Monday, May 26, 2008

Quotable quotes (3): The uselessness of pragmatism, or judging a movement by its pragmatic success

Of all the lessons Solomon provides, none is more relevant to our tme than one of the great levers of deformation — namely, the use of the pragmatic yardstick. To get at this, let me make one simple observation: Solomon engaged in the most heinous forms of idolatry. "Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites .... Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem" (1 Kings 11:5-7). Yet nowhere do we read that God removed His blessing from Solomon and his kingdom. Quite the contrary! The great summary of Solomon's reign comes just befor this record of his idolatry, but chronologically they overlap:

King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God has put into his mind. Each one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year —1 KINGS 10:23-25

All this time Solomon was being blessed abundantly beyond all imagination. Yet if we take this to be a divine endorsement of his actions and attitudes, we are sadly mistaken. Nonetheless, this is the kind of argument used to justify any number of unbiblical methods of church growth and success today. We hear this justification for the grossest abuses, the most blatant disregard for biblical teaching: "God seems to be blessing it" Use of the pragmatic yardstick instead of the biblical yardstick — what we think is right in terms of means and ends rather than what God has said is right — is one of the great and enduring principles of deformation.

- Richard D. Phillips, Turning Back the Darkness: The Biblical Pattern of Reformation, (Crossway Books, Wheaton, Il, USA, 2002), p. 58-59

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