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The Thrill of Orthodoxy

By Charles Colson
Prison Fellowship – Recently, I talked about the Spiritual Activism Conference in Washington, D.C., and the trouble its participants had coming up with any meaningful objectives. The problem, I suggested, was that the majority of the religious left cannot tolerate the idea of the authority of Scripture. In fact, in the effort to be "progressive," they seem committed to putting as much distance as they can between themselves and the Bible.

Sadly, this isn't just a problem for liberals. Some evangelicals these days are saying that truth is only knowable if you experience it. But if you believe that, it throws the Bible out, which is, after all, revealed propositional truth. Liberal or conservative, if you weaken the Bible as your authority, you give up more than just some ancient set of dogmas and rules. You give up joy, excitement, the very heart of the Christian faith. You lose what I call the thrill of orthodoxy—the exhilaration of experiencing and living out eternal truth that has been lived through the ages.

Let me give you a little example of what I mean by that. My wife, Patty, and I once visited St. Paul's Cathedral, one of the most beautiful churches in England. We walked into the church, which today seems to be more like a massive museum than a church. People were milling about everywhere. Patty and I both felt impressed that we should go and sit in a pew and pray. We sat down and listened to the liturgy, which was then being broadcast on a loudspeaker.

We looked around and realized that, yes, this church had become a museum, and yes, the public was here just to see its beauty, but they were also hearing the liturgy and the Gospel. Then we were struck by the realization that the Gospel is always going to be preached and heard and lived—in tiny enclaves or vast churches.

Both Patty and I got goose bumps as we realized that we were sitting in a place where that same Gospel has been preached for hundreds of years (actually, fourteen hundred years if you count the churches that were on that spot before the present cathedral). It made us realize afresh that the Gospel provides a connection with all the Christians who have come before us, all the way back to the time of Jesus. And it is still transforming hearts and lives today every time it is preached or read. God and His Word are, as Augustine said, "beauty so ancient and so new."

Watered-down "progressive" Christianity has nothing that can compare with this. Refusing to accept the authority of Scripture and cutting off all ties with our heritage leaves us rootless and drifting, ready to latch onto any fad. By contrast, as G. K. Chesterton explained about the timeless quality of God's truth: "The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer." He even wrote of the truth of the Gospel as "the heavenly chariot [that] flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect."

God's truth has always shown that it can survive heresy, persecution, and any fad that the human mind can dream up. It will continue on, long after the last progressive has come up with the last resolution on tolerance.

From BreakPoint with Chuck Colson, a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission.

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