The thoughts expressed in the following article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the consensus of opinion of B. H. Carroll Theological Institute’s faculty, staff, and board of governors. They are offered in the interest of stimulating respectful discussion.
There’s no shadow you won’t light up, mountain you won’t climb up, coming after me
There’s no wall you won’t kick down, lie you won’t tear down, coming after me
– Cory Asbury, “Reckless Love”
The Call to Truth
One of God’s most endearing qualities is His unswerving devotion to the truth. Indeed, God is so devoted to the truth that He will not allow us to lie to Him, to one another, or to ourselves.
That is a good thing, for humankind seems addicted to dishonesty. We think we gain some kind of advantage by the deceptions we weave, but God knows better. He knows our pretensions rend the fabric of society, deprive individuals of what they need to thrive, and mar our very souls.
But God’s steadfast refusal to indulge our attempts at deception is also one of His most controversial traits. Again and again, we see in Scripture God holding up a mirror to His people—first through His prophets and then through His very own Son—so they can see who they really are and what they really value. And what did God get for his trouble? Again and again, those who were in power or who wanted to be seen as righteous turned their backs on His message. They even killed the very Messiah who had come to save them.
Still, Christ calls those who follow him to be agents of truth. He calls us to see the world—and ourselves—as we really are, and he calls us to share what we see with others so they, too, may be set free. Christ knows we will pay a price for joining him on his relentless, loving crusade for the truth. But he calls us to do it anyway.
A Call Unheeded
Unfortunately, too many churches, Christian organizations, and Christian leaders have failed to heed this call. We live at a time when nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake, and yet, as Cherie Harder of the Trinity Forum has pointed out, too many evangelical Christians seem to be either unwilling or unable to distinguish political fact from political fiction.
We live in a time when a public health crisis is being exacerbated by a proliferation of misinformation and by a tendency to make everything an issue of partisan identity. But instead of helping people trust the right sources of information and cut through all the unnecessary noise, too many churches are either pretending the noise does not exist or are actively contributing to it.
We live in a time when institutions of every type are having to come to terms with how they have failed to protect the vulnerable from sexual abuse. People need the church to be a refuge from that kind of trauma—or at least to be honest about the abuse which has taken place within its sphere of influence. But too many churches have decided the honest road is just too hard, that loving the broken is just too costly for the institution.
From a social psychological perspective, it is not hard to understand why some churches and parachurch organizations have failed to “do the truth” (to use a phrase common in the Bible) on these and other matters. Orthodox Protestants in the United States have lived in the shadow of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy for 100 years. That kind of conflict often leads groups to harden their boundaries, curtail their curiosity, and focus on what makes them distinct.
But that doesn’t make it right. We have to put aside our selective vision and pursue truth wherever it leads. Doing so gives us credibility with a watching world. More importantly, it demonstrates that we share the values and agenda of the God we call our Father.
Let me be as clear as I know how to be. No one is going to hell because they have the wrong view on a political, social, scientific, or other issue—especially if that view is held in good faith. But I am calling us to do better, both in our personal lives and in the way our churches and other organizations engage with the issues of our day.
You don’t have to listen to me about how to protect yourself, your family, your church, and your community from COVID19. Indeed, you should not listen to me—or any of the other “know it alls” who yammer online. Listen to Francis Collins, the recently retired director of the National Institutes of health. He is both a dedicated Christian and (perhaps) the most important American scientist of our day. And you can’t accuse him of being partisan, for he served under both President Obama and President Trump!
You don’t have to listen to me about the events surrounding the presidential election of 2020. Listen to Russell Moore, director of the public theology project at Christianity Today. Moore has proven his fidelity to conservative Christian values; indeed, he is more conservative than I wish he were on a small number of issues. But he has also proven his deep knowledge of the American political scene and his integrity in interacting with that scene.
You don’t have to listen to me about how to help your church cope with instances of sexual abuse. I know a little bit about the topic, but you don’t have to make do with “an informed reader” (as one of my mentors once described himself). You can listen to an expert like Rachel Denhollander, attorney and abuse survivor. Or, you can listen to our own Shannon Wolf, who has years of training and experience in counseling the most traumatized people in our society.
Look, I know we are not always going to agree about whatever issues happen to be important to us. It has always been that way. But God has given us the resources we need to foster honesty and combat ignorance. Let’s use them for the glory of God.
Moreover, let’s look deep within ourselves, within our churches, and within our society to expose the ways we have become slaves to things which are not good for us. Let’s bring what we find to God so that he can set us free, and let’s share the good news about our freedom with those who also want to be set free.