I’m a little bummed today. I just found out something awful about some of my pastoral heroes of the past. No, they didn’t commit adultery and they were not thieves. It’s something worse. I just found out that virtually all of them are Pharisees. Legalists. It’s awful. I had no idea. I’m not sure when this happened…especially since they’ve been dead for over a hundred years. Chances are the same is true of some of your heroes. It may be true of you.
You know the guys whose books we read and who we quote in our sermons? We may even have their pictures on our walls or have named our children after them. Let me tell you about two of my ‘fallen’ heroes. Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle. Have you actually read what they have to say about Christian living? About worldliness? I can’t believe what fundy lunatics these guys turned out to be. I am not saying they are not saved, but man, they have no idea about liberty!
What? I thought Spurgeon enjoyed fine cigars and ‘adult’ beverages! Doesn’t that put him in the cool category? Have you read what he and Mr. Ryle said about the theater? About dancing? Card playing? Sabbath breaking?
Interesting, isn’t it? If these men were alive today and had the same convictions, they would be roasted by the very people who claim to adore them. I’m not saying that they were right about everything, but isn’t it interesting how we allow for their time and place in history?
I believe we need some of the same gentleness today. It is easy to attack certain believers as thieves of liberty or legalist or Pharisees because they do not indulge in culture or have questions or express concerns. I’ve been around long enough now to witness some radical changes in Christianity and the generally accepted views of holiness and worldliness. It wasn’t long ago that preachers denounced going to the theater and now we have it in churches. It wasn’t too long ago that it was unthinkable that Christians would go to movies. Then it was okay to go to a G rated and then PG and then PG13, and now R and unrated films don’t cause anyone to bat an eyelash. Pastors and their people now view soft-core porn (naked people simulating sex on film) with regularity and can tolerate blasphemy without concern. I know that sound judgmental, but the facts are the facts. We not only go to these movies, we buy these movies. We watch them in our homes and in front of our children. Thirty years ago it was assumed that there were ‘bad’ words that Christians did not say, that’s not the case anymore. There was a time when it was unthinkable that believers would have tattoos. Now churches raffle them off. Rock music? Was universally viewed as immoral…now, loved and embraced. Rap? Ungodly! Now—front and center in the church. What was holy yesterday is legalistic today.
Is there anything today that all believers agree is sinful? Any definition of ‘the world’, which we all reject? The standard keeps moving. Holiness, it appears, is culturally conditioned. It is not an anchor, holding through the centuries, it is a raft that keeps floating downstream.
My heroes of the past have proven to be legalist. My pastors from my youth have too. I guess I’m in that category by just asking questions. Sigh.Jim Savastio, Pastor Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville