"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind | Main | The mind of the author... »

    Maintaining Certainty While Respecting Others

    As with all inconsistent worldviews, there is a certain degree of truth in what is being said by emergent postmoderns [regarding certainty]. We must acknowledge that many people have historically used certainty for oppression and power. Even many persons who claim the name of Christ have done so. But could this not be said of any position, including the emergent position against certainty itself? Emergents are quite "certain" of their position of uncertainty and want others to believe it as well. It seems to be central to their gospel dogma, which has affirmations and denials and a missionary force, just like every other creed. If they are certain of the "dogma of uncertainty" then isn't it also fair to ask if they are not using this position as an attempt to gain power over others? And since certainty is impossible to avoid at some level, rather than pretend that we are free from it, it is a better question to ask how we can maintain certainty without oppressing others. I think THAT is the question we must ask. How can I respectfully engage with others in the culture and still maintain ardent faithfulness to Christ? And the answer to this question is actually in the gospel itself (how it affects me if I really understand it): The "grace narrative" rather then the "moral improvement narrative", as Tim Keller likes to call it. As long as we think we must judge ourselves by our morals, then we always compare ourselves to others, and boasting is the inevitable consequence. But when we come to understand the gospel of free grace, as we should, then all pretence falls away because I see myself as I really am ... a sinner who justly deserves the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone. In fact, there are many people (skeptics) out there who may be better morally than I am. Therefore I can have a real degree of solidarity with everyone; with the poor, the disenfranchised, the criminal, because that's me, if left to myself. It is the grace of God ALONE that makes me to differ, and so what free grace does is that it makes it so that I can only point to Jesus and what He has done for me, for there never will be someting I can point to in myself which makes me superior to others in light of God's majesty and holiness. The emerging church may be right to point out that modern fundamentalism wields power in unflattering ways, but it was not because of its certainty, but rather because of its semi-pelagian roots: its' belief deep down that it is better than others. But the gospel of grace is the great equalizer which shows me that I am simply a beggar pointing out to other beggars where they might find bread. So a robust Calvinistic understanding of the sovereignty of God and the finished work of Jesus on our behalf would go a long way in recovering the gospel which is essentilly lost in most modern evangelicalism, including the emerging church. Yes. the church has historically sought power in unbiblical ways. So the problem of power is one we must deal with but it is not because of our certainty, but because we were certain about the wrong things. Again, Tim Keller likes to point out that fundamentalism is not the problem of wars in the world. "Just look at the Amish", he says. It is the wrong fundamentalism that causes wars and oppression, not fundamentalism itself. So the answer is to be more certain and faithful to the gospel, not less.

    Excerpt from Deconstructing Uncertainty

    Posted by John on May 27, 2008 06:36 PM


    Thank you for this excellent article! I'm a college student, and my college has been having several "interfaith dialogues" lately. While I am definitely a Christian, thank you for emphasising that we can be respectful of others without compromising our faith. So many people are saying (or implying) that all religions are worshipping essentially the same "god" or that no religion is more correct than another, or other wishy-washy statements like that. They see the alternative as "fundamentalism" and point out the historic dangers. Thanks again for this great article encouraging us that we can be true to the gospel and still respect others.

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