The new quietism in an age of entitlement
Quietism was/is an heretical approach to Christianity that focused on an interior passiveness over pious actions, often completely excluding pious actions. Prayer, Bible study, worship, service, and obedience all gave way to a “contemplation” that would lift one into a better spiritual estate—a contemplation that was not tied to or dependent on truth content. The new quietism that I am addressing is indeed cut from the same cloth but has been baptized in the waters of entitlement that so saturates our culture today. A passiveness in addressing our Christian life, as well as our lives as a whole, expects things to work out without the work. It is after all, what we deserve, we are told over and over again. Decades of trophies to encourage the loosing team along with the winning team (equally) have produced a mindset that leaves little encouragement to strive for something better. We have cultivated this culture of entitlement in both our culture and our churches. It is now a great sin to say that anything is sin and a worse sin to say that something ought to be done about said sin.
A few days ago I had the privilege of hearing Dr. John Townsend speak on the topic of resolving entitlement issues, I much appreciated his comment: “There is not a no pain option”. We live in a fallen world and we will see pain in our lives which he addressed as symptom pain or success pain. Dr. Townsend was speaking to the counseling community and his focus was bent more to the counseling situations but the principle is the same. We can give ourselves to the means of grace, we can seek to follow the Word of God obediently, and we can labor in the service of God knowing that we will face struggles and difficulties. We will have pain. Or, we can try to escape. We can avoid doing the hard things; we can fall into some socially acceptable version of quietism and by avoiding the means of our growth, not grow in our faith… and still have pain. The options Townsend gave were pain with success or pain with failure—while we would tweak the terminology as we apply it to the Christian walk it is the same idea. We live in a fallen world and trouble, pain, and difficulty will always be part of this world. So our options now are life in a fallen world with, or outside of, the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or as a friend of mine, a Baptist pastor, said to someone he was counseling as they contemplated resolving their troubles in an unbiblical way: “Life is hard, you can do it with Jesus or without Jesus…what do you want to do?” My preference is with Jesus! And I long to offer this warning to those who are contemplating a path apart from Christ…that path is a lie.
Like the path to the home of Giant Despair in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the other side of the fence always looks good, easy, and so very often a better path to walk. Sinful options that take the shape of sexual pleasures, wealth, power, amusements are just part of a long list of options that seem like attractive escapes—happiness for the taking. But walking any way but God’s way is always a bad idea. We live in God’s creation that has consequences in this life and the next. For a moment, a little season perhaps, it will look like the other path will be easy and we will get all the trophies, all the rewards, all the accolades, everything that we deserve because we are us and that is reason enough. But eventually this ponzi scheme runs out of capitol and the consequences of sin arrive. Emptiness and brokenness and their friends come to live with those who wanted life without what they thought were the limits of walking with Jesus.
But what if the very best part of life was to be found not in getting something for nothing but in the everyday faithful walk with Christ that comes with of mix of difficulties, trials, and suffering along with blessings, comforts, hope, help, and the promise of eternity spent in the presence of the God we love. What if Paul was right when he said that the sufferings of this world were not worthy of comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom. 8:18) If that is true, then all things do work out for good to those who love God, (Rom. 8:28). For those that love God, the goodness of life is found in our walk with Christ Jesus—the path is sometimes hard and sometimes refreshing but always with Jesus.
…just thinking through my own life and the lives of some I know, (some that having stepped over the fence and are still looking for all the happiness that that path promised but cannot give and some who struggle with the idea that life can have its hard spots which seems unfair.) Needing a reminder and to remind that we do not get heaven until we get to heaven…but between now and then I am not left alone—there is no better way to travel through this world than in the company of our savior. So by God’s grace we delight in God, seek to serve His cause, and keep in mind his many great and precious promises. Walking in the light. Happy in Jesus as we trust and obey. This is what makes a good life.