The Line of Despair


I try to balance my posts between God stuff and other stuff. But, because of my passion to speak truth into people’s lives (including my own), God stuff tends to win. For me, all roads lead to God, not to Rome. Nevertheless…

Modern culture is taking the road to ancient Rome, toward two progressive beliefs: pantheism (everything is divine) and paganism (so take your pick). Conclusion: Life is a BYOG (bring your own god) party, and no god is any more valid than any other. The milestones on the road look like this:

  1. We’ve always allowed diversity, but now we “celebrate” it, affirming that all beliefs are equally valid.
  2. In doing so, we lose our former understanding of the distinction between rights and truths, i.e. that the right to believe something does not make it true.
  3. We denounce the “exclusionists” who disagree with this revised definition of diversity, labelling them judgmental and intolerant, and take steps toward (ironically) excluding them from public discourse.
  4. The jaded intelligentsia, perceiving that if everything is true, then nothing is true, reject all beliefs, crossing what philosopher Francis Schaeffer called “the line of despair.” Or, as one humorist puts it, “Zero times a dozen donuts equals zero donuts. What happened to my donuts?!”

Life without truth is not freedom, it’s despair.

Pontius Pilate, the governor of ancient Judaea, had jettisoned, as had the Roman masses, any innate sense of how to discern truth from lies (the God-given yardstick Jesus called “righteousness”). “What is truth?” he asked Jesus. It was a rhetorical question. Pilate did not believe there was an answer.

He’d crossed the line of despair.

But there is a way out (which, according some ancient writers, including Augustine and Eusebius, Pilate eventually took). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). And “when you abide in my word [when you “live” there], you are truly my disciples [shaped by Jesus]. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Matthew 6:33)

Our world isn’t ready for the exclusivity of Jesus’s words. But, like Pilate, they need them all the more. They need to see truth in action. Need to see what real disciples—people shaped by Jesus—look like. They need to see that they can be free, that there is a way back from the line of despair. Not everything is true, but something is. Someone is.

And that Someone is still setting people free.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The Line of Despair

  1. Right on Mitch, Jesus gets the win! “Our world isn’t ready for the exclusivity of Jesus’s words.” The world no, His true worshipers — yes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This was excellent and just what I was in the mood to read. Very well written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In a pluralistic world, it may not be politically correct to say that the truth is singular, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. I was taken aback when I saw your title, as I had just written a sonnet related to despair…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Imelda says:

    Excellent piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s the inclusivity of the teachings, actions, life, and death, and life of Jesus that I am drawn to. He even took what must have been a scary side trip to hell and back…no one is out of reach. Everyone will get asked to the dinner, and asked again, and again. It appears he likes children the best, and sinners the next best. The hatred leveled in his name towards others, the cruel judgments, the assumptions we know who is going to hell, the idea that we even know what “sin” is…the prideful exclusivity of “Christianity” …Heart-breaking. Soul bruising. It’s a good thing God is so tough, big, and patient…not to mention the source of all love….

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Rita, right you are regarding Jesus’ inclusive attitude toward people. On the other hand, he was quite “exclusive” in his teachings. Promiscuity, for example, is not invited in under the big tent of his love, and for a reason–it is rooted in self-gratification, which is incompatible with selflessness, a non-negotiable for Jesus. God’s love, about which you speak so articulately (above and elsewhere), by its very nature excludes that which corrupts or contradicts it.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. ekurie says:

    This is so well said I’m reluctant to share something at the risk of despairing! But as you aptly said there is no despair in truth. When I was growing up my parents were excellent models of strength and conviction. Not sure they always hit the mark on truth but after college I was definitely a humanist without realizing anything was different (embarrassed to say) like the proverbial frog in the pot of water. Now, over 40 years later perspective and truth are much more in focus. Until we either make a Von’s iOS effort to fill that inner void with Jesus or suffer greatly sadly some of us have no idea how far we’ve gone off the right path.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ekurie says:

      Sorry, my iPad made up a whole word for me and I didn’t proofread. I have no idea what Von’s iOS is. If you could omit that as you read the last sentence that is what I originally wrote, I promise!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. landl30 says:

    Amen brother.. brilliant analysis
    Len Freeman+

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ron Whited says:

    A well thought out and articulated post Mitch. My only comment would be that our world has never been ready for the exclusivity of Jesus words.

    For nearly two thousand years His words have been falling on good ground,stony ground,and sometimes among the weeds.

    Our position should be to live His words so that others may see Jesus through our actions.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is a really great post. I especially like points 2 and 3.

    The modern definition of diversity doesn’t celebrate ideological diversity. Conservatives and Christian viewpoints are often rejected, especially on University campuses where speakers are dis-invited.

    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a great film about the consequences of believing in nothing.

    btw; I Tweeted this: “The right to believe something does not make it true.” Mitch Teemly

    Liked by 1 person

  10. gwennonr says:

    Reblogged this on Special Creation Woman and commented:
    Another item the thought police won’t care for. But I hope you do. Please be sure to thank the author.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thing is Jesus never promised to manifest himself to everyone, and I hate to say it, that since God is always true to His own self, then there are an awful lot of people who are going to wake up to the fact that there are things which God abhors and detests even in these enlightened times, or are they?


  12. Wayne says:

    Good stuff, sir 🙌🙌🙌!!

    I particularly like the “exclusivity” line, though sadly many today would find that offensive. And I liked how you clarified on one of the above comments…of course, Jesus is “inclusive” of all people in His gospel invitation, but that doesn’t mean that He won’t exclude those that don’t accept it.

    I agree wholeheartedly too that we’ve gotten really ridiculous with this new “open-mindedness”. If we’re honest with ourselves, no one lives their lives openly acceptive of EVERYTHING. Any time we make a choice, we’re implicitly rejecting something. I heard a funny quote that said “You can get so open-minded that your brain falls out” 😄😄.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Wayne says:

    Reblogged this on Jesus @ the Center and commented:
    Being open-minded can be a good thing…until it’s taken too far. Then it can actually lead to despair!

    Please check out this gold nugget of wisdom from a blogger I’m really beginning to look up to…Mitch Teemley!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. esorenneiluj25 says:

    The last lines said it all. Thank you Mitch! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ron Huston says:

    Mitch —

    Pilate answered his own question when he wrote : :JESUS of NAZARETH. THE KING of the JEWS

    —- Ron

    Liked by 1 person

  16. smzang says:

    “Not everything is true, but something is. ” Yes!!
    Your articles help keep the focus on truth. Thank you!

    I once read a comment that has stuck with me…”So many have become so open-minded that their brains have fallen out.” Imagine what that does for the soul!

    Liked by 1 person

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  18. lisanne3015 says:

    What if we all become afraid of telling people what life with Christ is like and how life without Christ means life without heaven…for fear that we’re condemning and intolerant? I often think we should simply say, “Try living as God designed, just try and discover his intent for you…to be with him daily and for eternity because of his son.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Ultimately it is redirected to our creator

    Liked by 1 person

  20. numrhood says:

    john 39:#
    matthew 6:08


  21. Well said, Mitch. Schaefer’s observation about the line of despair is 50 years old, yet still amazingly relevant. I think a parallel way of thinking about this condition is found in Nouwen’s “Wounded Healer” – he talks about “nuclear man” as the condition of despair. He describes it as a man having no hope for the future, and therefore being cut off from the future and not caring about the past – rootlessness and directionless.

    Thanks for a thoughtful and edifying post! RS

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thanks, Russell. Yes, I thought about how long ago Schaeffer said that (in reference to the 20th century existentialists), and how equally relevant it is to the postmodern mindset. And Nouwen’s term is potent in that characteristically empathetic Nouwen way.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Another powerful, thought-provoking post, Mitch. While sitting in a physicians’s waiting room this morning, I perused several health magazines. Not only is drug abuse on the rise but so is “cutting.” Experts surmise the habit helps teens (those most likely to participate) cope with emotional pain by blocking it with physical pain. And what is causing such overpowering emotional pain that physical pain is better? Is it because many families these days are rudderless? It’s true that morality and spirituality are pretty much ignored these days in the name of freedom. (Declining church attendance is one indicator.) But such freedom backfires as self-gratification bottoms out at despair, just as you’ve described. When our teenagers are compelled to cut themselves, take drugs, or worse yet, take their lives, something is seriously wrong. Jesus offers the way that is right.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Amen. Let’s keep praying for our country and seeing the truth. I teach high school so that hopelessness is evident. Jesus open those doors to people’s hearts.

    In Christ,


    Liked by 1 person

  24. “And that Someone is still setting people free.” May our lives be a reflection of His truth in action not mere words. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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