[forthright] Assaying the Truth

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 16:07:11 -0300
Forthright Magazine
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Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: HANDS-ON FAITH

Assaying the Truth
  by Barry Newton

Today in the gold country of Northern California,
treasure hunters whether as tourists or otherwise,
still scrutinize wet rocks in search of the gleam of
gold. For me, the methodologies people use for sifting
through the rubble of their options to settle upon what
is desirable has always been deeply revealing. 

Since Paul used the analogy of gold and straw to
contrast differing qualities of Christian instruction,
what sort of tests do those who might claim to announce
God's message employ for distinguishing the precious
from the chaff?

A recent article in *Christianity Today* provides a
small sampling./1 An interview with pastors about their
views regarding the current academic debate over the
nature of justification reveals some disturbing
methodologies. My focus here is not on the content of
their conclusions or the positions they hold, but how
they reasoned.

One senior pastor is presented as evaluating the
different positions based upon how he perceives his
congregation would respond to the two different
understandings. He anticipates that "few would take
real comfort" if he offered N.T. Wright's proposal. On
the other hand, if he persists in proclaiming what he
always has, "I'll get e-mails thanking me for such a
freeing message."

Another preacher, apparently motivated by pragmatic
concerns, reasoned, "front-loading 100 percent
assurance of heaven when you die ... hasn't created a
vibrant, revolutionary Christian community."
Accordingly, he finds the opposing view attractive to
resolve this problem.

Neither pragmatism nor anticipating how people will
respond to a particular message constitute reliable
crucibles for identifying precious metal. Since not
everything that glitters is gold, what motivation and
goals should drive the Bible student?

The motivation should be to understand the objective
message God intended to communicate, regardless whether
it will be welcomed or will be perceived as a pragmatic
solution. The tools for solid exegesis accompanied by a
prayerful and humble heart open to being molded ought
to provide the assaying methodology.

Describing one's teaching ministry using a construction
analogy Paul wrote, "each one should be careful how he
builds. ... If any man builds ... using gold, silver,
costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be
shown for what it is."/2

Paul then went on to warn what would happen to the man
who builds in such a manner that he destroys God's
people.
_______
1/ Trevin Wax and Ted Olsen, "Not An Academic
   Question: Pastors tell how the justification debate
   has changed their ministry," *Christianity Today*,
   June 2009.
2/ 1 Corinthians 3:10,12,13.

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