Unicorns, Unbiased Influence, Threats to the Church and Other Things That Don’t Exist

Zach Watson   -  

Upon a hill backdropped by a cresting sun, stands a majestic creature in mystical splendor. Its gleaming white coat, free of blemish, wraps a regal structure of lean muscle and sinew that emanates an otherworldly sense of power and grace. Though its silhouette resembles a familiar form, a proud and prestigious horn protruding from its forehead pronounces this beauty’s unique position of preeminence amongst all other beings.

Surely this would be a wondrous and glorious sight for any eye to behold … if it was real.

One’s imagination is a powerful tool. It can be used to develop ideas, theories and visions that initiate, influence and inspire new and meaningful human experience, not only for the individual, but, in some instances, for the world. However, this power and the experiences it can produce are not bound to a particular moral predisposition. In other words, imagination and its fruit will not necessarily be bad or good, profitable or detrimental. That outcome depends largely on the individual applying the tool and how closely that application aligns to the reality established by the One who has defined and declared what is both bad and good.

Fanciful creations such as unicorns and the fictitious tales which accompany them seem rather innocuous when contemplating the moral implications of applied imagination, but they actually provide an effective example for consideration.

My children love unicorns. Our house is filled with drawings, paintings, books, toys and, presently, my most recent birthday balloon bearing the image of these mythological wonders. Day after day, unicorns impact our family’s experience in a fun and appropriate manner because they are imagined and applied in proper relation and subordination to God’s created order and his revealed word. We know they only exist in the imagination the Lord has given us; therefore, they do not impact the reality in which he has placed us.

God’s word is the governor by which our imagination and thinking must be ruled. While our family generally honors the Lord in our contemplation of unicorns, on occasion, a child has proposed that perhaps the creatures could exist. After all, there isn’t chapter and verse definitively declaring that magical one-horned horses aren’t real. It is at this point that the governing of scripture is applied to remind the child of how God’s sovereignty eliminates the possibility of a magical anything and how the unexplained wonders of the world are reflective of a glorious creator who is vastly superior to us yet generously condescends to graciously interact with us.

The imagination extends the bounds of what scripture declares as true and it is then brought back into proper usage by being aligned with what the Lord has revealed. Simple. Effective. Obvious … or is it?

Aligning one’s imagination and contemplation to the truth of God’s word should be the modus operandi of any Christ-follower. It is, after all, a necessary implication of the often under emphasized “observe” portion in the Great Commission. If we are to follow Christ, we must strive to think about ourselves and the world around us in the same manner he did, according to God’s truth. Operating according to any other paradigm will result in following someone or something else.

And all God’s people said … “Amen.”

Yet, could it be that our hardy agreement in word and principle finds less vigor in our function?

While we may be proudly proficient in using God’s truth to efficiently execute an opponent’s  way of thinking, how zealous are we to use this skill in examining the thinking of our allies or even our own? Do we enjoy pulling out the sword of truth to rightly undercut the pontification and propositions of those who promote a different perspective than our own and then allow it to sit silently sheathed when those who share our predisposition and priorities propose that unicorns are real?

If God’s truth is to govern our mind and living, it must be the objective standard by which we assess our thinking and those who influence it. The fact that someone generally thinks like me, shares similar values with me, wants the same outcomes as me and even purports to believe the same things as me does not mean I should open the door of my mind to let him or her influence me. If we are to honor the Lord in our thinking, the gates of our minds and hearts need to be diligently guarded by the objective word of God, not our pivoting proclivities.

Again, I can hear the choir sing, “Amen!” However, let’s entertain an example and see if the refrain will sustain.

Anyone with eyes, ears and a web browser is aware that American culture is not exactly eager to embrace, implement and adhere to biblical values. Christians of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives would likely agree with this observation but may differ on how much attention or significance it has in relation to the concern and practice of the church.  Some may think it is not that big of a deal; the culture of the world has always been in opposition to the church and today is no different than yesterday just as tomorrow will be no different than the present. Others may think today’s cultural opposition is of a unique fashion and, accordingly, the church needs to make a unique, direct and bold response to the matters of the day in order to impact the future moral landscape of the country.

Though some may be discomforted with this reality, both of these positions (and some in between) can maintain footing when being held in alignment with God’s word. This doesn’t mean God’s word supports opposing truth claims; it simply means these truth claims are within the bounds of God’s revelation. And, while not yet fully aligned with the totality of God’s word in such a way that the claim must be considered certain and correct, they are not necessarily or directly opposed to a part of God’s word that is clear and definitive. Thus, when governed by God’s word, these positions can maintain a place of conviction, but not dogma.

However, both positions can and do get pushed into the category of unicorn lore. When convictions get influenced by inputs that breed enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalry, dissension, division and envy instead of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, otherwise well-intended Christians can slip into imagining, thinking and even promoting things that are outside the bounds of God’s truth.

For instance, a Christian who wants to protect the church from the genuinely corrupt and godless influences that are being endorsed and seemingly championed by the world may start his or her campaign by promoting a renewed emphasis of equipping saints to know scripture and prioritize prayer. However, as his or her efforts stir little interest and even less passion, the Christian notices that more “effective” brothers and sisters are creating much more fervor and engagement by fighting fire with fire. Since the truth of scripture and the power of prayer seem inadequate to gain victory in the battle the Christian has determined necessary to win, he or she must employ more effective weapons of warfare such as sarcasm, hyperbole, vitriol and accusation. It may not be the way he or she would have preferred to handle the situation, but “desperate times call for desperate measures” and surely the end justifies the means in this case. After all, this is an eminent and dangerous threat to church of Jesus Christ.

Alert! Alert! We have a unicorn on the loose, people.

Simply compare the methodology and truth claims to the revealed word of God. Does scripture support arguing about foolish controversies that lead to quarrels or does it support correcting opponents with gentleness and confidence in God’s sovereignty (2 Timothy 2:22-26)? Does scripture promote trafficking in quarrels that produce envy, dissension, slander and suspicions or does it promote being content in godliness born from sound teaching and doctrine (1 Timothy 6:2b-8)? Does scripture teach us that engaging worldly means to accomplish what we have determined to be needed for Christ’s sake is in line with the things of God or the things of man (Matthew 16:21-26)? And does scripture warn us that Christ’s church is at risk of being upended by the world or does it declare that the almighty King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Head of the Church, the one by whom all things have come into existence and are held together, the victorious Lion of Judah who has conquered the grave, made his enemies his footstool and has prepared an everlasting, unfading, forever thriving glorious inheritance that he has eternally secured for every single one of his chosen people will reign victoriously without rival to his throne or a single deviation to his plan (The New Testament)?

Simple. Effective. Obvious.

You can want something to be true, you can believe it should be true, you can even use partial truths to support the plausibility of what you have soothsaid to be true, but, if what you want to be true does not start, fill and finish with the word of God, it’s just a figment of your imagination prancing across the horizon of a fictitious illusion.

How’s that “Amen” now?

I hope it still resounds. I hope it has not been silenced by some protective pejorative decorated with a misapplied scripture verse to convince yourself your beloved unicorn is real. I hope you agree that, though one may want something to be true, there is only One who has determined what is true and knowing, embracing and enjoying what he has authored is better than living in any self-serving fantasy we could ever imagine.

May we diligently seek his truth and his truth alone that we may be firmly planted in the reality of his word and let all that is not made of it be shattered against its never eroding shore.