Volume 20 Issue 10
There is, in every life and in every endeavor, a point of ambiguity. However, this landmark can be missed at first passing, and it is often times only visible upon reflection. It’s the answer to the questions “What went wrong? How did we get to this point? How did this happen?” But if defining the point of ambiguity can answer these questions, then it too must be defined.
So what is the point of ambiguity? Oxford dictionary states that ambiguity is “a lack of decisiveness or commitment resulting from a failure to make a choice between alternatives.” I contend that the point of ambiguity is the entertainment of uncertainty. While we all face fears and must answer life’s big questions, the point of ambiguity comes when we begin to allow our feeblemindedness to call our entire belief system into question. This state of mind is dangerous, in fact very dangerous.
My wife Micki and I try to get to the annual Amish auction in Milroy, Indiana every other year or so to witness this fading part of Americana. The Amish are often misunderstood. We think their struggle is merely about resisting modernity. But it’s not quite that simple. The Amish actually are in a struggle to make sure that the basic things necessary for life are a product of their own hands, without any (or at least without too much) dependency upon the outside world. In simple terms, if they were to depend on cars and trucks as most of us do, then they would in fact be depending on the world’s oil producers and big business. Therefore, they build their own buggies and wagons and rear their own horses. Their basic needs come from their own ingenuity and labor. Consequently, the Amish have an understanding that it takes certain core values and knowledge for a culture to survive. The Amish have no feelings of ambiguity on this point. They know what the essential things are, and how to reproduce them among themselves. And the truth is, in a national crisis of extreme proportions, they are more likely to survive than are we cosmopolitans.
Conversely, in society at large, the dumbing down of general and practical education has resulted in the weakening of our whole culture. The seeds of ambiguity in regard to America’s core values have burst forth into a weeded field of desperation. The growing attraction to socialism is slowly eroding the American spirit of independence. The abandoned structure of traditional family life and resentment of authority has resulted in the loss of meaning, morality, manners, and even basic life skills such as cooking and simple household and mechanical repairs. If you don’t believe me, just visit the inner city. The point of ambiguity is becoming clearly visible.
In every era of social change there are those who recognize the significance of the moment and begin to cry out. Often these voices of warning are criticized for impeding perceived progress or negatively labeled for clinging to tradition rather than truth. However, the voices from the wilderness are rarely against progress, but are most often anticipating and articulating the inevitable consequences that advancement in any one direction will produce. Such was the voice of the famous English preacher Joseph Parker, a contemporary of Spurgeon. Please read his quote on this issue’s cover.
The church cannot reach this world with ambiguity. And thankfully we do not have to, because we have a basic point of reference: the Bible. The Bible is the true point of orientation, and all issues regarding the Bible are fundamental to our survival. If there is any disagreement here, we must all get involved in the defense of the Bible’s integrity, for we must choose to fight the battle or live with the consequences of our indifference.
Having the Bible as a basic point of orientation does not necessarily solve the underlying conflicts that one may personally experience. As a follower of Christ, one must settle how he feels about his need for a point of reference – for to resolve this dichotomy one must admit his own inadequacy. I have been lost in a wilderness with a compass in my hand. Frightening, but true. All trekkers know that the danger in being really, really disoriented is that one may begin to question the compass. The needle pointing north may not feel correct. Here is the classic conflict of ambiguity: the compass is in hand. The needle is pointing out the direction. Yet one stands uncertain, indecisive and uncommitted. At this point, nothing is more dangerous than ambiguity. You may say, “This would never happen to me.” Please, be careful here. Fear is the foe of every man. Doubt is common in every decision. The Apostles doubted while standing next to Jesus. Ambiguity is the evil force of our day and it plays a factor in almost every church and in the lives of millions of church members. Lose this war and we lose the Apostolic church.
Love for the truth is basic. But we cannot depend on the world to impart to us a love for the truth. Know it and live. Forget it, or be ignorant of it, and you will become the ultimate victim of Satan’s agenda. Know Jesus for yourself. This is not a corporate salvation – it is individual. “Whosoever will, let HIM come” is the powerful revolutionary aspect of true Christianity. The whole world could be lost, but one man saved. Remember Noah.
The point of ambiguity is a place where you are not sure about what you are seeing. It is a place where questions replace answers and your thinking becomes affected. Preaching becomes affected. Decisions become affected. It’s like facing some sort of illusionary construction designed to deceive the eyes. How can I speak or lead if I am not sure that what I see is really real? Beware; what you think you see or feel in the natural realm may not be the truth. In fact, humans cannot see the world as it really is because they do not have the right tools. “For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). We often see things the way we need to see them, or want to see them, or as our personal experience teaches us to see them; but we may still not be entirely correct.
When you go to the Amish auction and talk to even the smallest child, you will discover that they know what they have been carefully trained to know. They know, for example, that food is first about the seed and the soil, not about the supermarket. They know that the basic source of milk is the cow, not the convenience store. By the way… can you milk a cow? Can you grow corn from your family’s heritage seeds?
The Pentecostal movement in North America has reached a point of ambiguity. We see the demise of holiness preaching, doctrinal preaching, Jesus’ Name preaching, and Godly lifestyles; and some forget that the Bible and the Apostles’ doctrine, not the “Reformers” reconstruction of it, has been our long-established point of orientation. This is without question the scriptural framework of what the early church taught. Although serious, it is not having a moment of disorientation that is so worrisome, for a moment of disorientation can result in quick course correction. The big danger comes when we become unsure about how we feel about being disoriented – when we begin to enjoy not knowing, relishing our uncertainties and allowing deadly ambiguity to settle in upon our thinking. The temptation is to think it doesn’t matter and that perhaps the old compass no longer points us to the old paths. “Besides,” some argue, “who really knows anything about the old paths? Who cares? Who can trust the Bible? It’s so old and does not relate,” they reason. But, wisely remember that whoever recalibrates the compass or tosses it aside in order to impose their own will can possibly kill you and your whole family.