Sunday, November 27, 2005

Exclusively so.

“There are two things we need to grasp firmly as we seek to communicate the gospel today, whether we are speaking to ourselves, to other Christians or to those totally outside. The first is that there are certain unchangeable facts which are true. These have no relationship to the shifting tides. They make the Christian system what it is, and if they are altered, Christianity becomes something else. This must be emphasized because there are evangelical Christians today who, in all sincerity, are concerned with their lack of communication, but in order to bridge the gap they are tending to change what must remain unchangeable. If we do this we are no longer communicating Christianity, and what we have left is no different from the surrounding consensus. But we cannot present a balanced picture if we stop here. We must realize that we are facing a rapidly changing historical situation, and if we are going to talk to people about the gospel we need to know what is the present ebb and flow of thought forms. Unless we do this the unchangeable principles of Christianity will fall on deaf ears. And if we are going to reach to intellectuals and the workers, both groups right outside our middle-class churches, then we shall need to do a great deal of heart-searching as to how we may speak what is eternal into a changing historical situation”- Escape from Reason, Francis A. Schaeffer.

My applause goes to Mr. Schaeffer for such timeless teachings in such timely manner. Either this man who wrote this passage in 1968 had lived ahead of his time, or that the communication of the Gospel has always been ‘threatened’ with worldly-wise philosophies and thought forms. I plead to both cases and am thankful that the legacy that our heroes of faith from the previous generation left, still rings truth and commands power and inspiration, despite the seemingly dearth of an active Christian vocation in thinking in the present generation.

Let me begin by attempting to be ‘inclusive’ about the description of a Christian’s participation as a ‘thinker’. I like to constitute a Christian thinker as simply a professing Christian who thinks through the presentation of ideas before him and formulate worldviews thereafter. That vague description fits just about anyone, but much as I like open-ended questions with plenty of room for various answers; I find myself begging for clarity.

What do I actually mean by ‘a professing Christian’ and ‘thinking through ideas and formulating worldviews?’ Am I expecting someone to make conscious and pains-taking efforts to do so only to qualify him as ‘thinking’? Am I expecting that someone to know the Christ as taught in the Bible and believe in Him who had done all to redeem God’s elect from the bondage to Sin and therefore Death, and hence, committing his life and allegiance to Him for the sanctification of his soul- having zero confidence that his salvation is owing to his works but that his full confidence is in God’s grace that was ever bestowed to him; to qualify him as a Christian?

I would give liberty to open some space for various answers for the former, yet I cannot, in any manner give room for slippery slopes in the latter, simply because of what Mr. Schaeffer had spoken so strongly about- there are certain unchangeable facts which are true. Therefore, I am already exclusive when I assert certain criteria for classification’s sake.

In a similar manner of communicating the Gospel, I give room for Schaeffer’s classical call to “need to do a great deal of heart-searching as to how we may speak what is eternal into a changing historical situation”, yet must maintain a certain degree of exclusivity in not allowing ‘generosity for the contending of more than one true Christian theology’, which seems to me a rather relative and liberal stand.

While I respect the multi-faceted theological views among Christians (Calvinists and Arminians, being one of the most famous), I can’t help but to point out that by pleading our case or presenting a particular worldview to another, we are in one way or another, practicing exclusivity for we are demonstrating a certain preference in an issue which we feels is worthy to be presented over; therefore I deem the distinguish between ‘inclusive’ or ‘exclusive’ unnecessary as I now see that, it is rather inevitable for any of us not to practice exclusivity to a certain degree.

I am, however, more interested or rather concerned; with the theology make-up that is packaged when Christian thinkers come forward presenting what seems ‘more relevant to the Church today’. I am most agreeable that in order to engage conversationally with someone to the Gospel, one needs to understand the thought forms of the audience; yet there is a fine line between communicating the Gospel in a manner most connective to the present generation and taking the gist of the Gospel out just to be more empathetic nor adding to what is not in the Bible.

Nevertheless, I am glad for the space created by Christians for deep reflections and well-intended criticism. I believe there is much to be learnt through structured groups that put meticulous efforts in discussing and communicating Truth to both believers and non-believers alike, but at the same time, there must be an even deeper realisation to be careful on what we are propagating to others; not just how diversely we are doing it.

If mannerism determines how true Christianity is per se, I am afraid Christianity is left to rot in the dichotomies of being more ‘missional’ or ‘apologetics’ without realizing that apologetics is entwined in mission by nature- a ‘marriage’ for the glory of our God.


Blogger jacksons said...

I agree especially with your paragraph 7, that you cannot avoid the fact that subscribing to truth, is choosing the correctness of one over the other. Of course, there could really be a relativist beyond my imagination, that could really treat all ideas in an egalitarian sense, and even such a person, if he exist, would fail to really be a true relativist. Here is why; some ideas are antagonistic to others. For example, in the time of Hitler’s Nazi Germany, so had the view of passivity and others picked up arms to stop this evil specter from consuming Europe. One in this times, made one of two decisions, join the army in their struggle to resist the Nazi armies, or join the Nazis. Those who said they would not choose either, but would remain neutral and uninvolved in this war, were achieving the same results as those who joined Hitler, they were allowing his advance by their failure to resist him. As one said about these times, “the only thing good men need to do for evil to flourish, is to do nothing”, and so, refusing to take a side, was taking a side in these times. While one who was passive may have expressed disgust with Nazi Germany, they, nevertheless was helping their cause.

Other example is; when one idea is a dominant profession or proposition about something is reality, and one was required to accept it or not. The opposition or those who were agnostic to this truth, could formulate positions as nuanced as they wanted too, but this would not change the fact that their failure to accept the asserted truth is equivalent to denying it. This is well illustrated through the New Testament and world history since then, that people either accept the orthodox Christian assertion of Jesus being the Son of God, the God-Man, the Lord God in the Flesh, or that he is nothing more than a mere man. In such situations, one could not appeal to neutrality, as those who embrace Christ’ deity would accuse you of disrespect for the person and being of Christ Jesus the Almighty and those who reject His deity would accuse you of the idolatry of a man.

And some ideas or mutually exclusive, for example, when A cannot be B, then you have an either or situation. Some other times, one proposition in two debating ideas, is the active one, and the other is not a counter proposition, but a denial of it. For example, I write this, as one either alive, or dead. Here death in my body would not be the opposite of life, but the absence of it.

Written by a sleepy dad about to feed his 6 month son at 12:30am, so excuse the errors, typos and bad execution when you see it. 

12:10 AM  
Blogger The Hedonese said...

Wow!How refreshing to get a female perspective on this one... hehehe....

Mission or Apologetics?

Quoting DA Carson: "To hell with all false dichotomy"...

10:03 PM  
Anonymous alwyn said...

Hi Boh Tea,

I appreciate your comment that..."there is a fine line between communicating the Gospel in a manner most connective to the present generation and taking the gist of the Gospel out just to be more empathetic nor adding to what is not in the Bible."

If I'm not wrong, I think one of the key tenets of the Emergent movement is embodying the "gist of the Gospel" which, to us, would be friendship, reconciliation, forgiveness and so on.

I may be off-topic here, but I think we need to distinguish between the intellectual defense of the Gospel and its conversational/dialogical embodiment.

One of the dangers we must avoid is to virtually equate 'thinking of the Gospel' in rationalistic/systematic terms, as if people who emphasize story, imagination and, yes, conversation are doing a 'sub-Gospel' thing (smile).

But if the Gospel is less about friendship with the lost and less about, say, "exclusive truth" (and this is one of the major issues at hand), then this will transform the way we normally think about exclusivity, Christian ideas, 'communicating Christianity', and so on.

It's not a trivial mannerism we're dealing with here, but possibly the heart of God's mission.

Let me know what you think.


12:51 PM  
Blogger The Hedonese said...

The gospel needs to be contended for (Jude 3) and contextualised (corinthians)

So ultimately there is no dichotomy between imagination and rationality, conversation and apologetics, reconciliation with God and confrontation of idols

may we hold both in tention for holding one while compromising the other is a sub-missional and sub-gospel alternative :)

10:28 AM  

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