly plans and our earthly actions matter. We are the Body of Christ to go out and do, and that going out and doing involves planning, both short-term AND long. It is what God in His sovereignty has asked of us. If the Church had no reason to think beyond tomorrow, then God in His wisdom could have taken each of us up to heaven in a flaming chariot the moment we believed.

Nothing good comes to a church that thinks like Aesop’s grasshopper, yet so many churches have lost a vision for tomorrow’s generations, so lost are they on their own selves.

Winter is coming.