Who is exalted?

On the side-bar, you might notice that I am reading Ernest Pickering’s book, The Tragedy of Compromise. In blogging, my plan is to interact with the things I am reading in order to think out, to my satisfaction at least, the fundamentalist philosophy.

Dr. Pickering quotes a Michael Horton several times in his book. On p. 135, he cites this statement:

There is something exalting about being a part of something that is respected by society. If we can build larger buildings, have larger gatherings, create larger enterprises, and compete with other mass-produced products, we will be a part of something powerful, something relevant, and the world will have to sit up and take notice of us.

The quote comes from Power Religion, an anthology with various fairly well known evangelicals as writers, including Packer, McGrath, Sproul, etc. and lists Charles Colson and Michael Horton as editors. Horton’s quote comes from p. 333, in a chapter entitled “The Subject of Contemporary Relevance”.

This business of ‘something exalting’… Preachers are all too familiar with the exhilaration of something exalting, even if we are occupants of pulpits in small works. This has to do with the ‘ego’ business I mentioned in the previous post. A crowd of ten listening to a preacher is somewhat exalting, because now I, one man, is heard by ten others. A crowd of fifty is even better, and the higher you go, the more exhilarating it is.

But Horton is not simply talking about the satisfaction of being in front of a large crowd, he is speaking about the satisfaction of being a part of a large crowd, and especially a crowd that is respected by society. This satisfaction is the satisfaction of being affirmed, of credibility and legitimacy because your voice is one of a larger group of respectable, acceptable, and esteemed voices.

The desire for legitimacy and credibility drives us to join ourselves to larger organizations. To some extent, this could be considered a good thing. For example, missionaries who join themselves to a board led by respected individuals have more credibility than those who are simply sent out by a local church. That is, while the missionary may be an unknown quantity, if he has been appointed by a well known board, he gains some instant credibility. The non-board missionary may have equal or superior integrity, ability, and potential, but he has to earn his credibility (at least initially) by other means. Thus, the desire for credibility is not all bad.

Where Christians go off the rails, however, in seeking credibility is when they are seeking the approval of the world. This is at the heart of evangelicalism, and I am afraid it is a temptation indulged in by many ‘young fundamentalists’. We hear cries about the ‘lack’ of scholarship in fundamentalism and the need for more scholarship. We hear complaints about the isolation of fundamentalists. The list goes on.

I think every pastor should be scholarly. I think fundamentalists should do everything in their power to engage the lost in meaningful ways in order to bring them to Christ. I think (given my educational background) that fundamentalists should ‘get out of Greenville’. I think we need to understand the thinking of the worldling and learn his lingo (think Acts 17).

But what we don’t need is the world’s approval. We don’t need to be impressive. We need to get over this part of the ego, that I am somehow affirmed if the world likes me and doesn’t think I am a redneck hick because I believe, live and teach the Bible.

We don’t need worldly aggrandizement. We need the approval of heaven.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3