An evil and adulterous generation

Monday Musings for January 25, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

Let me begin today’s missive with an old joke that many American Christians have probably already heard. The thing is, I have an international readership — and not everybody knows this joke — so indulge me. You will see that it’s the best way to get where I need to go.

A storm descends on a small town, and the downpour soon turns into a flood. As the waters rise, the local preacher kneels in prayer on the church porch, surrounded by water. By and by, one of the townsfolk comes up the street in a canoe.

"Better get in, Preacher. The waters are rising fast."

"No," says the preacher. "I have faith in the Lord. He will save me."

Still the waters rise. Now the preacher is up on the balcony, wringing his hands in supplication, when another guy zips up in a motorboat.

"Come on, Preacher. We need to get you out of here. The levee's gonna break any minute."

Once again, the preacher is unmoved. "I shall remain. The Lord will see me through."

After a while the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church until only the steeple remains above water. The preacher is up there, clinging to the cross, when a helicopter descends out of the clouds, and a state trooper calls down to him through a megaphone.

"Grab the ladder, Preacher. This is your last chance."

Once again, the preacher insists the Lord will deliver him.

And, predictably, he drowns.

A pious man, the preacher goes to heaven. After a while he gets an interview with God, and he asks the Almighty, "Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn't you deliver me from that flood?"

God shakes his head. "What did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter."

This joke is so well known that the phrase “two boats and a helicopter” is code for, “Don’t be an idiot! Use what God has already provided.” But there is something more in the joke that I did not notice before. The preacher was pious... but he was pious toward the wrong thing.

Today we are going to discuss Radical Life Extension and the Transhumanist movement — and when we Christians engage with those topics, we can be like the preacher in that joke. That preacher was sure of himself... sure that God would save him personally, miraculously and as a sign. But Jesus said it is an evil and adulterous generation that requires a sign (Matthew 12:39). In my opinion, we should never test God as that preacher did.

His behavior is analogous to how members of the Christian Science church (who refuse medical treatment) or the Jehovah’s Witnesses (who refuse blood transfusions) test God. Now, don’t get me wrong: it is appropriate for us to ask God to intervene miraculously in our lives. He has performed miracles in the past, and he might do so again! But it is arrogant to insist that God perform special miracles to solve problems that he has already solved as part of human flourishing… and particularly, through advances in science and technology.

We live in amazing times! But we insult God when we challenge his decision to make this time our time. We do not “belong” to the world — but we eat its food! How is that different from partaking of its medicine — or any of its other reasonable provisions. We routinely use dentures, antibiotics and artificial hips. Why stop there?

Drawing a line beyond what has become routine for us arbitrarily clips the God-ordained possibilities of our future. Where we are now medically was once unthinkable. Don’t let misdirected piety hobble future generations of Christians. Thank God that you are alive today and embrace the life that is in front of you.

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