Last semester, I was wheedled into talking to a group of students in a course that I don’t normally teach, Intro. to Creative Writing. They were students at various levels and from a variety of majors, united only by a shared desire to be published someday, and my assignment was to talk about my own publishing career. At some point I said a bit about a book I have coming out in the spring.
“It’s called Easy Burdens,” I told them. “Or, that’s what I wanted to call it, but it ended up being called The Easy Burden of Pleasing God.”
The students murmured polite agreement that my title choice was better, but one bearded young man in a crocheted slouch hat was outraged.
“I don’t understand,” he ranted. “Why’d you let them call it by anything else?!”
Different doctrines can have greater or lesser impact on the overall doctrinal confession. For example, whether or not the civil magistrate can call a synod is an important question; but one’s answer to that does not have any real significance on how one understands justification. Something as significant for theology as the origin, nature and significance of Adam, however, is structurally very important; and, in terms of Forsyth’s rule, shifting convictions on this matter will probably bear fruit, for good or ill, within a much shorter time frame.
I have no good memories of third-grade math… But what seared this exercise into my memory was that after every answer was offered, Mrs. Smith would ask the rest of the class if they had the same answer. “Raise your hand,” she would say. “Raise your hand if you agree.”
I don’t know that my real answer ever lined up, and to me it didn’t matter. When she asked for the class consensus, I would simply swallow the knot in my throat and scan the arms in the air around me. If there were enough hands held high, and the key kids were in (you know, the smart ones), I’d stick my hand up too. I didn’t really know what I was doing, or what I really thought, but I passed as if I did. It was a hollow agreement, a conviction by association. It was the same problem I fear persists today with many Christians who call themselves pro-life.