One doesn’t have to look to hard to see we evangelicals are increasingly a confused bunch. Consider many of the questions we ask:
- Can’t we affirm same-sex marriage?
- Do we really need to talk about Hell, judgment, blood and all that nasty stuff?
- Does God really control everything—and if he does, doesn’t that mean he’s a tyrant?
With any of these, and a host of others, it’s extremely tempting to look at the historic responses to any issue—and indeed to look at what the Bible says—and say, “well that was for then, not now,” or “does it really mean what it says… maybe it means something else.”
It’s tempting to say, as one former pastor did recently, that we are “for love,” in whatever shape it takes and Christians ought to get with the program. It’s tempting to tell the lost that God’s love overcomes all and in the end they’ll be okay. It’s tempting to try to comfort the suffering by saying God is as surprised as they are.
But to do so is a cruel lie.
We dare not leave the lost with a damnable false assurance built upon an (at best) incomplete picture of God’s love. We dare not suggest Christians go with the flow of culture, as though what culture doing is surely approved by God. We dare not present a small, impotent God because we’re afraid of a very real tension.
Our goal, Packer says, is to “seek ways and means of making [Biblical terms and imagery’s] meaning clear.”1 We are not permitted to make it more palatable to the modern mind. “That would be treachery to Christ,” he writes.
Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms. Our business is to interpret and criticize modern thought by the gospel, not vice versa. Confusion here is fatal.2
We always have to remember the task set before us: to clearly present and apply the gospel to men and women in their actual situations. That means speaking the whole truth in love in ways that are understandable.
Where we become confused, we put others—and ourselves—in peril.