Sunday, June 04, 2006

Certainty? (Not!)

If one thing's for certain in "postmodern" Britain it's that certainty is out of favour. An old song used to tell us that, Money is the root of all evil. (Sorry to be a pedant, but what the Bible actually says is that "the love of money is a root of all evil" 1 Timothy 6:10). Many people today argue very forcibly that certainty is the root of all evil. We are told with great confidence, not to say dogmatism, that many of the problems in our world are due to people having strong religious and moral convictions. Just about the worst thing you can call someone in this climate of opinion is a Fundamentalist. Bible-believing Christians are lumped together with Islamic extremists as the enemies of our way of life. With great insight, G. K. Chesterton wrote:

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition...[and] settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

William Wilberforce was an Evangelical Christian. Some today would call his beliefs "fundamentalist". He was certain that slavery was a moral evil. That was the basis of his campaign against the slave trade. Had Wilberforce believed that strong convictions were the root of all evil, he would not have had the moral courage to fight against slavery. The fundamental Christian ethic is "love your neighbour as yourself."

What would you think about a man who believed the Bible's account of the creation of Adam and Eve saying, "He who made them at the beginning made them male and female"? This person also preached saying, "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" He made some outrageously dogmatic statements about himself. What of this claim? "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He did not believe that all ways lead to God, but that he was the way to God! These are not the words of some raving Fundamentalist preacher. They are the words of Jesus (look them up in the Bible if you don't believe me: Matthew 19:4, 23:33 & John 14:6).

Christians aught to be sure about the truth. Not that we grasp it in all its fullness. But if we know Jesus, we know "the truth". When the apostles took the message of the Christianity to the ancient world, they preached a sure and certain message of God's saving love revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. This is gospel truth. As the apostle Paul wrote, "I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe." (Romans 1:16.) I certainly agree with that! Do you?

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