With the escalation of terrorism running rampant across the West, Britain suffered its third major attack in the past three months, Bastille recuperating from the eighty-six massacred, Paris, Normandy, Stockholm, Brussels and Berlin all under surveillance from terror attacks and civil unrest – just to name a few – the atrocities committed by such extremism seem to be snowballing by the day. It is easy for us to forget what Jesus Christ said when attacked: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” (Matthew 5:43-46) Summarized on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). I’m sure at times we wish that claim were circumstantial at best, yet it remains an important reminder that there is something greater than this world, and the actions we take here affect there (John 18:36). This does not suggest however we wait around and twiddle our thumbs. Far from it! It means given the situation at large, act in the way that will substantiate the greater testimony to the unbeliever – since it is their soul at stake, and not the believer – this is the crux of the Great Commission, after all.
In early October, the Hembree boys and I had the opportunity to commemorate the Protestant Reformation 500 Conference at Wycliffe College in the heart of downtown, Toronto. Chocked full of Reformation scholars, each presentation respectively and diligently underscored contextual juxtaposition between the contemporary, or better, modernized sense of Church theology and Protestant tradition to its intellectual forefathers: the sixteenth century scholarship of John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, Huldrych Zwingli, William Tyndale, Erasmus of Rotterdam, among others. Unlike today, in 1517 Europe the Church and State were married, for better or for worse. The Catholic Church had its hand in every back pocket and its face in every bedroom, so the level of impact that the Reformation had on the social, political and economic scale, and especially that of Christian missiology, was colossal. Now with the Gospel in every hand and household, propagation was personal and easily accessible. For those who, perhaps, have never been acquainted with the term missiology, it is a branch of practical theology that explicitly deals with a wide variety of evangelism from interpersonal to mass forms of communication. In laymen, it is known as the Great Commission; in scholarship, its core concept is referred to as the Missio Dei (“Mission of God”), where the sole purpose, mandate and duty for each missionary is to spread the Gospel: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) as well as “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). As simple as this may sound, its scope is so pervasive that people often get their knots tied up on how to do it right, specifically in relation to God’s Will in the Old Testament. And, like most Reformation scholars, temptation to isolate the Epistles over the Gospel and favour theology over the historical narrative is readily available.
It seems like more and more people nowadays are just saying they only do ‘what the Bible says’ because the ‘Bible says so’ and they ‘believe in the Bible’ yet the interpretation, application and opinion of what select Biblical texts mean varies from Christian to Christian – all of who appear saved or at the very least dedicated to good works. Why is legalism so rampant in the modern church?
Firstly, I apologize for the abysmal title. I just couldn’t for the life of me conceive a more appropriate headliner. If you could find it in your hearts to forgive me, we can proceed. If not, I suppose your journey ends here.
“I’m right, you’re wrong!” has seemingly become a self-conscious adage for the millennial generation. Worst of all, the negligent, irresponsible and unaccountable behaviour the Internet stimulates from both anonymity and popularity has enchantingly swollen this sense of self-righteousness. Albeit, such a blatant claim is a massive generalization on my part, but it does not lack justification – Western society cultivates the belief that right and wrong birth in the eye of the beholder and the only person we ought to hold accountable is our self. While personal responsibility is undoubtedly noble, the greater context of such belief is found wanting. Weaved from the same fabric there is a polar socio-moral that emphasizes truth ought to be subjective and therefore should be determined by a majority ruling of embellished belief, which more often than not leads to “peer pressure” dissemination through social movements.
“Early twentieth century America may very well be the most identifiable period dominated by change: Woman won the right to vote, blacks were overturning the racial blur, banks offered the middle-class a so-called “credit”, a box in living rooms performed live music, classical art fizzled into dada rah-rah and moving pictures got a voice – just to mention a few. Amidst all the change, Union and Confederate veterans sat and waited as their grandchildren marched and died side-by-side in what seemed to be a ‘never-ending’ aimless war. The aftermath left those living with a lack of faith in the old ways; the traditional system of things was adrift.