Sunday, August 15, 2010

Carl Trueman on why polemics is necessary

Over at the Reformation21 blog, Carl Trueman has posted an excellent piece here on the necessity of polemics and defending the faith. It has become clear to me through this piece that the same attitude that decries polemics is actually the same postmodern attitude that permeates the culture we live in. As it states:

The criticism of polemics often comes from those who enjoy the space that polemics have carved out for them and the safety that polemics provides them. Such critics are like those who use their right to freedom of speech to decry the use of armed force by police and army, not realising that the very right they enjoy in this regard is positively connected to what they are attacking. Don't tell the world that the Trinity or justification by faith are important doctrines and then lament the existence of polemics; you can only have a coalition based on the gospel because every element of that gospel has been first hammered out in the furnace of controversy and then defended in the same way. ...

... Anti-polemic polemicists should reflect as much about how the events of the present -- not least their development of the next generation of leaders -- will impact the church for good or for ill -- as they do on the allegedly over-polemical attitude of some. Polemics in one generation are often as much, if not more, the fault of the lack of discernment or moral leadership in the previous generation as they are of any innately combative personalities in the present.

In the world, we can see this attitude at work in the world in various ways. Many people oppose war no matter what but without the threat of armed conflict, wicked men would come and conquer nations, pillage, rape and oppress their peoples. In the same way in the Environmentalist movement, industry is demonized but without industry of some sort, none of the environmentalists would be using and enjoying any of the modern goods and conveniences.

This postmodern zeitgeist has similarly permeated the churches in their deploring of polemics. The New Evangelicals (both the original and the new calvinist evangelicals) deplore the fact of polemics. Yet without such polemics, there is no evangel and definitely no Evangelicalism to begin with. The blanket attack on ODMers as seen for example in Tim Challies is one such anti-polemic polemic. Such people and movement should be seen for what they are: parasites. They fail to contend for the faith (Jude 4) when necessary, allowing compromise and apostasy to increase. When the issue has become too large and somebody decides to obey Jude 4, they attack the people who are doing what they should have done in the first place. In a nutshell, the fact that ODMers exist is the fault and failure of the (New) Evangelical churches who were negligent in their duties in the first place.

Let's move to an example in Singapore. The issue of Joseph Prince would be less of an issue if most churches were to openly reject Prince and his message as heresy, and teach their members the truths of the Gospel over and against Antinomianism. If majority of the churches do their job of contending for the faith, Prince would not be regarded as an evangelical at all and his message will not metastasized within the churches like a cancer. With the failure of the evangelical churches to do their job, those who decide to defend the Gospel against the likes of Prince now face demonization while people in the churches fall away from the faith. The pastors of the evangelical churches for this reason will be found negligent in their duties of protecting their flock and allowing the wolves to come in to devour them.

The same goes for any heresies, be it Neo-Orthodoxy, Liberalism, Word-faith, Dominionism, New Apostolicism or anything else. Pastors and elders who think that their job only extends to positively teaching and preaching truth, visiting and counseling members, officiating at weddings and funerals and a whole host of other things which are not found to be within their job scopes in the Bible, will be held accountable on the last day for having blood on their hands (cf Acts 20: 26-31). But you say, such would be very hard on pastors/elders and would tax their already busy lives and ministries. Well, isn't that why we are called to respect and honor our leaders (Heb. 13:17) and the elders as being deserving of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17), especially those who labor in preaching and teaching? Scripture does not tell us to honor them just because they have the status of elders but because they labor hard for our growth and edification. Being a pastor/elder is NOT a bed of roses and should not be one. Why is it that deacons are necessary to settle the daily administration of the church? Is it so that the pastors/elders can enjoy life while doing little physical work just like the CEOs of large companies? No, but rather it is because to truly be a shepherd is so time-consuming and tiring that faithful pastors/elders have no time and energy to be involved in the other physical and financial aspects of ministry.

May God raise up a generation of leaders who do not partake of the spirit of this world and reject the philosophy of New Evangelicalism in all its forms. Amen.

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