Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to the Best (Not the Good)

One of my professors had a saying he was fond of repeating: "The good is the enemy of the best." Just yesterday I witnessed another episode of the truth of this saying. I think the same holds true for the discussion of the meaning of holy. Many good people hold the position that holy means to set apart or to be separate. Yet the problem is that being good is not good enough.

The best reformers of the past 500 plus years in my tradition were: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, John Wesley and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. These were the best in the respective denominations of: Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist and Baptist. Many good men and women preceded them and followed them. Yet when it comes time for renewal to happen again, the good can become the enemy of the best.

One of my favorite biblical examples of this comes from the biblical story of Israel's kings. Following David, it is not uncommon to notice that he has set the bar for all future kings including his son Solomon. Following David and Solomon (both who are recognized more than the others because they are also biblical authors), there is this succession of leaders: Jeroboam (arose first but didn't become a king till the time of Rehoboam), Rehoboam, Asa and Jehosophat.

Each of these kings at least started good or were good except in the case of certain issues. But none was on the level of the best in King David. Following these kings, there were a series of bad kings before once again good kings arose. They were: Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah and Jotham. Finally following these kings we hear of two of the best kings, who are compared to David favorably: King Hezekiah and King Josiah. During their time we read about festival events that exceeded those times of the good kings.

Generations struggle that follow even the best generations. There is always the dangers for generations that wise Solomon outlines:

There is a generation:
1) curses it's father
and does not bless it's mother (Proverbs 30:11 )
2) pure in its own eyes
yet is not washed from its filthiness (Proverbs 30:12)
3) oh, how lofty are their eyes!
and their eyelids are lifted up (Proverbs 30:13)
4) whose teeth are like swords
and whose fangs are like knives
to devour the poor from off the earth
and [to devour[ the needy from among men. (Proverbs 30:14)

These may seem like they only apply to the evil ones on earth, but they can also apply to the good people and movements as things degenerate after them or to the remnant of evil that is pointed out during their lifetime. For one example, Jehosophat is given warning by Elijah during his lifetime of this ties to King Ahab. He is not like his "father" King David in this regard.

Another book of wisdom, the book of James, points out the importance of the meekness of wisdom (James 3:13). This is in contrast to the bitter envy and self-seeking of the generations found in Proverbs 30 (James 3:14).

What I have noticed more and more as a Christian is that bitter envy and self-seeking are on the rise rather than the meekness of wisdom. In Jesus' day, his sect, either during his lifetime or following, became known as the Nazarene sect. He tried to convince four other sects to show the meekness of wisdom: the Sadducees, the Essenes (the Qumran community), the Pharisees and the Zealots. Yet they were very reluctant and only after his crucifixion to we read in Acts that many Pharisees believed and joined the Nazarene sect.

This is how sects that perhaps even had a good beginning can become the enemy of the best. In our day, the sects of liberals, conservatives, evangelicals and higher life movements (includes charismatics and holiness movments) are satisfied with holy means set apart or separate.

I would ask them to show the meekness of wisdom. I would also ask these generations to consider that while they may be good in many regards, their goodness may be the enemy of the best in hindering an objective hearing of the evidence on the definition of holy. James 3:14 warns against boasting and lying against the truth. This is sometimes more subtle than blatant for the good rather than the evil. King Asa and King Jeroboam were good kings, yet they should not be smug just because they are not like King Ahab. The good often does not like to acknowledge the best, because that requires a lack of envy and a supply of meekness. It is easier instead to boast that we are better than someone else. That requires no lack of envy and there is no need for meekness to show up.

I myself would rather meekly see the wisdom of the best of God's servants and then find a new reformation coming to us once again, than defend some sort of goodness and hinder another day like that of a King Hezekiah or a King Josiah. We had our warnings in the 20th century from people like Keith Green and Leonard Ravenhill. We also had warnings from people like Francis Schaeffer, Ray Stedman and R. A Finlayson, where we witnessed a desire for something better than these present day sects had to offer. What has happened to that longing?

Have we fallen into apathy? Has the good become the enemy of the best? Have we only eyes to see the faults of the best (I understand David had one)? Why can't we hear the evidence about the meaning of holy objectively? Why has no one from these sects called for an objective hearing of reformation views on holy to test the controversial position these four sects hold and to see if it can hold up under a challenge? Why are the originally good sects so quick to hold to a definition that has had over 100 years to prove itself effective and yet has little fruit to show for it?

I have no axe to grind. I have no desire for the latest new thing. I have submitted to a type of discipline unknowingly that helps me avoid envy. I have investigated the best of the Reformers and found that and found it crushes envy. How can a person who is putting on armor boast before people who have taken it off?

So I now wonder out loud: "How much is envy driving these contemporary sects right now?" Only actual actions that show the "meekness of wisdom" carries the answer. I am calling for an open objective hearing of all the evidence as I create my posts on the internet. That is all I ask for from our present Christian leaders. Will the good once again be the enemy of the best? Or will we see again the meekness of wisdom in action and see reformation? Time will tell the truth.

In Christ,