Now I know that all the burning theological issues like the Emerging Church, NT Wright, Open Theism, women's roles, the authority of the Bible, and translation philosophies, are all very interesting and entertaining topics. I have spent more words writing about them than I care to count. They are important to me as the next Christian and I have lots of opinions about them. But there comes a point where "contending for the truth" must recognize that God must "grant repentance" to those who resist it, and then gently move on if the discussion becomes stagnant. Perhaps Paul knew this best. Perhaps all his years spent as a Pharisee debating those pesky Sadducees were a lesson to him: he had searched the Scripture diligently yet didn't know the Word.
And isn't that the point of being a Christian? Aren't our lives centered on someone more foundational than our theological positions? Is there any encouragement that comes from this? Any comfort from his love? Any affection and sympathy? Is it possible that we can find a common ground, a center, a unity in Christ that allows to stand before an unbelieving world that scoffs and mocks the one we call Savior?
This post is as pretty good a description of how I grew up:
I grew up as a conservative, separatist Baptist. (Yes, I survived.) We didn't fellowship with any other church in town. Actually, there was only one other church that we acknowledged that existed (and we really didn't care for them very much). We didn't even play basketball with other churches. We didn't 'smoke, chew, or run with girls who do'. So I feel that I kind of understand the separatist mindset. It goes a little something like this:
If we can't agree on everything; then we agree on nothing.
My brother Kevin and I were talking in England about the church where we grew up, and we agreed that there was a lot of good in that church. It featured great teaching, and people were incredibly good to our family. But this post reflects how we saw other churches around us, for the most part.
An article in the July/August issue of Modern Reformation grabbed me:
While in the past, humility was the opposite of pride, in modernity it has become the opposite of conviction...Today, being sure of something is considered a character flaw...
Fundamentalism had more "certainties" than can be justified from Scripture, as if we possessed the knowledge of settlers in the City of God rather than pilgrims toward it. However, the danger is to overreact with equally arrogant assertions of uncertainty when God has clearly spoken...Do we have the humility to doubt ourselves while having the courage to witness to the truth as it has been revealed?
Statements like these are why I like Michael Horton so much. I think he strikes just the right note here. Yes, be less certain than some before us have been in certain areas, but don't confuse humility with uncertainty. You can be humble and at the same time believe something.
I think this is a good word for the emerging church, which is sometimes accused (rightly or wrongly) of being so humble that they believe nothing. Of course, this may be because they value praxis so much, and because questioning is not the same thing as doubting (a subject for a different post). But conviction and praxis can go together.
But let me challenge the non-emerging types for a minute.
If the opposite of humility is not uncertainty, it must mean that we can be certain and humble at the same time. I guess humility would show itself in the way we treat others and view ourselves.
I get frustrated with discussions like the imonk one because some people, frankly, are just rude. When challenged, they sometimes imply that if they acted with more grace, they would be compromising the truth.
Why not embrace solid conviction with a graciousness and gentleness with others? Why do truth and obnoxiousness have to go together?
My systematic theology professor, someone who is still a mentor, personifies this. I don't think anybody would call him wishy-washy, but he is always careful to present those with opposing views in the best possible light. He is always gracious, yet forthright, when disagreeing with them. Another example of someone who does this is Tim Challies. May their tribe increase.
May emerging types be certain when they should be, and may non-emerging types be gracious even when they are sure they are right.