Friday, October 26, 2007

The Subtle Sinfulness of Silence: The Remix

My regular readers will recognize that I have used the title of this post previously. I have been blogging for just over a year now, and I really thought "The Subtle Sinfulness of Silence" was one of my more original posts. Well, I have found that this is not truly the case.

I have just begun reading the indisputably classic Christian work "The City of God " by one of Church history's most revered fathers, Saint Augustine. In the very first chapter of this masterpiece I have discovered that my previous post was definitely not original and that it certainly was not the most thorough treatment of this topic. I imagine that if he were still among us former vice-presidential candidate,
Lloyd Bentsen might comment," Mr. Tolbert, I served with Saint Augustine, I knew Saint Augustine, Saint Augustine was a friend of mine. Mr. Tolbert, you are no
Saint Augustine".

For those unfamiliar with this seminal work, "The City of God" was Saint Augustine's apologetic for Christianity in the wake of the fall of Rome. It seems that blame for this great catastrophe was placed on Christians by the pagan citizens of this once great empire. They believed that their gods were punishing them because the Roman Christians refused to make sacrifices to their false deities. Saint Augustine authored "The City of God" in order to refute this false accusation. He argued the point that it was only the grace and mercy of the God of Christianity that Rome stood as long as it did (note to the pagans of the USA: those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it!)

Section nine of the opening book of "The City of God", is entitled: "Of the Reasons for Administering Correction to Bad and Good Together". In this section,
Saint Augustine reprimands Christians for remaining silent while their countrymen fall into sin. It is this section that put my little diatribe to shame.

"For often we wickedly blind ourselves to the occasions of teaching and admonishing them, sometimes even of reprimanding and chiding them, either because we shrink from the labour or are ashamed to offend them, or because we fear to lose good friendships, lest this should stand in the way of our advancement, or injure us in some worldly matter, which either our covetous disposition desires to obtain, or our weakness shrinks from losing . . . If any one forbears to reprove and find fault with those who are doing wrong, because he seeks a more seasonable opportunity, or because he fears they may be made worse by his rebuke, or that other weak persons may be disheartened from endeavouring to lead a good and pious life, and may be driven from the faith; this man's omission seems to be occasioned not by covetousness, but by a charitable consideration. But what is blameworthy is, that they who themselves revolt from the conduct of the wicked, and live in quite another fashion, yet spare those faults in other men which they ought to reprehend and wean them from; and spare them because they fear to give offence, lest they should injure their interests in those things which good men may innocently and legitimately use- though they use them more greedily than becomes persons who are strangers in this world, and profess the hope of a heavenly country . . . do often take thought of their own safety and good name, and abstain from finding fault with the wicked, because they fear their wiles and violence. And although they do not fear them to such an extent as to be drawn to the commission of like iniquities, nay, not by any threats or violence soever; yet those very deeds which they refuse to share in the commission of, they often decline to find fault with, when possibly they might by finding fault prevent their commission. They abstain from interference, because they fear that, if it fail of good effect, their own safety or reputation may be damaged or destroyed; not because they see that their preservation and good name are needful, that they may be able to influence those who need their instruction, but rather because they weakly relish the flattery and respect of men, and fear the judgments of the people, and the pain or death of the body; that is to say, their non- intervention is the result of selfishness and not of love".

"They are punished together, not because they have spent an equally corrupt life, but because the good as well as the wicked, though not equally with them, love this present life; while they ought to hold it cheap, that the wicked, being admonished and reformed by their example, might lay hold of life eternal. These selfish persons have more cause to fear than those to whom it was said through the prophet, 'He is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.' For watchmen or overseers of the people are appointed in churches that they may unsparingly rebuke sin. Nor is that man guiltless of the sin we speak of, who, though he be not a watchman, yet sees in the conduct of those with whom the relationships of this life bring him into contact, many things that should be blamed, and yet overlooks them, fearing to give offence, and lose such worldly blessings as may legitimately be desired, but which he too eagerly grasps".

Please don't get me wrong. I am not saying that our family and friends who sit under false teachers are "wicked" or that they don't have eternal life. Only God knows the heart of man. He knows who truly are His. But when a person places his faith more in a man's teaching than in the Word of God; or gives his pastor more praise than he does to his supposed Savior, there is sufficient warrant for concern regarding that man's salvation. I say, we (after having thoroughly examined ourselves-II Cor. 13:5) must err on the side of caution. We must tell them the truth . . . in love. That is, if you do love them.

It is clear that Saint Augustine was exhorting Christians to be more God-honoring and bold by confronting the pagans in their midst. This directive is even more valid in our present age. The most regrettable fact today, however, is that it seems to be more necessary within the Body of Christ(?). Those of us who have been graced to receive the Holy Spirit's gift of discernment and can see through the shenanigans of the Osteens, the Bynums, the Dollars, et al, must be more faithful to tell the truth to out family and friends who are blinded by the bat-guano that these false teachers are peddling.

If we refuse to do so, according to Saint Augustine (and Scripture backs him up), it is an indication that we also love this present life a tad too much, not holding it as "cheap" as we should.

Will they call you arrogant? You betcha! Will they say you are jealous? Count on it!
Will they cease fellowship with you? Quite possibly. Will they change? Not necessarily. The mere fact that these questions disturb us is evidence that Augustine was right about us. If the praise and favor of men holds that great a sway over us in this transient vapor of a life perhaps it is us who need to know the truth.

There's a cross for you to bear
Things to go through if you're going anywhere
For the things you know are right
It s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight
All the things you want are real
You have you to complete and there is no deal
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
You've been sitting much too long
There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong
There's a midget standing tall
And the giant beside him about to fall
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
They will try to make you crawl
And they know what you're saying makes sense and all
Don't you know that you are free
Well at least in your mind if you want to be

Stand, stand, stand "

"Stand", Sly and the Family Stone 1969

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!


ajcarter said...

Hey Keith,

I went to the forum and saw the discussion you have started. I must say that I don't have the time nor the patience for what appears is going to be a lengthy discussion. I wish you well, my brother. I do believe that what you are doing is worthwhile and I hope it bears fruit in getting this guy or some other to see the faulty thinking he is embracing.

I'm sorry, but I just can't get into the discussion at this time.

Blessing to you,

Theology in said...

thanks for your discussion regarding Augustine...i've been stumbling over his poetic and edifying "Confessions" for sometime now and this post has encouraged me to read (study) it asap!