by Mike Ratliff
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that r while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for s we walk by faith, not t by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we u would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to v please him. 10 For w we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, x so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ESV)
Pragmatism is an ugly, profane word. Oh, I know that to some professing Christians that it is their modus operandi in how they approach and do ministry, but I assure you that it is the tool our enemy uses to attack and discourage Christians from standing for the truth of God and all of His underlying principles that we are commanded to hold dear and obey. God’s ways are not Man’s ways. No, His ways are higher, but that does not excuse Christians from obeying Him in standing for truth and never compromising with the ways of the world and the flesh.
Compromise is the demand in our day and time. All who refuse to climb onto its bandwagon are condemned as narrow minded by actually believing there is such a thing as absolute truth. No, to the post-modern person all things are relative. However, that philosophy will hold no water when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account and to receive what is due for what we have done in the body. As Christians, we are called to conform not to the ways of Man, but to the ways of God. We are not to pattern our lives after the ways of the world, but after our Lord and Saviour.
Principle vs. Pragmatism
by R.C. Sproul
Some years ago, I drove along the Pennsylvania Turnpike about two o’clock in the morning with a friend after having spent all day at a steel corporation in eastern Pennsylvania dealing with labor management issues. My companion was a man who had lost his job as a highly paid executive in the industry for being too concerned about the welfare and dignity of the laborers in his plant. As we were making this drive in the wee hours of the morning, I noticed my friend was at the point of exhaustion, and so I asked him the question: “Why are you doing this?” He looked over at me as if to indicate that my question was a foolish one, and he replied simply: “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
In stark contrast to that, in this past year I have witnessed the worst type of corruption within the church that I have seen in my lifetime. I was chairing the board of a Christian institution of learning as we dealt with a question of the propriety of the teaching of one of the professors. The task of the board was to guard the purity of the doctrine of the institution. The motion was made to suspend the professor for a brief period of time in order to give him an opportunity to amend his views. As chairman, I did not vote, but the motion carried by a vote of eight to two.
During the discussion, one of the men who voted against the resolution asked this question: “Can’t we deal with this question in a more pragmatic way?” Another board member responded by saying, “No, it is our responsibility to act not according to pragmatism but according to principle.” The motion to suspend was passed by a margin of eight-to-two. The pragmatist who was outvoted, instead of submitting to the vote or bringing in a minority report, went around the board and did everything in his power to have the board’s decision overthrown. Accomplishing this, his next move was to see to it that board members with whom he disagreed were ousted from the board. Through Machiavellian machinations of corruption, this pragmatist was able to succeed. In his wake, he left the demolition of a strategically important institution of Christian learning.
What is pragmatism? Pragmatism is the only philosophy native to America. Pragmatism eschews any hope of discovering ultimate truth. It is skeptical with respect to objective principles of righteousness and defines truth as “that which works.” In this philosophy, the end always justifies the means. The driving force behind decisions within the scope of pragmatism is the force of expediency.
We remember in the days of the trial of Jesus of Nazareth, two of the important players were Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. Both men made their decisions to have Jesus executed on the basis of expediency (Mark 15:15; John 11:45-53). Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate were pragmatists with a vengeance.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a ranking senator of the United States Congress. During our discussion, I raised an ethical issue that the Senate faced at that time and asked him why the Senate didn’t act on that particular issue. He replied that he agreed with me that the Senate certainly should act on it, but he added that they could not do it that year because it was an election year. I moved to my second question and asked about another issue that needed the Senate’s attention. Again he agreed that it should be addressed, but not that particular year because it was an election year.
After we got to the sixth or seventh question where the mantra was repeated again (“not this year because it’s an election year”), I looked at the senator and asked, “Is there anybody up here on Capitol Hill who thinks about the next generation instead of the next election?” I guess it was too idealistic of me to think that our nation’s leaders would be a bit more concerned for the welfare of the nation than for their own political war chest. No nation (or Christian institution, for that matter) can survive when its leaders are driven by a spirit of pragmatism or make their decisions according to political expediency.
Expediency is an obscene word. It is the word that is ever and always at war with principle. A person who is a Christian is called of God to live by biblical principles. The principles that the Bible reveals to guide our steps are the necessary elements for authentic righteousness. Take away principle, and righteousness is slain in the streets. We need an awakening in the culture and in the church to principle – to working according to truth and to living according to biblical revelation. Without principle, the church as well as the culture will decay, and the church will become a mere echo of the unprincipled pragmatism of secularism.
From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine.
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What will it be then my brethren? The Lord called us to be His disciples not simply to join some church and then assume that our weekly attendance there is what constitutes genuine discipleship.
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 n “If anyone comes to me and o does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, p yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 q Whoever does not r bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not s first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not t sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 u So therefore, any one of you who v does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33 ESV)
These requirements of Christian discipleship have never been rescinded or modified in any way. Oh, many pseudo Christian leaders have developed their own requirements in order for one to be a “Christian,” but here is what our Lord says is what genuine discipleship is all about. This is a dying to self. Christ is first over all or He is not the Lord of one’s life. If He is not Lord of a professing Christian then that person’s profession of faith is false. Genuine Christianity is total surrender to Christ as Lord and Saviour. Genuine salvation is God’s work from beginning to end, but the result of it in the heart of those whom He saves is this level of surrender to the Lordship of Christ. There is no room for pragmatism, which is nothing more than compromise with the ways of the world. It is not of God. There are no gray areas in Christian Discipleship.
What will it be then my brethren? Right now counts forever.
Soli Deo Gloria!