Many Christians stand at the edge of cynicism, struggling with a defeated weariness. Their spirits have begun to deaden, but unlike the cynic, they’ve not lost hope. My friend Bryan summarized it this way: “I think we have built up a scar tissue from our frustrations, and we don’t want to expose ourselves anymore. Fear constrains us.”
Cynicism and defeated weariness have this in common: They both question the active goodness of God on our behalf. . . . If Satan can’t stop you from praying , then he will try to rob the fruit of praying by dulling your soul. . . . Because cynicism sees what is “really going on,” it feels real, authentic. That gives cynicism as elite status since authenticity is one of the last remaining public virtues in our culture….Cynicism begins with the wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always observing, critiquing, but never engaged, loving, and hoping. . . .
To be cynical is to be distant. While offering a false intimacy of being “in the know,” cynicism actually destroys intimacy. It leads to a creeping bitterness that can deaden and even destroy the spirit.
Cynics imagine that they are disinterested observers on a quest for authenticity. They assume that they are humble because they offer nothing. In fact, they feel deeply superior because they think that they see through everything.
C.S. Lewis pointed out that if you see through everything, you eventually see nothing.
. . . you cannot go on “explaining away” for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on “seeing through” things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? . . . If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.
Lewis said that what was required was a restoration of the innocent eye, an eye that can see with wonder. That is the eye of a child.
While purporting to “see through” others facades, cynics lack purity of heart. A significant source of cynicism is the fracture between my heart and my behavior. It goes something like this: My heart gets out of tune with God, but life goes on. So I continue to perform and say Christian things, but they are just words. I talk about Jesus without the presence of Jesus. There is a disconnect between what I present and who I am. My words sound phony, so other’s words sound phony too. In short, my empty religious performance leads me to think that everyone is phony. The very thing I am doing, I accuse others of doing. Adding judgment to hypocrisy breeds cynicism.
Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, (IVP 2009) 77-92.