Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Mixed Legacies

It seems quite likely that, during this decade, evangelicals will mark the passing of four men who profoundly shaped their movement. Tim Challies has offered courageous and perceptive advice for how we ought to think and speak about the legacy of one of them, and I believe his words apply similarly to the other three. We shouldn't "pour crankcase oil over their graves," as I've heard someone else put it. We can and should honor God's servants and commend evidences of grace in their lives. On the other hand, we shouldn't gloss over the detrimental effects of their legacies—particularly when their choices undermined the clarity of the gospel. I'm not sure it's helpful either to be silent at the passing of a person with a mixed legacy (and won't we all have them?) or to redact our eulogies of all that's regrettable. Rather, I wonder if these occasions might present an opportunity to teach the rising generations. Here's a bit of what Challies had to say:
Our worldview ought to be big enough to deal with such things [as Colson's sinful—Challies' word—contributions to Evangelicals and Catholics Together and the Manhattan Declaration]. To portray Charles Colson as all villain is unfair to the man; to portray him as all spiritual giant is unfair to the church. Let’s not be afraid to call it as it is.
I agree with Challies, but I actually want to drive his point a bit deeper, because it's not just our worldview that needs to be big enough to deal with these things. We need to recognize that our gospel is big enough to account for our sinful failures. And we need to recognize that our gospel is far too precious to disregard the sinful failures that distort it.


josh said...

thanks for pointing out this article by challies. he respectfully brings up an important point.

Michael C. said...

Good words from Challies. Thanks for the recommendation.

On a number of occasions I've pondered how to respond to the mixed legacy of some of evangelicalism's stars who are soon to pass from the scene. Some of them did true gospel work, but it's hard to commend them when they also introduced such confusion about the gospel.

Anonymous said...

Who are your four men?

1. Stott
2. Colson
3. Graham
4. Packer



Steve Martin said...

I think this is a great time to point out just how much this (deceased) person needed a Savior. No specifics need be mentioned at the funeral service...just that he/she was a inner in need of grace, as we all are.

And then talk about what Jesus did for them and what He will do for us.

I think speaking about the specific sins of a brother/sister in Christ takes the focus away from Christ and puts it back on the sinner.