Brad, from Broken Messenger, posted a comment in reply to Dan Phillips's post from yesterday. I was going to reply to Brad in the comment-thread, but I decided to make a full post of it. Brad has raised a critical issue that I wanted to say something about anyway.
Besides, I still have admin authority on this blog, and this is one of the prerogatives of that power. Might as well wield it:
Brad: "Many Reformists simply deny Christ daily by their actions, and yet their doctrine is sound. Which of these is worse? Ignorance or willful disobedience?"
OK, let me start by saying I'm baffled about how DJP's post prompted such a reply. It seems to me the point Dan was making does indeed apply equally to a "Reformist" (or anyone else) who practices hypocrisy. What such people do is just another way of giving lip service to "faith, grace, and the glory of God" while actually denying itand then denying that their denial is a denial.
(Note, by the way, that Dan's post was arguing in favor of a contented heartnot merely an orthodox creed.)
For the record, we're not in favor of hypocrisy here, especially when a practical denial of Christ (Luke 6:46) is masked behind the facade of a truly sound statement of faith.
So in answer to Brad's direct question: willful disobedience is worse than mere ignorance. Much worse. And the point Brad is making therefore underscores the actual point Dan was making; it doesn't detract from it.
In other words, I don't think there's any real disagreement here.
However, as long as Brad brought it up, and while we're on the subject, let's acknowledge that what Brad is saying is all too true on a disturbingly frequent basis. Way too many "orthodox" thinkers are heterodox doers. The Reformed community's admirable stress on the importance of being hearers of the Word is vital and necessary, especially in an era where many ears are itching for anything but the Word of God.
But it's no more vital or necessary than our duty to be doers of the Word (James 1:22).
We ought to highlight that truth more than we do.
A profession of faitheven with the most thorough, biblically informed, and accurate doctrinal statement backing it upis no substitute for actual obedience. Such a profession will be of no value whatsoever when it really counts (Matthew 7:21-23).
Is hypocrisy really more common among Reformed types than elsewhere? I don't know, because there are no hard statistics to measure by. But:
- When secret sin surfaces (or when overtly bad behavior is manifest) in the life of a sound believer, it's certainly more shocking and more evil than when a badly-taught Christian stumbles.
- Because there's a higher ratio of talk-to-action within the Reformed community, it may well be easierand a bigger temptationfor Reformed types to mask their sin with erudite-sounding theological discussions. (Drunk-in-the-Spirit-type charismatics aren't given to such discussions and aren't particularly impressed by them. So their hypocrites tend to mask their sin by other means.)
- But this elevated focus on academic theology is not entirely a point in favor of Reformed theology. Theology should never be merely academic. We need to be less impressed with mere talk and debate (without giving up our legitimate concern for sound doctrine), and more concerned about putting feet to our doctrines.
- No one's doctrine is truly "sound" if he or she doesn't believe it enough, and fear God enough, to obey Christ (John 15:14). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).
- My gut feeling tells me that if Reformed people in this postmodern era have a serious besetting sin, it is precisely the kind of hypocrisy Brad has put his finger on. Not to compare Brad to Shimei or anything :-), but if David could hear a legitimate admonition from the Lord in the taunts of a drooling, rock-throwing maniac (2 Samuel 16:10), we also ought to pause and listen when both friends and critics keep saying the same thing.
- I'd count Brad in the former category, for anyone who wonders.