Thursday, September 24, 2015

Some Things Are Worth Fighting Over

From the opening of J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism:
The purpose of this book is not to decide the religious issue of the present day, but merely to present the issue as sharply and clearly as possible, in order that the reader may be aided in deciding it for himself. Presenting an issue sharply is indeed by no means a popular business at the present time; there are many who prefer to fight their intellectual battles in what Dr. Francis L. Patton has aptly called a “condition of low visibility. Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission boards? May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (Kindle Locations 50-60). Kindle Edition, emphasis mine.
What a terribly un-modern, even primitive, notion that is! As everyone knows the greatest problems we have in the church are attributed to those awful fundamentalists! 

Snarkiness aside, we have a major problem when it comes to picking and choosing what we will fight over or even if we will fight at all and yes some things are worth fighting for. In many cases it seems when we do bother fighting, we are fighting over the proverbial color of carpet and while at the same time assuming the critical points of the Gospel. I tend to fall heavily on the side of polemics here and while I occasionally go overboard I don't apologize for being willing to be crystal clear on a topic I feel strongly about. We never get to the truth by dancing around and nuance. The Kingdom is a very black and white thing, either in or out. The Gospel is very black and white, saved by the blood or still under condemnation. Jesus taught in a black and white manner, lots of "You have heard it said...but I say unto you" kind of teaching. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, all we lacking in nuance but bold on the truth. 

The need of the day is for more men like Machen, men who will call progressive theology what it is, another Gospel unrelated to and opposed to Christianity. It is not unique in this as there are plenty of other false gospel systems out there but it is on the march today and is the urgent matter that demands our attention. The fawning reception of progressives over the visit of Jorge Bergoglio is proof enough that this is true. One would think that the Beatles had been reincarnated given the crowds of screaming fans in person and on social media. They are not cheering him because of his pro-life stance but rather for his embrace of the man-made climate change farce and apparent indifference to the sin of homosexuality. I am quite certain that there are many voices of progressive religion that are indeed saved and of course voices of orthodoxy that are not but that is in spite of, not because of, the skewed understanding of the Kingdom that they promote. In other words, some progressives are Christians but progressivism is not. 

Of course truth doesn't exist in a vacuum. For something to be true it demands that something else be false. Timothy George writes: 
Truth can only be arrived at by way of confrontation with a contrasting truth. For example, we could not understand gospel were it not for law that reveals our inability to live rightly and thus points us to Christ. George, Timothy (2013-09-01). Theology of the Reformers (Kindle Location 1286). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The old chestnut is true, the best way to learn to detect counterfeit money is to become immersed in real money. Confrontation without being confrontational is not un-Christian but being firm while contending unapologetically for the faith is the very essence of Christian discipleship, even as it often leads to the stake and the flame. There is no more certain sign of the Gospel absence of progressive thought than the acclaim that it draws from  the world. The world loves what Christ hates and the world hates what Christ loves. 

Those who would claim that fighting for the truth is un-Christian don't really know what Christianity is about. Being meek and non-resistant of the evil-doer doesn't entail silence, if it did we wouldn't have most of the New Testament. Fight the good fight without falling in love with fighting. Contend earnestly, especially when it is costly. Be willing to call a lie a lie and truth the truth. The shed blood of Jesus is too precious to be sacrificed to get along. 

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