Friday, March 11, 2011

Just Cause for Optimism

It strikes me that, amid all the hype and hoo-hah this week surrounding a certain author, we need to remember that promise. Teachers -- true and false -- come and go; they have done so for centuries, and few have made any lasting mark, let alone those who write paperback potboilers. But the church has survived; the gates of hell shall still not prevail; and the church will be built. Yes, we must defend the truth, with learning, passion and fortitude; but we should remember that the battle is not won through our efforts, and we must not be caught up in overestimating the importance of the present moment. After all, how many `defining moments' do we hear about in a typical year? And how many of such moments truly define anything at all?

If we really believe Matt. 16:18, I would suggest that we will not panic with every wind of false doctrine which comes our way, nor will we be intimidated by astronomical sales figures for bad books or tickets to hear false preachers. We will rather focus on what we should be doing: humbly preaching and teaching and believing the word. Sometimes, I suspect the over-the-top panic and outrage of the orthodox when faced by the latest challenge are really functions of self-importance and an impoverished doctrine of God. They seem to imply that our age is unique, the future of Christianity really does depend solely on us, and the church is really jeopardised by the latest heterodox blockbuster.

Such behaviour is the flipside of that which, for example, claimed Mel Gibson's The Passion was the greatest evangelistic opportunity for the church since the resurrection itself, and chided those of us who felt it was, among other things, a breach of the Second Commandment, as fuddy-duddy reactionaries who were hindering the church's outreach and needed to get with the program. It was not; life went back to normal very quickly; and, whatever else Gibson is now known for, it is not for being a great evangelist. Sometimes cynical indifference to the latest thing, good or bad, is actually quite healthy and reflects the reality of Matt. 16:18 in perhaps unexpected ways.

Neither we, nor any of those who oppose the Bible's teaching, are actually that important. The church is not, after all, built on us or our efforts; nor is it in any danger of being annihilated by any human scheme or schemer. And that is enough to make even me into an optimist. Almost by accident, I might add.
- Carl Trueman
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