God is Not Cynical (So Why Are You?)

Years ago I read a book entitled: God is Not: Religious, Nice, “One of Us,” An American, A Capitalist by D. Brent Laytham. The book is a short collection of essays that intends to subvert pop culture’s view of God, especially that of most conservative evangelicals.  I recommend it to those already suscpicious of the American Jesus.

I would like to add one more to the “God is Not…” list. This addition is meant to be a corrective to what has quickly become vogue among those who would think of themselves as “enlightened” in the church. I’m talking about cynicism. And my deep concern is for those who revel in it.

Last year I wrote a blog post called On Christian Cynicism. I talked about how I left fundamentalism and then reveled in cynicism for a time. I strongly suggest that you read, or re-read, that post before reading this one.

Do you feel like your drowning in cynicism? Maybe you’re happy in it, I don’t know. If you’re having a difficult time trading in your cynicism for hopeful realism, and you truly desire to be renewed, I want to share some brief thoughts and leave you with some practical steps to healing.

If you’re a cynic saint, please seriously consider my challenge and encouragement to you. May you be surprised by the hope God gives.

Repenting of Cynicism

I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with cynicism. I think of myself as a recovering cynic who must daily trade in his cynicism for hopeful realism. I haven’t repented of cynicism. I’m repenting of it, daily.

I have good days. I also have good weeks. But like many of you, I know that it’s all too easy to do a hard dive into a cynical depression after watching the news, listening to some really bad “Christian” music on the radio, or surveying my Facebook newsfeed. And that’s just the beginning.

Somedays it’s enough to make you want to quit.

I don’t trust politicians. I think the American Empire marches on with or without your vote. Most days I think insurance companies are a ministry of Satan. I think the news media (every network) is about entertainment, not investigative reporting and the truth. Nobody is fair and balanced.

It appears to me that the US medical industry has been hijacked by greedy doctors and pharmaceutical companies. I’m told repeatedly that my unvaccinated child is a threat to all the vaccinated children in the country. I can’t help but feel like we’re living in The Twilight Zone.

I’m leery of realtors, lawyers, and car salesmen. I’m tempted to think that every religious institution and business corporation is after your money. We’re not people anymore, just targeted consumers.

Oh, and I believe in conspiracies.

All of this (and much more) has made me suspicious of those who disagree with my perspective. Like I said, I know it’s easy to be cynical these days. So I think it’s important for us to be repenting of our cynicism regularly.

But let me be clear. It’s not cynicism simply to acknowledge reality. It’s just that we can’t fully know what’s real without considering the God revealed in Jesus. Reality must conform to the good news of Christ.

Cynicism leads to despair. Repent of it when it’s at work in you.

Repent by believing that God is greater than the evil at work in the world. He calls us to be people of hope. Hopeful realism is about resurrection and the promise of new creation. It allows us to see the Spirit of God at work, and it empowers us to join him in shaping God’s good future.

The God of Hope

According to Jesus, God is not cynical. So why are we you? Why are we so cynical? Think about it. If we truly believe in the God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, then how can we choose to be cynical?

Jesus defeated sin and death! The Messiah took on lies, greed, violence, and the corruption of the world, and he loved his enemies to death. His resurrection guarantees a final renewal to come (1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 5:5).

That renewal is coming about though the church. Yes, I know. This may be the most difficult truth for any cynic saint to believe, but it’s true. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you must believe in this.

Jesus didn’t make fun of those that didn’t get it. Yes, he was angry with the religious hypocrites, but he didn’t retreat from their places of worship. He never gave up on them. He mourned for those in bondage.

Jesus was in anguish over Jerusalem. All of the disfunction prompted Jesus to action, not bitter isolation. Our Lord believed that the Kingdom would triumph. He was hopeful for the world. His trust was in the Father.

The Kingdom of God is alive and well! Do you believe this? Do you really believe it? If so, you can’t remain in your cynicism. You must be intentional about brokenness, repentance, and action. You must move.

The God revealed in Jesus has made a way to rise above our cynicism. We can’t speak and live as people with no hope. We’re called to “boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2).

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”                                                                                  Paul, Eph. 3:10-11

It seems to me that this truth that God is going to transform the world through the church was difficult even for Paul and the early church. Have you read 1 Corinthians? Lots of room for cynicism. But it’s true!

It didn’t work out so well for Israel. So, what confidence can we have that it’s gonna work with the church? The difference is that Christ, the risen Lord, is head of the church (Eph 5:34; Col 1:18). And his Spirit has been given to all the saints to be agents of new creation (2 Cor 5:17).

We must choose to be difference makers. If we are real followers of Jesus, we can’t abandon the church. We must work to transform our communities, make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey the commands of Christ (Matt 28:18-20).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Embracing Hopeful Realism

You must be intentional about moving out of cynicism if you want to embrace hopeful realism. Please consider the following.

  1. Don’t give up meeting with the church (Heb 10:23-25). It doesn’t matter if it’s a house church or a larger organized fellowship. You were created for community. When you’re outside a worshipping community of believers, you’re vulnerable. Isolation is a breeding ground for cynicism. Join a church. Stop making excuses for why you’re not in fellowship. You’re just as messed up as the rest of us.
  2. Cynicism, like misery, loves company. Don’t network with others who are cynical. It may make you feel better to congregate with other cynics for a time, but in the end it will kill your spiritual life if you don’t move out of it. If you’re surrounded by other Christians who are constantly negative, sarcastic, and cynical, it’s time to make a change. In your state, they will keep you from moving on.
  3. Be careful not to form your theology (setting it in concrete) when you’re in a season of cynicism, especially when you’re not in face-to-face community with others. Cynicism clouds your thinking. I’ve noticed that it pushes people to extremes. It’s also easy to be persuaded by other cynical, secular-thinking people, who need healing themselves. You don’t want to follow after those folks.
  4. Make a concerted effort to be constructive. It’s important to deconstruct theology and church systems, but do it with intentions of offering solutions. Stop being critical of everything. If you feel that something deserves critique, offer a healthy alternative that builds up the Body of Christ. Be helpful, not negative. Beware of toxic speech, and be careful of spreading it around to others.
  5. Listen to others who have been where you are. If you’re tired of living as a cynic saint and want to embrace hopeful realism, you need to let the light of others shine into your life. You’re not the first believer to feel frustrated and angry with the church and the world. Take notice of others who have gone before you and rebounded with a renewed sense of purpose. You’re not alone.
  6. Serve others and give to those in need around you. It’s usually those folks who are not involved in Kingdom work that don’t discover the power of healing the Spirit can bring. Serve out of your deficit. Give even though you don’t feel like it. I don’t mean fake it until you feel it. I mean that you should do what Christ has commanded you and be surprised by the hope that will flood into your life.
  7. Ask the God of hope to break your hardshell and renew your heart. Tell the Lord that you want new eyes to see the church and the world the way he does. Pray that God will give you the strength to let go of that which you falsely believed empowered you: a cynical heart and mind. Our Father is faithful to give you the enduring Spirit of hope that he gave Jesus in the face of sin and death.

My friends, God is not cynical. His Son has proved it by the power of his resurrection. Therefore, we are children of hope. May you find healing for your souls as you persevere in the power of his Spirit.

Faith. Hope. Love.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David was in student ministry for 7 years, taught Biblical Studies & Latin at The Woodlands Christian Academy for 5 years, and now pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

16 responses to “God is Not Cynical (So Why Are You?)

  • Bob Demyanovich

    Brethren need to detach, to break the conventional media link. This is not a monastery call or seeking an Essene community. Determine to disconnect the television for 6 months. If this is too difficult it is a clear indication of the problem. This media fast will open one’s heart and put an end to cynicism.
    Mat 6:24-34, 10-28, Luk 10:41, 8:14, Jhn 14:27. Rom 13:3-4
    Jesus not only confessed that His kingdom is not of this world, he discomforted, startled and amazed all who met Him. The presence of God is lost to the preoccupied. This world is a stern preparatory academy. The transformation out of a dying condition is a progression. The apostles were not converted until after the crucifixion. They were in filled by the Holy Spirit yet still were years in preparation.
    Rom 5:1-5. The author and finisher of our faith, the last Adam reaches out to His brethren yet most are too intent on their things to take His hand. Col 2:1-23
    The curses and promises of God seemed insurmountable after Adam. The last Adam accepted the curses of the flesh and conquered them. Our Creator became one of the brethren to complete creation of man in the image of God. In this He also obtained all of the promises and is now seated above all principalities and powers.

  • Bob Demyanovich

    Travel to a foreign country. You will begin to know the real propaganda that is called the media. Come out from among them and be separate. (sanctified)

  • Thomas Arvidsson

    Thanks David! I totally agree with you. Hope is the opposite of cynicism.
    I have started to call myself “hopeful” instead of a “believer”. Belief has a tendency to become only an intellectual effort, or at least look like it. The reality of hopefulness says something about the future and of change. I like that. So I’m still a believer, but a hopeful one :)

  • John Morris

    David, as usual you are spot on. I too am in recovery, and am now moving on after many years. I see so many Christians, filling there lives, with so many things, from news, current events, celebrity, politics, sports, work, and even “good” things like service and family, in place of letting there lives be consumed with the “centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ”. It is like we are trying to fill that void with something other than Him, yet nothing else will satisfy, and leaves us frustrated and cynical. You have been so helpful over these last few years in helping me see so many things of Christ that I had either never seen or had forgotten or “moved on” from. Thank you brother, you are a blessing, and you continue to show us Christ. John M.

  • Tim Chisolm

    Thanks David, I did go back and read your earlier post before I continued with this one. I wished I had read it when it originally came out, but I don’t think that it would have done me much good back then. The Lord is in the business of resurrecting/rebuilding. The sad thing is that it took a death in the family to transform the heart of stone into one of clay. I knew that it wasn’t right, but it was like I was powerless to change it. Praise Jesus for being the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

  • Andrew Patrick

    (concerning…)

    That renewal is coming about though the church. Yes, I know. This may be the most difficult truth for any cynic saint to believe, but it’s true. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you must believe in this.

    The renewal is not coming about through the church. Daniel 7:25, “… shall wear out the saints of the most High…” The change, when it comes, is coming about by nothing less than the return of Christ.

    (concerning…)

    The Kingdom of God is alive and well! Do you believe this? Do you really believe it? If so, you can’t remain in your cynicism. You must be intentional about brokenness, repentance, and action. You must move.

    No, I can’t believe that. If you believe Christ as he speaks in the Bible, the Kingdom of God is like a man sent to faraway country, to receive a kingdom and then to return. Lest we think that the Kingdom of God should immediately appear… (Luke 19:11)

    There is no kingdom without its King. It is a lesson taught by the classic game of chess, it is a message consistent with scripture. In the meantime, until that Rock strikes the image at its feet and destroys the nations of this world, I must remain cynical about those that call themselves the Kingdom of God on earth.

    But is looking reality in the eye really cynicism? If the kingdoms in this world that call themselves the Kingdom of God are “it” … then we have reason to be of all men most miserable.

    • David D. Flowers

      Andrew, I recall that you have followed the blog for a while now. Thanks!

      Have you read all of my posts regarding this topic? For example, see my post: Then the End Will Come. I have addressed your objections above in many previous posts.

      I affirm the biblical idea that the Kingdom comes in its fullness with the return of Christ, but to deny a present reality of the Kingdom at work through the church is to ignore a plethora of verses (e.g. Matt 12:28; Lk 4:43; 10:9; 17:21; John 3:3; Acts 1:3; 1 Cor 4:20; etc.) In biblical scholarship, this is called the “already/not yet” aspect of the Kingdom of God.

      See George Eldon Ladd’s excellent book, Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God.

      Blessings.
      David

      • Andrew Patrick

        Hello David,

        Yes, I have followed your blog somewhat for a while. Thank you for noticing.

        I cannot claim to have exhaustively read all of your writings, so I cannot say if I have read all your posts on this topic. But I did read the post you just recommended, which answered none of my objections. Perhaps you misunderstand the nature of my objections…

        … which are plainly, these:
        1) Jesus never preached that the Kingdom of God was to immediately appear
        2) Jesus specifically denied that the Kingdom of God was to immediately appear, even going so far as to tell us that he must first return from a far country
        3) The apostles never said anything with regards to the Kingdom of God being in existence now, nor spoke as “Kingdom now” preachers do today
        4) The “already / not yet” doctrine is not only absent from scripture, but also an illogical impossibility. Is a child born “already / not yet?”

        There are more than a few popular ideas that circulate around when someone gets a thought, accumulates a few select verses that seem to support it, and ignore other verses that plainly contradict said idea. There’s a technical Greek term for it, but the common tongue would call it “forcing one’s ideas into the text,rather than letting the text speak for itself.”

        You supplied seven scriptures as representative of a “plethora” of verses speaking of the Kingdom being now:

        Three of them (Luke 4:43, Acts 1:3, 1 Cor 4:20) … I have no idea how you intended for them to be relevant to the timing or establishment of the kingdom, other than the word “kingdom” is found in all of them.

        With the other four (Matt 12:28, Luke 10:9, 17:21 and John 3:3) … it seems that you are making some bad assumptions.

        Notice that he tells the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God is within them. Not “inside their hearts” … but referring to himself.

        This last passage would seem to speak against your argument. The questions Nicodemus asked (and the answers Jesus gave) prove that the kingdom of God is not at this present time, but a future event. When you come and go, can people tell from where you come and to whither you go? If so, you are not “born again” (resurrected incorruptible) as Jesus speaks here.

        Which leaves you with a plethora of verses that speak *against* the Kingdom of God being a present reality at work.

        We can speak of the Kingdom of God in surety, we can plan and prepare ourselves and others for that kingdom, and we can work with that kingdom in mind, but please do not misrepresent this world and to day as actually being “the Kingdom of God” or as evidence that “the Kingdom of God is alive and well.”

        … because misrepresentation of that sort justifiably breeds cynicism (and/or eventual disillusionment.)

        Sincerely,
        -Andrew

        • David D. Flowers

          * The following comment has been expanded on 10/3/13 from the original.

          Andrew,

          First, I edited your original comment because it was entirely too long. See the blog Rules (#4,#6,#7). I reserve the right to edit comments or not approve them altogether. I tried to leave the heart of your post intact. Please know that I’m not trying to censor you or the Scriptures that speak of the Kingdom.

          Secondly, I seem to recall that this isn’t the first time you have taken issue with the long tradition (rooted in Scripture) of the “already/not yet” —albeit mysterious— aspect of the Kingdom of God. I’ve given you evidence of the obvious tension, but you would rather see one side of it.

          The Scriptures you posted to make your case, and those I cut out because quoting them in bulk wasn’t necessary, is only one side of the Kingdom teaching.

          I’m not going to argue interpretations here. We clearly disagree, and are both passionate about what we believe. That’s why I recommended reading Ladd’s book on the Kingdom, a widely published book by a respected NT scholar.

          While it’s not necessarily the arbiter of truth, you need to know that you’re in the minority (EXEGETICALLY & HISTORICALLY) here with the way you’re interpreting key verses on the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it does mean the burden of proof is on you to cite some scholarly sources in making your case, and to disagree respectfully without being accusatory.

          I believe that eisegesis (the Greek word you to which you were referring) is being done on your part. “Born again” is a present (spiritual) as well as future (resurrection) reality. Like the Kingdom, it’s a process that begins now. It’s in motion. It’s breaking into the present evil age. The future is bursting forth into the present.

          No, Jesus didn’t preach the Kingdom would immediately appear, but he did say it was “among you” (“within you” isn’t a good translation), and he also clearly spoke of it being future. He will consummate that Kingdom when he returns to earth.

          Jesus is the bearer of the Kingdom, and he’s given his Spirit, and the Kingdom to which it brings, to us. Just as the Spirit is the downpayment and promise of the rest of the inheritance on the earth, the Kingdom is already among us and at work in the lives of those who surrender to Christ.

          That much is clear.

          That’s not reason to be cynical, but instead to be hopeful of what Christ will complete in the age to come.

          Blessings,
          David

  • taylormweaver

    Hey David. Though not entirely relevant to your post, I thought I would inform you that Laytham released/edited a second volume in this series.

  • kansasbob

    I shared a bit today (at kansasbob dot com) about my predisposition towards cynicism and skepticism. If it is okay with you I may followup this weekend by sharing a bit of your thoughts here. -Thanks, Bob

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