This comment returned to mind when I read Mark Dever's quote from David Wells' Above All Earthly Powers in his T4G blog post yesterday:
The postmodern reaction against Enlightenment dogma will not be met successfully simply by Christian proclamation. Of that we can be sure.Dever ties this into the mission of 9Marks, and I heartily agree. But what struck me as I read Wells' perspective was his emphasis on the need for life-proclamation in concert with word-proclamation.
That proclamation must arise within a context of authenticity. It is only as the evangelical Church begins to put its own house in order, its members begin to disentangle themselves from all of those cultural habits which militate against a belief in truth, and begin to embody that truth in the way that the Church actually lives, that postmodern skepticism might begin to be overcome. Postmoderns want to see as well as hear, to find authenticity in relationship as the precursor to hearing what is said.
This is a valid and biblical demand.
Faith, after all, is dead without works, and few sins are dealt with as harshly by Jesus as hypocrisy.
I recently wrote in a post here, "[T]he gospel cannot be irrelevant. It only needs to be proclaimed." After some reflection, I now realize that I disagree with myself. Although it's true that the gospel cannot be irrelevant, I do believe that our responsibility involves more than (audible) proclamation. Believers are also responsible for visible proclamation. "Walk as children of light." "Walk worthy of your holy calling." "Pure and undefiled" religion is to care for orphans and widows and to keep oneself unstained by the world. All men will know that we are Christ's the disciples if we "have love for one another."
In other words, our lives are to be visible demonstrations of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Don't get me wrong. That doesn't mean life-proclamation replaces word-proclamation. I simply mean that Scripture seems to indicate that God intends to draw people to Himself through preaching of the Word that is authenticated by the gospel-centered lives of His people.
Could it be that the miraculous signs Christ and his disciples performed were intended all along to be replaced in their message-verifying purpose by the equally miraculous transformation of rotten sinners into children of light? Might this have taken place as the work of the gospel expanded and took root in the first growth spurts of the Church?
Ok, I don't see cessationists lining up to add this argument to their arsenal. No matter. Let me think out loud for a second.
Have we convinced ourselves that because we do certain things and don't do certain things that we are living out a counter-cultural message that will impress unbelievers? Is that the message of the Cross? Or didn't it have something to do with radically sacrificial love?
Is it possible that we would better communicate the central message of the Cross if we focused less on looking different and more on living different—less on doing what pleases ourselves (within morally acceptable parameters) and more on giving of ourselves to care for others. Whether we're caring for the needs of believers or unbelievers is a question worth asking, but I'm not sure it's the first question today's evangelical-fundamentalist churches need to address.