Coupons, Chocolate Milk, and Gullible People

gullible people

The last time I logged onto Facebook, several connections joyfully shared a wonderful discovery: a $75.00 Safeway coupon toward a minimum purchase of $80. Who wouldn’t be excited to find a coupon like that?

Fraud. Hoax. False. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a fake. Common sense tells us no store would give away $80. worth of merchandise for $5.00, unless maybe they were going out of business. And if they did offer such a coupon, that might explain why they were going out of business.

But this isn’t the first time such a coupon took Facebook by storm. Last year, eager Facebook friends circulated a $70. coupon toward a minimum $80. purchase from Kohl’s and another one from Publix.

People downloaded and shared the coupons because they wanted them to be true.

Just when you might be thinking folks couldn’t be that naïve, along comes a survey from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. This past April, they surveyed more than 1,000 adults. Seven percent responded that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. And 48 percent of respondents weren’t sure where chocolate milk originated.

No, that was not a typo. A total of more than half of the respondents—550 people—did not know how chocolate milk was made. Now extrapolate that percentage across the general population. How many millions of people might that represent?

But misconceptions about Facebook coupons and chocolate milk are not nearly as serious as misconceptions about spiritual matters. Too many people are gullible about eternal matters. They often echo what someone else told them without researching for themselves.

  • The Bible isn’t really true.
  • There’s no such place as heaven.
  • Jesus is just a myth.
  • The universe wasn’t created, it just happened.
  • Man is basically good.

Rather than simply repeating what other people say, take time to investigate the answers for yourself. When I see those larger-than-life, too-good-to-be-true offers on social media, I research their accuracy before I consider sharing them.

The same applies to spiritual matters. Do you believe what people say because they appeared on television? On the radio? On the internet? Maybe they wrote a book. Perhaps your college professor made a statement about the Bible and spoke with such authority that you accepted his words at face value.

One of my favorite Bible passages is found in Acts 17:10-11 (ESV):

“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (ESV).

Don’t believe a teacher or preacher just because they speak with conviction or have a large platform. Search the Bible for yourself. Compare Scripture passages. Explore the context. Research commentaries. Use the same criteria for evidence about God and the Bible as you would for any other determination of truth.

Of course, we don’t want to be gullible about discount coupons or the source of chocolate milk. But those things are not nearly as important as eternal matters. Instead of choosing gullibility, be as wise as the Bereans!

The Shack: Fiction Embraced as Fact?

The ShackAs if there isn’t enough to argue about these days, along comes a movie such as The Shack, releasing tomorrow. With Christian supporters and detractors who are equally determined and vocal, what’s the big deal? It’s just a book/movie, right?

Fans of The Shack are quick to praise its depth of emotion, communication of redemption, and willingness to tackle a subject many Christians wrestle with: why does a loving God allow suffering? Many strong Christians have joined Christian celebrities in testifying to the immensely positive impact the story has had on their walk with Christ.

Critics denounce The Shack’s theological edginess, biblical infidelity, and theme of implied universalism. Theologians such as Albert Mohler and Tim Keller do a much better job of explaining the biblical objections to The Shack than I ever could. Still, I wonder why the greater Christian community does not sound the alarm over a premise that asserts a lack of future judgment in the name of love. I’m confused by those who claim to believe the Bible, yet are eager to overlook the affirmation that there are many ways to God which don’t necessarily include belief in Christ.

Even greater than the impact of this single story is the danger it heralds. The boundaries between fact and fiction are disappearing with increasing rapidity. And the results are more significant than we might initially realize.

In recent years, our culture has magnified the power of story. Storytelling has evolved far beyond the confines of tales spun with the words, “Once upon a time….”

For much of literary history, the differences between fact and fiction were generally clear. Allegories such as Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan) and fantasies such as the Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis) communicated truth without confusing fact and fiction. More importantly, the authors took great pains to ensure the biblical fidelity of what they wrote.

The author of The Shack used his novel to offer Christianity as he hopes it is, rather than what the Bible says it is. That’s his prerogative. In fact, that’s every novelist’s prerogative. The very definition of fiction is that it is not true. Novelists have the ability to create worlds as they wish them to be.

But difficulties ensue when huge numbers of Christians espouse an author’s personal preferences as inviolate truth without applying a biblical standard. Two-thousand years ago, the Bereans were held up as a role model for all Christians (Acts 17:11). Today those same Bereans would be dismissed as legalistic. We’ve come a long way…in the wrong direction.

When readers cannot or will not differentiate between fact and fiction, we have a problem.

When Christians join unbelievers in embracing a story that depicts God stripped of holiness and transcendence, we have a crisis.

And when Christians choose to elevate the foundational principles of a novel to the level of biblical authority, we have a disaster.

The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The Shack sacrifices truth on the altar of love and compromises real love in the absence of truth. It may be a riveting work of fiction, but my heart aches at the destructive spiritual consequences that are all too real.