Careless Orthodoxy

This week I had the privilege of speaking to Southern Baptist state evangelism directors at the headquarters for the North American Mission Board in Atlanta, GA. My topic was “witnessing and worldviews.” I shared biblical imperatives that I see as essential for our conversations about faith in an increasingly secular age.

One of the things we discussed was the perennial pressure to accommodate the Bible to our times. One easy way to avoid this temptation is to be completely removed from the things that could potentially lead us towards compromise. In isolation, without attempting to engage our culture, we can be safely guarded from the outside voices luring us away from Scripture.

The main problem with this is that it doesn’t work. We cannot hide from the flesh, or the temptations of the devil, even if it were possible to be completely cut off from the rest of the world. Additionally, our mere act of isolating ourselves would itself be disobedience to Jesus’ final command to go into all the world and make disciples.

Orthodoxy, a big word for having proper beliefs about God, is easy when you don’t know any non-Christians. Orthodoxy isn’t hard if you don’t have friendships with real people. You can be a detached pastor, an ivory tower Christian professor, or an aloof church member, and keep your orthodoxy untarnished. But if you love people, if you are in community with those who are far from Jesus, if you listen to the stories of others—even as you are sharing your own faith—then you will know the very real temptation to accommodate your message.

It’s easier to preach against Islam if you don’t have any Muslim friends. It’s a light matter to preach against the LGBTQ agenda if you don’t know any LGBTQ people. It’s not a big deal to preach about Hell if you don’t love lost people.

Of course, the main problem with this is that it’s not biblical. If we are going to live in the real world and love real people then our orthodoxy is going to be tested. It’s worth it. We don’t have to give up on the Bible or give up on people. The truth is the Bible is big enough for people who don’t live up to its standards, which would be all of us.

There’s only one who’s perfectly kept the Word of God. He bids us all to come. He offers us all forgiveness. And he sends us all out to share his love with others.