CBP: Why donít you start off by giving me in your own words what the theme is of Slumber of Christianity.
Ted: The theme of The Slumber of Christianity is that the hope we have in this life ultimately fails us. We search for happiness in this life, and we look to our faith for giving us happiness in this life. But ultimately, if you look around, you find that the religion of Christianity ultimately fails to satisfy people in this life. And that sounds kind of stark on the outside. Itís like, wait a second, what are you talking about? Jesus promised all kinds of happiness.
This is true; this is what we preach from our pulpits. Itís what we hear over and over again. So weíre looking for benefits of Christianity in this life. Weíre saying, ďIf I become a Christian, if I follow this faith, and if I give my life to Jesus I will have certain benefits in this life.Ē And the question Iím asking in this book is was that really the purpose of Christianity? Is the purpose of Christianity to give us benefits for this life?
If you look at Christianity compared to other religions Ė I grew up in a country that was predominately Muslim, so I can compare Christianity to Islam Ė is there a difference between Christians in their relationships versus Muslims and their relationships? Is there a difference of how Christians are happier in their relationships than Muslims are? Do Christians have less disease than non-Christians or Muslims? Do they die less, or later in life, are their lives longer? Do they Ė I can go on and on, but are there true benefits to them in this life?
And really when you look down to it, you find just as many divorces; you find just as much disease. I believe that God can heal today and does, but just as many Christians die as non-Christians. And just as many ultimately get sick and suffer from illness. This was very disconcerting to many, many Christians, especially youth, who see this and begin to lose faith. And ultimately they throw out the baby with the bath water and say, ďYou know, itís all kind of fake. Itís all just so much talk. Itís a religion; it doesnít really work; it doesnít change me; it doesnít change my life.Ē And the reason they come to this conclusion is they are actually looking for Ė theyíve got Christianity turned upside down. Theyíre looking for it to satisfy them in this life when really the purpose of Christianity is to save us Ė in the simplest terms Ė is to save us from hell and deliver us into an incomparably great, mind-blowing reality that is full of pleasure and happiness. This is heaven.
So our eyes Ė our consciousness of that reality that exists beyond this life has fallen into slumber. We donít even think of it anymore. Right? We hardly think of it. Instead we are desperately looking for answers in this life, and thatís the theme of this book.
CBP: Good. Well, it was hard for me to tell where you were coming from, if you were abdicating or not searching for happiness in our lifetime now, because at one point you say we were created for happiness and are governed by it. So does that mean we should expect happiness now or not, and what is happiness? How do you define happiness?
Ted: Happiness is an emotion. And we are created for it, weíre obsessed with actual happiness, and we should, because God obsesses after any kind of happiness. This is something thatís a theme made very popular by a man named John Piper.
CBP: Okay, I was going to ask you about it. Is this Desiring God for the younger generation?
Ted: No. But thereís Desiring God all through this. Absolutely. We need to embrace the pleasures of God. So, yes, absolutely. Thatís not just Desiring God, but thatís a theme thatís now in many books.
But your question Ė We are created for happiness, but when you understand that in this fallen world, it is not redeemed in its entirety and never will be until after Christ is returned. We are being saved, Paul says. Weíre not saved in this life; weíre saved in the next life. Itís a minor Ė it sounds like youíre splitting hairs Ė no. Until you enter the next life and enter into paradise with Him, you will live in a fallen world full of suffering. The suffering will never go away. He gives us gifts, spiritual gifts to manage that to enjoy this life. Thereís lots of good things Heís given us to help us along the way.
A great analogy that I think most succinctly communicates this is something that Paul came up with and itís the marathon runners. In short order it goes like this: Why does someone run a marathon race? To finish, to cross that threshold. That finish line with thousands of people cheering. I watch the Olympics and these people just sweating bullets, theyíre just killing themselves along this path, this course. Now, theyíre doing it because they think they can finish. And they can finish on a win or some of them just want to finish, but thatís what their eyes are focused on. They are focused on the end. Paul thought of that analogy, he says, ďWe should run the race for the end, which is heaven.Ē
Along the way, there are cups of water; these are the pleasures of life, reprieves that refresh us that are thrust out to us. Theyíre given to us saying, ďHere drink, be merry, and take rest.Ē But these are not things that should distract us from the end, from the finish line. Theyíre just things to help us get there. But too often in Christianity what weíve done is weíve gone chasing after the cup bearers, weíve gone chasing after the drinks along the way, the glasses of water along the way and completely lost sight of the finish line altogether. We find ourselves lost in alleys and byways; and marathon? What marathon? Whereís the goblet for the next glass of water? And thatís our lives.
So you see that is our vision of the finish line is falling in slumber.
CBP: It was difficult to understand which side of the argument you were standing on, because it seems like a lot of it is the discussion of emotion and how much we should pursue that. It seems to me you suggest we should pursue that emotional state, and a lot of times people experience the highs of Christianity and then the lows. You talk about your own lifestyle the same way.
Ted: Emotion is great Ė the fact of the matter is emotions govern the course of our lives. You can talk all you want about whether or not emotions should or shouldnít do this or do that to us and faith actually. The bottom line is, you know, we are driven to do things because they make us happy. We seek pleasure because it makes us happy.
How would you define happiness? What makes you happy might be greater than what makes me happy. What makes you happy might be sitting at home cross-legged meditating. You still do it ultimately for happiness, and we avoid things that bring us suffering. So you understand, again, we donít like the way suffering makes us feel. Itís not just the pain; itís the fear of death which is an emotion. Itís fear; itís an emotion that drives us.
So we are driven primarily by emotion. Itís important we understand this Ė and that we were created in the image of God; Heís a very emotional being as well. Emotion can really come to our benefit because, as it turns out, that in the end thereís faith, hope, and love.
You can say all kinds of things about love. I think love is primarily an emotion, but itís also decisions, also all these other things. Hope is an emotion, desire. In the end thereís faith, hope, and love. We donít even talk about hope anymore. You understand what Iím saying? Itís gone from our lexicon; itís gone from our vocabulary, and itís the primary force Ė this emotion called hope is what primarily should drive us to the end zone, to the finish line to heaven. But because we disparage emotion so much, hope becomes unimportant to us, and we lose sight of this great emotion called hope which should motivate us towards the end zone. We end up wandering around this life looking for other things to satisfy us, gritting our teeth trying to find ways to be motivated in our faith.
Iím saying we need to be motivated in our faith by embracing hope, by embracing desire for heaven, which is emotion. We need to embrace, once again, emotion. And the emotion needs to be directed towards God in heaven.
CBP: As long as weíre reigning in the emotions thatís going in the right direction because Ė
Ted: Donít say ďreigning it inĒ, directing it, call it Ė
CBP: Okay, direct.
Ted: Thereís a difference. Youíre right.
CBP: I think people can be really, ďOh well, I just donít feel like praying.Ē ďI just donít feel like Godís here.Ē And those things, I think, get people sidetracked because theyíre following that emotion rather than continuing on what they know is the right path. Mentally.
Ted: Absolutely. Well thatís the enemyís corruption. The enemy will take faith, hope, and love, all three of them and distort them. And the way he corrupts hope is by getting us to put our hope, our desires, in something besides the finish line. That could be church, there could be many things.
CBP: When I read your story, your own testimony, the things you went through, it seems like those times that you didnít believe God were when you didnít emotionally didnít feel Him, and then the time when you had your epiphany is when you had that emotional moment. Do you think that encourages people to follow that type of personal sensation as a guide for faith?
Ted: Well, no, I donít think that sensation should be Ė necessarily should be a guide for faith. I think, though, for all of our talk, it is. Weíre created as emotional beings, unlike flies. We are driven by our emotions. And you say it shouldnít be. Well, God is driven by passion. The reason weíre different from flies is because we are emotional beings. Weíre emotional because we were created in the image of God. This is part of what makes us very unique are our emotions. So the enemy will try and distort our emotions and ruin them, and get us losing faith because we donít feel.
But that is what happens. He does distract us by dashing our emotions and our hopes. And you end up saying, ďThatís it, Iím so depressed, I donít even know if I believe anymore.Ē You know what? Thatís the state of it. You can tell someone all day long that they shouldnít, but if you try to minister to someone who is in a deep depression, you can say all you want you shouldnít, you shouldnít Ė they will. Instead of saying, you shouldnít, you shouldnít, and you say take those feelings Ėletís talk about something that is really exciting. You try to redirect those emotions. Instead of trying to shut off the emotions, letís redirect them. Letís take them away from what Satan is trying to get you to focus on.
You want some real simplistic Christian counseling? Letís take the emotions Ė letís talk about the emotions and letís redirect them from what Satan is trying to get you to focus on which is something very negative and very depressing in your life, and instead focusing them on something that is full of hope, something that is intoxicating, something that is beautiful, wondrous, wonderful, you know, peace, love, joy, these are all emotions. But our tendency is just to cut them out entirely. Not our tendency, but certain teachings of the church have attempted to do that. And I think thatís a problem.
CBP: Let me rephrase it so that I make sure I understand you. Youíre not guided by your emotions, but youíre directing them. Youíve redirected them with the ultimate goal being, of course, heaven, future life, our ultimate goal of being with Christ.
Ted: You can never be guided by your emotions because Ė
CBP: Well you can be guided, thatís the problem.
Ted: I agree with you. You should not be guided by your emotions because your emotions are very fragile and not trustworthy. However, your emotions will direct you. Letís quit pretending they wonít. Weíre emotional beings and they will direct you. So you need to set your emotions on the hope of glory, on the hope of Christ, on what he offers rather than what the enemy offers instead of trying to shut it off altogether. It just doesnít work; youíre being sub-human. Youíre trying to go before the fall. You canít do that.
CBP: And you talk a lot about using imagination as a tool for maintaining that hope. You want to talk about that?
Ted: Imagination, in my opinion, is one of Godís greatest gifts given to man, because it allows us to engage Him in a way that a fly canít. When you think of God, and if you think the character of God, youíll think in terms of words and a lot of things that arenít fleshed out. But when you think of Him in metaphor, the Lion of Judah, when you think of heaven in terms of streets of gold Ė whether thatís literal or an analogy or a metaphor for something else that exists in heaven, you have a very clear picture that comes to life in your imagination, and you are actually able to see it! It becomes something real as opposed to something thatís blah. Whatís God? Try to describe God. Well, so many people have no idea who God is. They have no idea Ė even less idea of what heaven is other than streets of gold. You canít have passion for something that you cannot imagine or see.
So itís very important that through our imagination visualize Ė now the enemy has stolen this too. The whole visualization thing and it freaks people out because itís like New Age. This is the enemyís distortion of it; knowing that it will cause many of us to shut off imagination just like we shut off emotion. These are wonderful gifts given to us by God, and because theyíve been compromised by the enemy, we just want to cut them off. What that does is thatís ultimately the devilís plan Ė if he can get us to stop using imagination, shut off our emotions, we have no hope of being desperate for heaven. We have no hope Ė you canít desire something that you canít visualize, you canít have a great, burning passion for something thatís just foggy in your mind.
CBP: Right. And most people are not excited about the idea of heaven. I donít know if you saw Randy Alcornís book that came out last year on heaven. Thatís the thing, whatís heaven like isnít it just us sitting around plucking harps on a cloud. Itís like why do I care about that? And that is a big problem. They just donít have an understanding.
Ted: My book is very different then Randyís and Iím not describing heaven, but both books work in tandem. Iíve gotten a number of emails from people whoíve read both books, and itís kind of like a one, two punch. It really is two different approaches to the same problem in the church. The bottom line is we need to awaken to hope in this mind-bending reality that does exist. And the Bible is full of descriptions of this using metaphor. And the whole purpose of Christianity is to draw us into that reality where we are saved from this Ė you know.
And yet, we look for salvation simply in this life and we will be disappointed. Christianity will disappoint you and ultimately youíll be disillusioned by it, gradually lose your faith even if you keep going to church. I mean, the church is full of people that donít have faith anymore. They just pretend; itís part of their life now. They donít really have Ė theyíve lost their faith. They donít believe, really, anymore. They wonder. They wonder. They wonder. And we live in a society that mocks our faith which makes it even easier to lose our faith.
Instead we should be a people that constantly talk about this incredible reality that awaits us, and how we canít wait to enter that reality. And weíre pushed there by suffering, weíre drawn there by pleasure, but the foretaste in this life of that pleasure that comes and you can work up a pretty healthy desire pretty quickly. Just like you can fall in love with a woman, fall in love with a man, become enamored of a car. You know, all it takes is a little bit of Ė you start walking around it, you start contemplating, you start letting your imagination go and pretty soon you have a pretty strong desire. But you know what? Thatís the way it works and thatís the way it works in heaven. Itís really quite simple.
CBP: Do you think that people who are persecuted in other countries, are more able to look at that hoop deferred Ė to use that phrase Ė to glorious Ė do you think itís easier for them to look forward that way?
Ted: I think absolutely because the suffering of this life is very real in their lives, and so they look to another life. Suffering is a force in this life that pushes us to the next. The early church is a great example of that.
Peter said, ďThere will be suffering.Ē He didnít say there wouldnít be any suffering; that Christianity would eliminate suffering. Christianity was the cause of suffering in their lives. And he says, ďDonít worry because a time is coming soon when all this will be worth it. Such an incredible inheritance awaits you that all this suffering will pale in comparison. And Randy Alcorn talks about it in his book, the hieroglyphs written on the walls of the catacombs. I mean, these people were waiting to die and they wrote images of heaven on the walls. They were obsessed with the realities of what was to come. They knew. They knew. They knew.
Most Christians Ė Iím not sure how much Christians believe Ė really believe Ė in heaven other than itís the next life. But beyond that, I mean, if we really knew what it was like, wouldnít we be desperate to be there?
CBP: Right. It doesnít seem tangible. It seems more like an illusion.
Ted: And desperation is a strong desire, again, itís emotion. We need emotions to desire heaven. Hope is an emotion. Faith, you can make an argument either way for. Hope is an emotion Ė so weíre going back to your first question. But at least to the extent that it draws you to heaven is your desire for something to come, we must embrace that emotion.
CBP: And how does Martyr's Song fit into it?
Ted: Martyr's Song Ė you have to read Martyr's Song.
CBP: Iím sorry, I didnít get that one.
Ted: Thatís okay. It doesnít come out until September anyway.
Martyr's Song will take these truths that weíre discussing today, put flesh on them as only story can and make them real. Story is far more real than didactic teaching, way more real. Thatís why Jesus used it so much. Heaven is wonderful, matchless, you know, all the words we use. Or you can say, Thomas dove into the water and youíre describing somebody entering that pleasure. Youíre putting flesh on the teaching, youíre actually making it real because a real character is taking the journey and experiencing it. So there you go.