Wednesday, May 4, 2011

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

I also think that deep, basic unbelief is back of human carelessness in religion. The scientist, the physician, the navigator deals with matters he knows are real; and because these things are real the world demands that both teacher and practitioner be skilled in the knowledge of them. The teacher of spiritual things only is required to be unsure of his beliefs, ambiguous in his remarks and tolerant of every religious opinion expressed by anyone, even by the man least qualified to hold an opinion.
Haziness of doctrine has always been the mark of the liberal. When the Holy Scriptures are rejected as the final authority on religious belief something must be found to take their place. Historically that something has been either reason or sentiment: if reason, the prevaling doctrine has been rationalism; if sentiment, it has been humanism. Sometimes there has been an admixture of the two, as may be seen in liberal churches today. These will not quite give up their Bible, neither will they quite believe it; the result is an unclear body of beliefs more like a fog than a mountain, where anything may be true but nothing may be trusted as certainly true.
We have gotten accustomed to the blurred puffs of gray fog that pass for doctrine in modernistic churches and expect nothing better, but it is a cause for real alarm that the fog has begun of late to creep into many evangelical churches. From some previously unimpeachable sources are now coming vague statements consisting of a milky admixture of Scripture, science, and human sentiment that is true to none of its ingredients because each one works to cancel the others out.
Certain of our evangelical brethren appear to be laboring under the impression that they are advanced thinkers because they are rethinking evolution and re-evaluating various Bible doctrines or even divine inspiration itself; but so far are they from being advanced thinkers that they are merely timid followers of modernism--fifty years behind the parade.
Little by little evangelical Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing number of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.
Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God "that liveth and abideth forever."
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I have been reading my theological forbears over the past few weeks, preparing for the ordination exam I will have to take later this year to transfer my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church and ran across the preceding at the end of the book This We Believe, by Arnold T. Olson. But I was struck by how contemporary it all sounds. Apart from updating the Bible translation and changing the word "modernism" to "postmodernism," it could have been written today, instead of 50 years ago. It could apply to the Rob Bell brouhaha, sure, but it could also be written about the whole general split happening right now within evangelicalism between those who believe the Bible in the same way as their forbears and those "too cool for school" types now demanding that the rest of us join them in "re-thinking" all of our basic theological convictions. Some temptations (and thus struggles within the Church) are perennial, it seems.

No comments: