Saltwater Gospel?

Inspiration is a strange beast. One never knows what will cause it to catch one’s attention. At times, it seems to spring out of nowhere and grab one by the throat like a lion. At other times, it slips up on a writer slowly like a python seeking to enfold its prey. Not long ago, a song on the radio caused inspiration to spring fully into AnOldSinner’s mind.

The song was “Saltwater Gospel” by Eli Young Band. It is new, released earlier this summer. It’s a catchy little tune that attracts one’s attention immediately. At least it caught this writer’s attention quickly. Of course, that may be due to the number of religious sounding songs being published these days.

Some of these songs have titles that imply a religious connection. Others embed some religious sounding element in the chorus that can lead one to think the less intelligible lyrics include a bit of religion or faith. In most cases, any faith-related element in the song is accidental or satirical. In fact, one current song could easily be considered a song of faith if one only listened to the chorus. In reality, it is about as holy as the old Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas.

“Saltwater Gospel” does have a religious sounding message. It is one many could embrace, and many have, in one way or another. Sadly, the theology underlying the point of the song is incomplete, though it is has been around since the early centuries of Christianity. The theology in the song, and the idea of some early Christians, is that one can worship and grow closer to God alone and in solitude.

AnOldSinner has encountered many self-proclaimed Christians over the years making similar claims. The most common claim was that one could be just a close to God on the golf course as one could be in church. Others claimed they felt close to God when they were fishing, hunting or during their morning run. Generally, those claims were made when this writer or someone else was encouraging the individual to come to church.

To be clear, God reveals Himself in different ways. One of those is something called general revelation, which underlies the idea expressed in “Saltwater Gospel.” One can come to know some things about God on the beach, in the ocean, on the golf course, hunting in the mountains or running a 5K. In fact, this writer is familiar with a ministry that grew out a man’s experience with God in nature. The problem is that recognizing the existence of God from His creation is only part of the equation.

God’s revelation through nature makes his majesty and power clear. He created the conditions that give us rainbows, roses and swans. He created the oceans and beaches where one can sit or lay in peace and quiet while contemplating the amazing grace of the ungainly looking pelican as it flies through the air. He created the mountains one can scale to view the world from a completely different perspective, and he created the minds that developed devices that let us fly above the mountain tops and in some cases above the atmosphere.

Yes, general revelation can amaze and dazzle us. What it cannot do is teach us right from wrong. It cannot teach us what it takes to be saved. It cannot teach us how to love one another. In fact, if one only looks at general revelation, one could believe survival of the fittest is the law of God, not love thy neighbor as yourself. Thankfully, God did not plan for His children to be dependent only on general revelation.

God also reveals Himself through special or particular revelation. This is a more direct form of revelation, and it can be in more than one form. In this case, AnOldSinner will close this piece with just one example of God’s special revelation, the Holy Bible.

The Bible is the most reliable and easily understood way God reveals himself to believers. It tells us about God. It tells us how He wants us to live. It tells us about righteousness and how we should try to achieve it. It reveals many things to us that we could never know or see sitting on the beach. One of the things it reveals is that God did not create mankind to worship Him in isolation.

Certainly there are times when isolation is appropriate for various reasons. Yet, the Bible is clear that Christians should come together to worship. Hebrews 10:24-25 makes this point when it says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (ESV)

You can feel the presence of God on the beach. It is a bit more difficult to “stir one another up” or encourage one another when you are sitting on the beach alone. If you or someone you know is avoiding church or other opportunities to worship or fellowship with other believers, it may be time to seek the counsel of other Christians or encourage your friend to do so.

If God only wanted us to know Him through general revelation, He would not have sent His son to save us.

© -2016

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About S. Eric Jackson

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