Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It Was Nice While It Lasted

It is a sure sign that sin messes things up that we keep watching the same boxing match over and over again, between truth and unity. Both sides, of course, insist that they have a deep and abiding love for the other. They shake hands in the center of the ring, go back to their corners, wait for the bell and come out ready to destroy the one they love. In the stands we stand, screaming ourselves hoarse in defense of our favorite.

Until recently unity has been on a hot streak. Charismatics, dispensationalists, YRR, and old school Reformed folk, post-mills and a-mils have managed to work together for the gospel. Blogs and conferences, magazines and books have born much fruit from cross-pollinating. We discovered that our brothers on the other side of this aisle or that do not actually have horns. We remembered that the beauty of what unites us is not only more important, but more potent than the nuances that divide us.

But we should never count out truth, or at least our own version of it. Though it was on the ropes, like Rocky in the last few rounds, truth has shown a rare ability to take a punch, and come back strong. It has moved well past highlighting what separates charismatics from dispensationalists and this Reformed group from that, and has now got each camp engaged in its own civil war. Cessationism versus continuationism, neckties versus t-shirts, beer versus teetotalism have sparked fires that rage inside our own worlds.

So what do we do? Can we get truth and unity to kiss and make up? Only if Christians learn to grow up. We need to not only learn to distinguish between primary and secondary doctrines/practices, we need to learn to value them accurately. Can we both agree that being wrong on baptism is not a damnable heresy, and also affirm that it is an issue that matters? Can I seek to correct my Baptist brothers in a way that speaks to them as brothers who are wrong on an important issue? And can I in turn hear with grace my Baptist brothers as they lovingly seek to correct my error on the issue? Can I be concerned that my charismatic brother is leaving open the door for false prophecy and at the same time understand that he is concerned that I am boxing in the Holy Spirit?

I have an opinion on virtually every issue that is being argued on the internet. I think some positions being espoused are good, sound, biblical. I think others are fallacious, dangerous, and unbiblical. I know that whatever the Bible teaches, that is what’s right and true. And I know the Bible teaches that I am often wrong. It is not Rodney King that asks if we can all get along. It is Jesus asking, in His high priestly prayer (John 17). He is the Truth, and He calls us to unity. That comes in reflecting His character. He, even when He corrects us, is for us. He, even when we are wrong, loves us perfectly. He is lowly in spirit and will not break a bruised reed.

We will not change until we choose our heroes not by how cogently or fiercely they defend our position on this issue or that, but by how much they reflect the grace of Christ whatever their position.


John Frederick said...

Excellent article Dr Sproul, Jr. May I ask, are you entirely consistent though? It is rumored that you will not have Sam Storms minister at Ligonier Conferences simply because he is charismatic, or spoke at a charismatic conference - while you still allow John Piper to do so, even though he holds the exact same beliefs. (I speak as a reformed charismatic myself).

R.C. said...

Thanks John, and of course you are free to ask the question. I'm not sure how to respond to rumors though. I can tell you that being charismatic or not is not a line in the sand for Ligonier for inviting speakers or even writers in Tabletalk. Not just John Piper but other non-cessationists have done both in the past and likely will in the future. Don't know much about Sam Storms, but I can tell you that just twenty minutes ago I strongly commended his dissertation, Tragedy in Eden, to my students at Reformation Bible College. It's incredibly good.

John Frederick said...

Thank you so much R.C. for responding. Three quick things: (1) I guess the best way to respond to rumor is categorically deny its veracity and to say, "I am so glad to say that there is no truth whatsoever to the rumor." Are you able to do that sir?

(2) You mentioned Storms' dissertation "Tragedy in Eden" - I've looked for it online and the cheapest available seems to cost over $100. Do you know where it might be available for less?

(3) I just want you to know that I think you are a wonderful brother and I have been and continue to be so very blessed by your ministry - your insights into Scripture, your continued stand for the rights of the unborn and your teachings on family life. May God bless you and your precious family richly sir.

R.C. said...


Thanks for the encouraging word. I thought, on the rumor front, that I had answered the question. If Ligonier does not have a policy against inviting non-cessationists, and it does not, then that Sam Storms is a non-cessationist would not keep him from being invited by Ligonier.

On the dissertation, I don't know what to tell you. If you have access to a university library, I suspect you could get a copy from somewhere through interlibrary loan. God bless

John Frederick said...

Thanks once again R.C.

I found it interesting to read this concerning a well-known Baptist preacher in the 19th Century:

“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, ‘There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!’ A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, ‘Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the man, ‘I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul though him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul.’”

“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, ‘Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, ‘The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door’” (The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, [Curts & Jennings, 1899], Vol. II, pp. 226-227).