Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Two Cheers for Nominal Christianity!

In this post, Russell Moore makes a sharp distinction between Christianity and almost-Christianity. He did so in a way that made me think of the distinction between a great point and almost-a-great-point.

Moore is talking about the results of a Pew Center study which shows that nominal Christianity is taking it on the chin. Christians who actually believe what they say they believe are holding their own, and Moore rejoices in the vibrancy of faithful churches, and rejoices also in the collapse of the ecclesiastical also-rans.
What he says is all quite true, and pretty helpful, and . . . almost a great point. But there is a vast territory to be explored in this sentence of his in the penultimate paragraph. “We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down.” Right — but what happens in an upside down world? What then?

There is absolutely no way to create a vibrant center without also creating a wanna-be periphery. If there is the vibrant faith that Moore and I both want, then there will be worldly counterfeit versions of it. If there are no worldly counterfeits, then that means there is nothing there worth counterfeiting.

So, I would propose a toast, and you can quote me, two cheers for nominal Christianity!

La Rochefoucauld once said that “hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue,” but once true virtue is recognized as such by a significant number of people, you cannot keep the knock-offs from happening. It was happening when Christians were still being thrown to the lions. It was happening when Ananias and Sapphira were fudging the numbers on their sale documents. Such fakeries are not good things in themselves, obviously, but there is no way to have that which really is genuinely good without creating an array of common grace goods, or special grace spillover goods.

So while I agree with Moore that you can get to Hell from Mayberry as well as from Gomorrah, a robust Christian faith, as part of turning the world upside down, will create a bunch of Mayberrys. And Gomorrahs, not so much.

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