First off, in a spirit of full disclosure and a God-given desire for the pursuit of truth, the whole truth, and nothin’ but the truth, I am compelled to report that: I love toys.
Which is why I hate Toybox “Christianity”.
Through its happy/smiley/fluffy promotion of rank, self-serving spiritual immaturity, apathy, and laziness, Toybox “Christianity” retards and destroys everything that it touches, including philosophy, fantasy, imagination, and even toys themselves.
By God’s grace through the creative production and use of things like toys we can be equipped (and equip others) to better learn, teach, and grow in our understanding, appreciation and application of His Nature in many realms of His creation. The best toys are tools by which we cultivate our imaginations and worldviews in a manner that brings our minds, hearts, and lives closer and closer to harmony with His Nature as revealed in His Word. These pursuits then make us better able to actively pursue the Gospel-fueled Great Commission (see: Matthew 28:18-20).
Toys can be awesome that way.
Even so, they have their place. They have their time. They have their specific roles in our lives as we grow and mature from child to adult, both physically and spiritually. Put another way: The same toys should not mean exactly the same things to us at age 25 as they did when we were 5. We should appreciate, understand, and interact with toys differently as we grow into healthy, mature physical and spiritual adults.
This approach hardly relegates things like toys, games, fantasy, and imagination to the realm of childhood. To the contrary, it enables us to appreciate, enjoy, and benefit from each of these things more fully throughout our eternal lives. The biblical approach to adventure, fantasy, gaming, and imagination is not to kill or avoid them. It is to give them true life and allow them to flourish unencumbered by the corruption of sin. (See: Behold, He makes all things new.)
Toys become a problem – a very real and serious problem – when we cling to them not as a means by which to better understand, embrace, and reflect reality (AKA “the Nature of God”), but as a means by which to avoid, distort or escape the binding, beautiful reality of God’s Nature-defined creation. When we pursue the production or use of toys in a manner that ultimately points away from the revealed Nature of God, toys become a means by which we rebel against rather than honor the Lord.
That’s the preferred satanic approach to toys (and everything else), of course, and the modern American culture – certainly including the American professing Christian subculture – has bought into that satanic approach hook, line, and sinker.
As with so many things in our culture, we’ve been conditioned to view tools like toys as the problem rather than the corrupted (ab)use of these tools through sin as the problem. Thus, many well-meaning Christians have aimed to avoid (and sometimes even malign) good and beautiful things like fantasy, toys, games, and the like. In this, the fear of things that are not inherently evil but may be corrupted by sin has driven Christians from engaging on many a cultural battlefield, ceding entire realms largely uncontested to the enemy. This is one of the great reasons for the present (and temporary) anti-Christian domination of the realms of fantasy, play, imagination and toy-making in our culture.
Fantasy, imagination, and similar means of exploration, cultivation, and application of the Nature of God in His creation are not things that we are to cede to the enemy. Not by a long shot. They are things that we are to reclaim and restore to a God-glorifying state through our faithful pursuit and application of the Great Commission.
Our sub-biblical approach to toys has both inhibited the proliferation of God-given tools of growth and exploration while simultaneously enabling the proliferation of immaturity, apathy, and laziness through the proliferation of toy caricatures of the Gospel and Great Commission.
Where once long ago the professing church in America understood the comprehensive, all-encompassing nature of the one true supernatural Gospel of Christ the King, now even most “conservative” professing Christian churches have a tiny little truncated toy gospel that touches nothing that feeling- and emotion-driven church members don’t want touched (see: Beware the “Gospel in a Bottle”).
Know this: We live in a culture that is wholeheartedly, comprehensively, and systematically committed to the repression and retardation of maturity.
That’s where we are.
We’re the most happily, proudly, perpetually infantile civilization in all of human history.
[Insert “U! S! A!” chant here]
And we all know it, so I’m not going to waste much space here arguing the point.
What we also need to know, however, is that we are here in this pathetic little land of kiddie-pool, emotion-driven religion because the professing Christian church in America has led us here (see: Candy Christianity – America’s Counterfeit Gospel).
Our phony little gospel has a few quick sound-bite items to communicate on salvation (“repent, believe, and be saved!”), but once you ask something like, “well, what am to repent of, exactly?, the wheels come off. Or, more precisely, the wheels are revealed to have never been there in the first place.
We simply don’t want to define sin in detail, which means that we don’t want to define Christ or Christianity in detail. Any attribute of Christ and His comprehensive Gospel that might offend someone has to be swept aside, don’t ya know. It has to be swapped out for a nice, fuzzy little teddy bear or something.
Since we won’t define things like sin (AKA “lawlessness”) in detail, we allow the world to do it for us by default. This is how we’ve managed to produce a “Christian nation” full of professing Christians who don’t know and don’t care to know (much less obey) Christ the King in practice in the details of their lives. This is also why we live in a culture where to proclaim Christ and the Gospel in detail to a professing Christian is, more often than not, likely to inspire the agitation, anger and even hatred of that professing believer (see: It’s all fun and games…’til someone actually defines Christianity).
With sin off limits and protected from detailed definition by the perfect, sufficient light of Scripture, Christ is left a vague concept to be constructed as one pleases according to one’s feelings, traditions, and emotions (see: The Rise of Mr. Potato Jesus), and the Gospel is left limp and powerless to confront, correct, and restore.
The comprehensive, world- and life-defining nature of the Gospel was once understood even here in America. But now we have a very small, limited pseudo-gospel that has captivated and encouraged the self-centered hearts of men and, in the process, given us a “baseline American Christian” who is happily, proudly, and confidently biblically illiterate, culturally disengaged and apathetic about the Nature of God as revealed in His Word. They claim to love Jesus, but can’t even describe Him in biblical detail as He related to art, politics, economics, and everything else. Moreover, they don’t care; they’re not embarrassed about this in the least.
Consider the following passages on the subject of maturity:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ~ Hebrews 5:12-14 (emphasis added)
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11 (emphasis added)
It is no accident that we are a land awash in “Christians” who have no appetite for the solid food of spiritual maturity and adulthood. Our present state of perpetual moral, intellectual, and spiritual infancy is not something that “just happened” to us. We were brought to this place by a professing Christian church that traded in the supernatural, all-defining Gospel of Christ the King for a shiny little plaything that more easily made us feel better about ourselves and our worldly pursuits (see: The (church built) zombie apocalypse is upon us).
After generations of being told that the Gospel is all about our salvation and that’s pretty much it, we are a people defined not by a love of the Nature of God as revealed in the details of His Word and Law, but a people who are, at best, confused as to how such a love could be real to anyone. Think of it this way: How weird is it to the typical evangelical to read about David going on and on and on about His love for the Law of God?
For the modern American professing Christian who has been led to believe in a truncated, toy version or caricature of the Gospel, the Law is the opposite of grace.
For a biblically grounded mature Christian – like the Pilgrims or Puritans who founded our now-unrecognizable culture many hundreds of years ago – the opposite of God’s law is not grace, but lawlessness, and lawlessness is a synonym for sin.
Consider the following passage in this context:
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. ~ 1 Timothy 1:8-11 (emphasis added)
What does this passage even mean, what with it’s Law/Gospel mingling and all? Well, if your “gospel” is just about your personal salvation, the answer is typically some version of “Who cares?” Oh sure, few folks would say that out loud or even nod at the proposition if they thought anyone was looking, but, in practice, that is exactly what they believe.
They believe that if they’re saved, there is no need to sweat any detail in Scripture that confronts, challenges, or makes them uncomfortable.
They believe that so long as they believe that Jesus has saved them, they need feel no desire to know more about Him so that they might actually, actively apply His Nature in every area of their lives in detail…even (and especially) when it hurts.
Put another way, they don’t understand the Great Commission in detail, don’t want to understand the Great Commission in detail, and therefore don’t do much, if anything, to actually pursue the Great Commission as issued by Jesus to His faithful people:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:18-20 (emphasis added)
Through the Gospel-fueled Great Commission, everything that the supernaturally reborn New Creature in Christ touches in his or her daily life is also, step by step and day by day, more and more conformed to the Nature of God as revealed in His Word.
By the Spirit that lives within God’s people, all by His grace and for His glory.
The same God to truly saves truly sanctifies over time. And those whom He sanctifies cannot help but make everything that they touch in this world a little (or a lot) more like Him over time.
This means that they cannot help but make a more and more favorable, God-glorifying impact on the way that they cook, clean, eat, shop, build, dream, game, play, fantasize, imagine, manage, organize, educate, cultivate and anything else that they might do on any given day in their lives.
The Gospel is that comprehensive.
It is not a toy. It is not a plaything. It is everything.
It redeems everything, including law, art, economics, politics, language, sports, gaming, education, philosophy…and even toys themselves.
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© 2015 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I'm reminded of those that say that it's important to distinguish between "radical Islam" and "real Islam," as terrorists are said to be perverting the real faith, but of course the truth is they're the real believers who have made the Koran and Muhammad's way of life their life, start to finish, just as early Muslims did. And that is how faith used to be the world over, with any of them… It encompassed the whole culture, everything they knew, the language, anything, even their dreams (like Jacob's Ladder or the Australian Dreamtime). People still distinguished between sacred and profane (e.g. Mircea Eliade's book) but our secular "waking life" today is the real religion I think everyone follows whether they want to or not. The whole world is consumed by it now. I mean it's reality, but for ancient people, their then-present day religions were the reality. It's hard to say whether our general worldview now will change much over time. There's a conceit that we're nearing the end of a need for progress or change. But then what next? People will want to tear things down just to have something to do. They've already been doing that. They don't want to live in a rational world where everything is explained and understood.
Gary Gygax, the co-inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, turned from atheism to the Jehovah’s Witness faith he was raised in upon noticing that life itself is structured as an heroic quest, a grand adventure, bearing the fingerprints of the Ultimate Magister Ludi.