The sin beneath the sin of cynicism

J.I. Packer cites Ecclesiastes(!) as his favorite book in the Bible and explains why in an interesting & helpful article at CT. The entire piece is worth reading but I especially appreciated how he describes cynicism against the backdrop of his own experience.

His basic description:

Cynics are people who have grown skeptical about the goodness of life, and who look down on claims to sincerity, morality, and value. They dismiss such claims as hollow and criticize programs for making improvements. Feeling disillusioned, discouraged, and hurt by their experience of life, their pained pride forbids them to think that others might be wiser and doing better than they themselves have done. On the contrary, they see themselves as brave realists and everyone else as self-deceived. Mixed-up teens slip easily into cynicism, and that is what I was doing.

His personal experience:

. . . I developed a self-protective sarcasm, settled for low expectations from life, and grew bitter. Pride led me to stand up for Christian truth in school debates, but with no interest in God or a willingness to submit to him. However, becoming a real as distinct from a nominal Christian brought change, and Ecclesiastes in particular showed me things about life that I had not seen before.

His conclusion:

Being too proud to enjoy the enjoyable is a very ugly shortcoming, and one that calls for immediate correction. Let it be acknowledged that, as I had to learn long ago, discovering how under God ordinary things can bring joy is the cure for cynicism.

The real eye-opener for me was Packer’s diagnosis of the sin beneath the sin of cynicism–namely, pride. If there’s a mask that pride can’t wear I haven’t found it yet.

Imagination & ignorance


Imagining God in our heads can be just as real a breach of the second commandment as imagining Him by the work of our hands. How often do we hear this sort of thing: “I like to think of God as the great Architect (or, Mathematician; or, Artist).” “I don’t think of God as a Judge; I like to think of Him simply as a Father.” We know from experience how often remarks of this kind serve as a prelude to the denial of something that the Bible tells us about God. It needs to be said with the greatest possible emphasis that those who hold themselves free to think of God as they like are breaking the second commandment. At best they can only think of God in the image of man–as an ideal man, perhaps, or a super-man. But God is not any sort of man. We were made in His image, but we must not think of Him as existing in ours. To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of Him, not to know Him. –J.I. Packer, Knowing God

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