Friday, July 27, 2007
Christian Leadership and Certainty
Photo from Morguefile.com
She happily walks to her car and gets in. She starts to drive. She turns down a road that looks inviting, and turns down another, then another. Eventually, she ends up in a remote area.
So she gets out her road map to figure out where she has ended up, and where she needs to go to get to her destination. But she is unable to determine where she is in relation to the map because she had been totally oblivious to the road signs. She had simply taken roads that pleased her. And besides, she really had no specific destination.
She sighs momentarily and proceeds to drive some more. It is now dark, and it even harder for her to find her way around. Then the car begins to sputter to a halt. She is out of gas. She hadn't pay any attention to the gas gauge.
It is only now that she really begins to panic, because she has no cell phone, no money, and no identification. She had left the house without thinking about anything but the car keys. She is thinking, "Now, what do I do?"
Whew! You are probably either feeling sorry for this woman, or you are wondering why she put herself in such a predicament. And what does this have to do with Christian leadership?
In our current Christian culture we are experiencing some paradigm shifts that are not good. In one respect, in every generation, it is legitimate to question commonly held beliefs about the Christian faith that are not foundational. Like the manner worship is conducted, the role of the church within the prevailing culture, or church government. There is always room to debate without dividing on these in-house issues.
But what happens when you question the very basis of faith and understanding? Such as the meaning of truth, the Bible's authority and truth-claims, or Jesus' divinity. These things under gird the true faith. (1 Timothy 1:8-20;; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1-3) To do so gives legitimacy to unbelief, as if unbelief and faith can coexist. They can not. In fact, unbelief is displeasing to God. (Hebrews 11:6)
Or what happens when every disagreement is seen as antithetical to the faith? Many say that doctrine isn't worth fighting over. It is better to "love" than to hate. Toleration is seen as the acceptance of someones' point of view as true for that person and leaving them be. But it is clear in Scripture that toleration is a means to an end, not the end. Rather than putting up with ideas that are false, we are to patiently and actively bring everyone to the knowledge of the truth as a supreme act of love. (1 Timothy 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:22-26; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Leviticus 19:17-18)
However, in recent days, even leaders in the church espouse the virtues of unbelief . (Though they would never call it that. Rather, they refer to this as being humble, by rejecting the attitude of certainty. They see themselves as being above judging other people. They also say each of us can only possess partial truth, or truth that we can relate to from our various perspectives. They deny that anybody can actually possess an overarching truth—which judges all other truth or cultural claims—including the apostles themselves.) They call into question whether anyone can know anything for sure. "Who really has the truth with a capital "T." And some have even said that they don't trust anyone who is sure about anything concerning the Christian faith.
The problem is that this is a false assertion. It is true that we do not possess all truth, but we can indeed possess truth, especially when it is revealed to us. And we also have the ability to understand reality and make judgments about it. The Bible makes it clear that we are given reasoning ability by God as well as adequate information (especially for the Christian; 1 Corinthians 2:11-16). Therefore, we are made responsible for choosing unbelief. (Romans 1:18-23; Acts 17:29-31)
The Bible itself even uses reason to convince us about the facts of reality. All you need to do is look at Jesus. He is constantly using logic to demonstrate aspects about God, His Kingdom, and expose our duplicity.(Matthew 12:1-14; 2 Timothy 3:16) We can ignore it and revel in our "mysteries," but God will still call us all to account.
But now certain leaders in the church want to appear as humble followers. So they espouse uncertainty as a greater achievement than defending the faith they say they believe in. This isn't faith, it is unbelief. (Hebrews 11:1-3) And many are following their ways. Like the woman in our example, who followed her own instinct, these men do not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not know where they are going, and they do not care. But what will they or their followers do when they reach their destination? Oh, that's right. They don't have a destination.