How is the church maintained in the truth? The answer we give to this question reveals a great deal about our assumptions about both truth and the church. “What is truth?” has been asked by more than one philosophical mind through the ages. And not all these minds are unbelieving minds either.
My answer is rooted in defining truth as it is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the truth (John 14:6). The answer of much modern conservatism seems to be to root truth in various constructs and propositions. By this approach we create what can be called “wedge issues.” We then equate truth with these issues and our commitment to them. But Christian truth must surely be centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ alone.
Because of this simple conclusion about truth I believe the church is properly rooted in the truth whenever Jesus Christ, the Christ revealed to us in Holy Scripture by the Holy Spirit, remains the truth. This means that the truth is not found in some secular, political or ideological system. It is not even found in ecclesiastical systems. This is why I resisted equating a pro-life position with the truth of Christ in the gospel in an earlier post. I am fervently pro-life but I believe a person can clearly be a follower of Jesus Christ, who is the truth, and not be consistently pro-life. (There could be a number of reasons for such ethical confusion in one’s thought.) Such a person may be personally pro-life but politically inconsistent with that position. Or, they just do not see how a child in the womb is a real human person, which seems totally obvious to most of us. I believe it is imperative that we seek to convince such people that they are wrong about this matter and that this error is not minor. But we do not accomplish this by attacking them with an ad hominem argument, or by saying that they can not be true Christians. When we do this we have set ourselves up as the final arbiter of what it means to truly follow Christ. By this we create a litmus test, usually made up of our opinions on various matters. We then apply this test mentally or publicly to those we want to reject.
How much better it would be to seek to win people through solid Christian arguments. The easier way is to condemn and attack. I sometimes despair that much of conservative Christianity will never make this important distinction, preferring to judge rather than to help brothers and sisters grow in grace. Maybe such earnest, serious and important dialogue would force us to grow up a bit more. That may be too painful for some. I confess it is unpleasant and demanding but I am sure the gospel requires me to love my brothers and sisters and not separate them by my views of this or that wedge issue. I can be truthful, pro-life and centered in love if I am willing to take the hard path.