Previous article in this series: October 1, 2012, p. 14.
The trends in modern missions that we have considered thus far were that missions ought to be counter-cultural, contextual, ecological, ecumenical, and laity-led. The final trend, as we indicated last time, is perhaps the most alarming and fundamentally mistaken. It is that modern missions must be taught “with an uncertain faith.” This trend comes from the statement of Prof. Bosch, who wrote that “faith embraces itself and the doubt about itself.”¹ For him, this is the faith that must be preached in missions.
This is not the first time in church history that doubt has been raised to the level of virtue. The Arminians did this when speaking of election and when teaching that with regard to the truth of God, especially election, the child of God must embrace uncertain certainties. Under the blessing and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Reformed churches rejected such talk: “For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain certainty . . .” (Canons of Dordt, I, Rejection of Errors, 7). In another place in the Canons of Dordt, Section V, Article 11, the churches confessed that the believer in this life must struggle with various “carnal doubts.” This description of doubt places the origin of doubt in our carnal flesh, which description speaks of doubt as a dirty and unvirtuous thing. Also, the Reformed churches confessed in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, that our faith is not doubtful and uncertain, but is the “catholic undoubted Christian faith.” Furthermore, Jesus teaches us that we may never regard doubt as something good. Jesus rebuked His disciple Peter and also us when we sink into the same sin of doubt, “Othou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” ().
Therefore, to synthesize doubt and faith into theology is the death of true theology and the loss of our only comfort in life and death. If the church preaches an uncertain faith, she has nothing to preach in a post-modern world given over to a culture and philosophy of uncertain certainties and relative truth. She becomes like a lightless lighthouse that is unable to warn and guide incoming ships away from disaster and to the safety of the harbor in the dark and stormy night.
Instead, let faithful missions act as the spear point into the world of the wicked: thrusting forward with the sharp point of the clear Word of Jehovah, causing the hearts of men to bleed. Let the sword of the faith, tempered by the Spirit of Christ over centuries of battle by the church through controversy and reformation, penetrate the hearts of men and their households unto repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and also unto the hardening and condemnation, according to what God has ordained the preaching of faithful missionaries to accomplish among the nations of men.
Let not missions preach for truth various theories that are still in development, or various propositions that still apparently need centuries of scientific verification. Hence, the work of God in creation in Genesis 1 and 2, and as referenced in many other places throughout the Bible, may not be preached as a competing theory alongside theistic evolution, atheistic evolution, or the creation legends of many pagan religions. The doctrines of God’s grace may not be preached as a theory that is still open for doubtful questioning. Amillennialism may not be preached and taught at this stage in church history as merely another view of the return of Christ alongside postmillennialism and premillennial dispensationalism.
For missions to confront the strongholds of heathendom in the East or the secularism and materialism in the West with a sword that is admittedly unproven and doubtful surely cannot inspire much confidence in missionaries that what they preach today will inflict any damage against the strongholds of Satan for the condemnation of his dominion and for the rescue of the sheep from his tyranny. Therefore, let missions preach “thus saith Jehovah.” Let that sure Word of God be preached in confidence unto the ingathering of Christ’s sheep.
Prof. Bosch mistakenly views the development of the truth as a development of theories that rarely can be proven with absolute certainty. Rather, the truth develops through history like the growth of large mango trees in the Philippines.² As the tree continues to grow, new growth at the end of the branches occurs, but nobody expects that someday massive new trunks will suddenly appear, nor will there be 50-year-old boughs suddenly cut loose to be replaced by young and fashionable looking ones. The old stalwart will continue to live and grow in its God-given strength through joyous sunshine and also harsh storms. Similarly, having delivered to the saints the truth of His Trinity, the covenant, particular grace, and all the doctrines of His Word through history, the Lord will not suddenly replace these mighty boughs with fashionable and modern ones. A church may reject the truth and replace it with false doctrines, but God’s truth shall stand forever. Let faithful missions preach and teach that truth.
What happens when the church thinks that the faith is developed by a healthy dose of doubt and reinvention? What is the result of this proposed doubt-fuelled development of the truth? The age-old doctrine of the creation by God has been overhauled by a synthesis with the heresy of evolution. Churches that once stood faithfully for the doctrines of sovereign grace have embraced subtle and bold changes that have led them back into apostasy. Moreover, in bondage to such doubt, no longer can the believer confess that he is persuaded of God’s truth, but only persuaded of possibilities, theories, and uncertain certainties. How can he then silence the fiery darts of temptation from the Devil, if the only thing with which he can defend himself is at best a doubtful and uncertain certainty?
Doubt is our enemy, an ally of the Devil. Doubt cannot believe and maintain the truth. A doubtful faith is not true faith. The truth faith is known by a certain knowledge and an assured confidence, which is rooted in Jesus Christ, the Truth, and in the infallible Scriptures. In that faith in the living God, let faithful missions preach “our catholic undoubted Christian faith” and do its proper work for the gathering of Christ’s other sheep into that undoubted faith.
In summary, let us not promote missions that is counter-cultural, contextual, ecological, ecumenical, laity-led, and with an uncertain faith. Instead, let us promote and conduct domestic and foreign missions that are antithetical, authoritatively applicatory, by and for heavenly-minded believing stewards of God’s good gifts, governed and supported by churches that maintain to their utmost the marks of a true church, carried out by qualified and lawfully ordained ministers of the Word of God, and faithful to the gracious heritage of our undoubted Christian, Protestant, and Reformed faith.
Of course, this kind of missions bucks the tsunami of popular trends in modern missions.
Nevertheless, it is what we must command and teach.
In this kind of missions, there is certain and comforting hope that every one of the other sheep of Christ will be gathered to Him as He has promised ().
¹ David J. Bosch, Believing in the Future (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1995), Chapter 6, “Conclusion,” 55-62.
² This idea of the development of the truth like the growth of a tree, such as a mango tree or an oak tree, was mentioned by Professor Herman Hanko in the “Preface” to his book For Thy Truth’s Sake: A Doctrinal History of the Protestant Reformed Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: RFPA, 2000), xix.