Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Of Bikers and Barry Manilow

Good stuff from Carl Trueman's latest post at Ref21:

Here is a striking quotation from G K Chesterton, writing in the context of a discussion of Aquinas's criticism of the slippery medieval theologian/philosopher, Siger of Brabant:

"It is a fact that falsehood is never so false as when it is very nearly true. It is when the stab comes near the nerve of truth, that the Christian conscience cries out in pain."

In reading this, I was reminded of a comment a colleague made about Philadelphia and its sports teams a couple of years ago: "You need to understand that, in Philadelphia, to come second is good enough."

That's a bit like modern Christianity: if someone comes near the truth, we think they have done well, and they are thus welcome to a place at our table, a seat on our sessions, and even on occasion the right of succession to our pulpits, so frightened are we of excluding somebody or being excluded ourselves.

Of course, if we pause for a second and reflect, it will become clear that errors which are a million miles from the truth -- denial of the resurrection, say, or of the deity of Christ -- are unlikely to deceive most Christians or do much damage to the church. Errors which are nearly there, nearly true, nearly within the pale of orthodoxy, perhaps which even use the language of traditional orthodoxy in nearly the same way as the orthodox do, are much more difficult to discern and to handle; and Matt. 24:24 seems to indicate that the deadliest falsehoods are akin to this kind. What a shame that the modern evangelical aesthetic regards exposing and opposing such as distasteful, divisive, and about as welcome as a prize of a couple of Barry Manilow concert tickets in a raffle at a biker gang fundraiser.

It would be good, therefore, if those who turn to the likes of Chesterton for inspiration looked not only to the charm and wit of his prose, but also to the sound sense he repeatedly speaks about the doctrinal essence of true Christianity. Chesterton was Catholic, and proud to be so. We should not be ashamed of being who we say we are in our various creeds and confessions, whatever church it is to which we are committed. It is not necessarily arrogance that drives such; rather it may simply be a perception that truth, rather than some other criteria -- say, success, eloquence, or numbers -- really does matter.
Remember, that Carl will be one of the featured speakers at Full Confidence being held at Church of the Saviour.

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