The concluding remarks of chapter 2, “Constantine the Great,” from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs are an encouragement to all Christians in every nation and country:
I doubt not, good reader, but thou dost right well consider with thyself the marvellous working of God’s mighty power; to see so many emperors confederate together against the Lord and Christ His anointed, who, having the subjection of the whole world under their dominion, did bend their whole might and devices to expatriate the name of Christ and of all Christians. Wherein, if the power of man could have prevailed, what could they not do? or what could they do more than they did? If policy or devices could have served, what policy was there lacking? If torments or pains of death could have helped, what cruelty of torment by man could be invented which was not attempted? If laws, edicts, proclamations, written not only in tables, but engraven in brass, could have stood, all this was practised against the weak Christians. And yet, notwithstanding, to see how no counsel can stand against the Lord, note how well all these be gone, and yet Christ and his Church doth stand.
In his 1960 Preface to The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes, “We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”
Spend any amount of time on social media or otherwise in our present day and age, and the description above is rather apt, isn’t it?
On the one hand, there are “emergent” and “progressive” evangelicals who increasingly are wary to appeal to Scripture as providing any sort of norm for behaviour. After all, Scripture has so often been misinterpreted and read selectively. (Perhaps incongruously, this is almost invariably followed up by some variation of the “all you need is love” refrain. Odd that that could never be misinterpreted and prejudicially understood.)
On the other hand, there are ostensibly conservative pastors who stress that the only thing that matters is “the gospel,” and in this case, the gospel is defined as the free acceptance which God gives to sinners, warts and all. In fact, one should be wary of moral effort and certainly of any notion of moral improvement. (more…)
(Previously published on timgallant.com.)
Non-Christians (and increasingly, those who self-identify as “Christians”) frequently dismiss biblical ethical norms with a quick “Oh, but the Bible condones slavery and polygamy!”
With, of course, the obvious implication that the Bible’s morals are awfully unreliable. Because it “condoned” things that we find offensive, and that even Christians seem embarrassed about. (We Christians, after all, seem agreed by now that both polygamy and slavery are bad.)
And then, having cast aside the Bible as a reliable guide, we enlightened moderns can take on that role of deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong. (more…)