But he hasn’t got anything on!” This is the cry of the child at the end of Hans Christian Anderson’s little tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. The vain emperor believed he was wearing the finest garments ever created, garments woven of the finest silk and the purest gold thread. He believed he was wearing clothing so beautiful that only the best and brightest in the land could see it. These garments could distinguish the great and mighty from the ignorant and troublesome, for only worst of the hoi polloi would be unable to marvel at their magnificence. The emperor had been bamboozled, but he would not admit his ignorance, he could not admit it, and instead forced himself to believe he was wearing clothes; his noblemen did the same, for to state the plain truth would be to admit unworthiness. The emperor paraded through the city, showing off his finery before the adoring masses until finally a child cried out, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”
“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”
“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.
I have been thinking about this old tale and seeing how in many ways it is applicable to living as a Christian in this world. This is a world of naked emperors and their adoring, deluded fans.
It took a child to call it all a ruse. It took a child because only he had nothing to gain from playing along with the fiction that the emperor was wearing the finest clothing ever woven and the greater fiction that the emperor was wearing anything at all. Where his parents and the noblemen had so much to gain from playing along and so much to lose from speaking the truth, the child did not. He could speak freely and declare the truth without guile.
The Bible is that child. The Bible describes things as they really are, free from fear, free from sin. As the emperor marches, the Bible evaluates him, discerns him, describes him, and tells the truth about him. Christians are the crowd. We are easily beguiled so that as the crowds swarm and cheer, we begin to see the form of clothes, the color, the patterns. But then we look to the Bible. The Bible is like a pair of glasses that allow the Christian to see the world from God’s perspective. We look at the world through the Bible, and are forced to cry out with it, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”
Naturalism finds the origins of this universe, of all that exists, in natural phenomena. It blatantly denies the existence of a Creator. It proclaims that at one point there was nothing, and then there was something, and after a long, slow march of time there was all we see around us. But never was there a God. And the Christian says, “But where there is something, there must be someone. Where there is design, there must be a designer. Where there is creation there must be a Creator.” The Christian asks, “But where did that first and primordial matter come from? How did something come from nothing?” But the emperor proudly marches on and the people continue to admire his beautiful robe.
Advocates of a woman’s right to choose insist that a child is not a human being until he is born, or until shortly after. They insist that a fetus is simply a blob of tissue, they say it can feel no pain, they demand the woman’s right to choose whether she will allow it to be born or to be destroyed. And the Christian says, “Simply look! Look and see that this is a child.” The Christian asks, “Why will you marvel at new surgical procedures that allow you to operate on that child in the womb when the parents have decided they want to keep him, and yet also say that it is nothing but a blob of tissue if the parents have decided they do not want to keep him?” The emperor carries on in his parade and the people continue to rejoice in his finery.
A high school votes for a transgender prom queen and news anchors describe her bravery, her confidence, her beauty. They draw this distinction between sex and gender, between how she was born and how she defines herself. And the Christian, looking through the lens of the Bible, says, “But gender is not something we can choose; it’s how we were created, how we were lovingly, deliberately formed by our Creator.” The Christian knows, “Even if he puts on makeup and changes his name and decides to mimic a woman in every possible way, that does not change the fact that every cell in his body declares he is a man and always will be.” The naked emperor walks more proudly than ever and his noblemen hold high his imaginary train.
And on and on it goes.
The nobles, those who are living for this world, those who will not or cannot look to existence beyond this short life, play along, sometimes deliberately deluding themselves, and sometimes actually seeing something where there is nothing. They march, they parade, they celebrate, for their eyes have been blinded and their hearts hardened.
The Christian does not live for this world, but for a world to come. He does not need to concern himself with self-preservation, he feels no need to be thought well of in this world, he puts no hope in being great and mighty here and now. He, with Bible in hand, is willing to cry out, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”