Pascal on the defense of truth and peace that is no peace...

(by Tim) False shepherds surround us, building their profitable religious corporations by tickling itching ears. But for the purpose of receiving more of the tithes of the souls under their sway, they call these lucrative corporations tax exempt "non-profit" religious organizations. And the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability provides them a seal to use in their money-making letters assuring their supporters that this ministry is run according to the strictest accounting standards of the non-profit world.

These false shepherds' stock-in-trade is the studious neglect of the defense of God's truth and the call to repentance at the gaps in the wall where it's under attack. So we look in vain for today's super-apostles to speak to the consciences of their sheep about sodomy, divorce, fornication, rebellion, child sacrifice to Molech, internet pornography, greed, and pride. AIDS and global warming, yes; but only because they can cop a prophet's posture on these matters and bask in the kudos it will bring them on the op-ed pages of the "New York Times."

Their product is doctrinal indifference, which is the hatred of God's truth. And yet having the "look at the birdie" technique down cold, they drive attention away from their unfaithfulness by speaking of their cowardice as if it were the state of the art in evangelistic zeal and cultural engagement. So then, quite perversely, the very men who specialize in scratching itching ears have a reputation for being missional and prophetic.

The real test of a man's ministry, though, is repentance. This was the response of the crowds on the day of Pentecost, of the souls under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening, and of souls cared for by shepherds after God's heart today.

Without exception across salvation history, false shepherds are surrounded by many men saying, "What erudition! What wisdom! How helpful! How reassuring!" But never, "Woe is me for I am standing in the presence of a holy God and I am a sinner without hope in this world or the next! I must repent or His wrath will consume me! I will return to my Father and plead for His mercy by the Blood of His Son."

Now, I could be a good boy and end by reassuring you that you must not misunderstand me to be saying this or that; and that these words don't apply to anyone from my denomination, or any man whose name is in my Now Contact database, or anyone who's reformed--and certainly not to myself.

Instead, I'll leave it as is and end with this wonderful excerpt from Pascal concerning God's precious truth and the proper relationship of truth and peace. What an excellent meditation for shepherds who lecture instead of preaching, who speak in a carefully modulated voice meticulously choosing each word to make the maximum impact on their quite-sophisticated urban audience:

Just as the only object of peace within states is to safeguard people’s property, so the only object of peace within the Church is to safeguard the truth, which is its property and the treasure wherein lies its heart.  And, just as it would be contrary to the purpose of peace to allow foreigners into a state to pillage it without resistance, for fear of disturbing the peace (because, as peace is only just and useful for the safeguarding of property, it becomes unjust and pernicious when it permits it to be lost and war, which can defend it, becomes both just and necessary), likewise, in the Church, when truth is injured by enemies of the faith, when attempts are made to uproot it from the hearts of the faithful, and make error reign in its stead, would it be serving or betraying the Church to remain at peace?  And is it not obvious that, just as it is a crime to disturb the peace when truth reigns, it is also a crime to remain at peace when the truth is being destroyed?  There is therefore a time when peace is just and a time when it is unjust.  It is written: “There is time for war and a time for peace,” and it is the interests of the truth which distinguish between them.  But there is not a time for truth and a time for error, and it is written, on the contrary: “The truth of the Lord endureth for ever,” and that is why Jesus Christ, who said that he had come to bring peace, said also that he had come to bring war; but he did not say that he had come to bring both truth and falsehood.  Truth is therefore the first rule and ultimate purpose of things.

-Blaise Pascal, Pensées #974

(Thank you, Steve Baarendse.)

Comments

Tim,

While everything you said is True, you have not yet explained what is Truth. The heart of a man is deceitfully wicked, every man knows how to "game the system", for if you say, "The real test of a man's ministry, though, is repentance." why then every charlatan will manufacture repentance. Wasn't that the problem with Charles Finney, with the revivalists who made upstate New York the "burnt-over" district? Wasn't that the approach of PTL Club, or any number of sinners exposed for being human? No matter what litmus test you use, no matter what credential is required, you have not protected the flock. None of us can protect the flock, anymore than we can drag our children through the pearly gates.

In the end, Jesus said, you will know them by their fruit. Even this seems gameable, since various gimmicks can increase attendance without necessarily being fruit, like CEO's raising a stock price, and cashing out before it crashes. ("Rice Christians" in China come to mind.) But given enough time, fruit will ripen, everything else, rot.

Do not be too quick to condemn, as Gamaliel said, lest we be found opposing God. And most of all, don't be too quick to assume we have the Truth. If Jesus is the Truth, the best we can hope for is to be friends with the Truth, to be acquainted with the Truth, to recognize the voice of Truth. But never to possess it.

Good and wise words, Rob. Thank you for them.

Nevertheless, in a shepherd's ministry--particularly the ministry of the Word--the avoidance of calls to repentance to ourselves and our own flock is plainly contrary to Scripture and to the normal work of the Holy Spirit. "He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." And the clearest places to observe the presence or absence of such calls are those doctrines Satan is focusing his attacks on today. Yes, "all of us fall in many ways," but our own failures ought not to lead us to the conclusion that peace takes precedence over guarding the good deposit in our own time. The absence of rebuke (what you call "condemnation") can easily morph into "Peace, peace where there is no peace."

Still, I take the warning to heart.

Truth, yes. I agree.

MyTruth, no.

Caveat: (John 17) Truth teaches the unity of the trinity and the unity of the body are closely related. And our obvious unity is to be a witness to our witness. Yet too often, we care little about that witness. Truth about unity is sacrificed on the altar of mytruth about _____ (fill in our own blank and euphemistically call it a 'mere distinctive').

And in the process, our neighbors also get sacrificed.

Btw, do our neighbors ever speak of 'the Church at Bloomington' or 'the Church at Indianapolis'?

Who calls the Church to repent of its divisions over mytruths?

Indychristian,

You've made my point exactly. "Mytruth" is all about possessing something that is mine. But if truth be like air, like atmosphere, then who can hold on to it, who can possess it? If truth be like sunlight, who can bottle it or contest it? The plague of post-modernist "mytruth, yourtruth" arose because people thought truth was an artifact, a proposition, a thing to be owned. The answer to such perverted logic is not to beat your dogma with a stigma, but to abandon any claim to ownership. Truth must be personal, truth must be a person, truth must be God himself, or else we waste away in the dungeons of our selves, far from the light of God.

Tim,

Peace is God's to give, and God's to take away. When Righteousness and Peace kiss each other, both are heaven-sent gifts. Love and faithfulness are ours to provide, even command, but peace is His to bestow.

85:8 I will listen to what God the LORD will say;

he promises peace to his people, his saints—

but let them not return to folly.

9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,

and righteousness looks down from heaven.

Therefore we do no favors to either command peace or war, both are thrust upon us. And the condemnation of "peace, peace when there is no peace", is the condemnation of denial, of ignoring reality, not the condemnation of a pacifistic failure to continuously stir up conflict. When repentance is needed, we should respond. When it is not needed, we should not attempt to create the need. Otherwise we are doing what only God has authority to do. Hence the error of Finney.

Pascal's point is obvious and obviously needed today. But if it requires another voice to be understood, here's another father speaking:

* * *

You must not only choose men of counsel, but if you would design the unity and peace of the churches, you must choose men of courage to govern them. For as there must be wisdom to bear with some, so there must be courage to correct others; as some must be instructed meekly, so others must be rebuked sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; there must be wisdom to rebuke some with long-suffering and there must be courage to suppress and stop the mouths of others. The apostle tells Titus of some whose mouths must be stopped, or else they would subvert whole houses. Titus i. 11.

Where this courage hath been wanting, not only whole houses, but whole churches have been subverted. And Paul tells the Galatians, that when he saw some endeavor to bring the churches into bondage, that he did not give place to them, no not for an hour. Gal. ii. 5. If this course had been taken by the rulers of churches, their peace had not been so often invaded by unruly and vain talkers.”

-"Exhortation to Unity and Peace," by John Bunyan.

Perhaps if The Church were more often focused on trinitarian-like unity & harmony, city by city... and 'elders' truly were those who were respected at the city gates -- rather than choosing a dozen elders in every big/little XYZ Church...

and if they were known to be 'hospitable'... (an oft-overlooked requirement for eldership)...

...then I'm guessing they'd stand an excellent chance of being heard occasionally when serious truth-issues needed to be raised.

And btw, unity & peace aren't goals. They're commands.

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