It’s certainly an interesting time to be alive, isn’t it? And it’s a particularly interesting time to be a Christian. Right before our eyes we see everything changing, everything we once assumed being purposefully undermined. A new normal has been thrust upon us and I don’t think I’m the only one who is looking for help in interpreting the times.
These changing times, this full-out moral revolution, is the subject of Trevin Wax’s new book This Is Our Time. His concern is that Christians are buying into cultural myths, so that instead of living according to God’s way as expressed in God’s Word, we are buying into lies. “What if we are living according to the myths of our culture without even questioning them? What if we are falling for false stories—not because they are in our history books but because they’re in our everyday habits?” If this is the case, then how can we resist these cultural myths and replace them with biblical truth?
Wax proposes a three-part solution that can address any myth. First, we need to address the longing at the heart of it. After all, “there is usually something good and right in the stories our society tells. When someone believes a myth about the world, it’s usually because deep down, they want something in that story to be true.” We need to ask Why? Why do people want this story to be true? Having addressed the longing, we need to challenge the lie it tells, how it offers a false solution to what may be a legitimate longing. After all, “the gospel doesn’t simply affirm the deepest longings of humanity; it also challenges and reshapes those longings; and in doing so, it exposes the lie.” Finally, we need to shine the light of the gospel on the world’s myths. “The gospel tells a better story. Yes, the gospel exposes the lies we believe and promote in society, but once our eyes adjust to its brightness, we discover how the gospel also answers our deeper longings in ways that surprise us.”
The heart of the book, then, is addressing a series of myths in just this way. In the first half Wax looks at “the habits that impact us day to day. We start close to home—the myths told to us by the smartphones we use and the stories we love. Then we turn to unspoken assumptions we make about why we’re on the earth and how we plot out the trajectory of our lives.” Thus, he shows that our smartphones are actually myth-telling devices, that Hollywood is hell-bent on capturing our hearts, and that while our pursuit of happiness is a good thing, we go about it all wrong. He exposes our endless consumerism as a desire to purchase what we can actually only be given.
In the second half he turns to “larger myths that animate our society. What should our political involvement be? What are today’s myths about marriage and sexuality? How do we resist the idea that society is making amazing progress or in a season of unstoppable decline?” He looks to ancient and contemporary theologians to show how Christians should and should not be involved in politics, how we are prone to think so poorly about marriage and sexuality, and, finally, how we should think about the world itself, and whether it is in a downward spiral or upward trajectory. In each case, he looks at the legitimate longing that the myth claims to address, he exposes the lie it hides, and he allows the gospel to shine, to offer something far better and far more satisfying.
At a time when the world is changing at a breakneck pace, we can all benefit from those who can interpret it on our behalf. I have read Wax’s books and blogs for many years and have seen him become one of my trusted cultural interpreters. In This Is Our Time he interprets ten issues for us, doing the hard work of addressing the longing, exposing the lie, and shining the light. And as he does that, he models how we can and must do this interpretation for the host of other issues that confront us today and will doubtlessly confront us in the future. In that way, Wax is both a trusted interpreter and a skilled teacher.