Sunday, March 14

Revolution v. Reformation

Like the great antithesis between the city of God and the city of man, the antithesis between revolution and reformation is altogether unbridgeable. It defines and distinguishes irreconcilable differences. It pits one total and exclusive worldview over and against another. It discerns the stark contrast between black and white with no hint of grey between.

Like the way to perdition, the road to revolution is wide, and many are those who travel it. Like the road to paradise, the road to reformation is narrow, and few are those who travel it. It is little wonder then that men and nations actually prefer revolution to reformation. After all, the broad road promises easy and efficient going. The narrow road promises only a long obedience in the same direction. The broad road advertises quick results, spectacular sights, and razzle-dazzle publicity. Whereas the narrow way offers only small beginnings, quiet faithfulness, and a humble reputation.

The way of revolution practically guarantees health, wealth, and wow. The way of reformation only bears witness to faith, hope, and love. Revolution demands the hard and unrelenting science of charts and graphs, programs and policies. Reformation is content with the gentle persuasions of doctrine and liturgy, covenant and sacrament. Revolution has big plans, amalgamating fervor, and gargantuan purposes. Reformation has but diligence and steadfastness in the face of daily responsibilities. Revolution is undeterred by the facts; reformation is undeterred by the obstacles. Revolution, like the passing pleasures of sin, never fails to disappoint; reformation, like love, never fails.

Alas, the contrast between the two, revolution and reformation, is as stark within the church as without. Indeed, the revolutionary mind is as prevalent in the church as it is anywhere else in the world.

I am currently reading J. Gresham Machen's Selected Shorter Writings (P&R). The book, edited by D.G. Hart, is a testimony to a life committed to reformation over and against revolution at a time when the church went right along with the world in lauding revolution in all its sundry forms. Besides being brilliant, inspirational, and stunningly prescient, the essays, book reviews, editorials, and commentaries afford a fresh perspective of the scope and sequence of the battle--the battle that continues to rage--between revolution and reformation.

Machen, the founder of Westminster Seminary in 1929, discusses everything from Evangelical Scholarship and Dogmatic Theology to the joys of walking and the appreciation of fine art, from Prohibition and Fundamentalism, to good music and bad books, from politics and culture to ecclesiology and hermaneutics. Rereading these declarations of his stalwart defense of the faith combined with his unfettered joy in life offers all of us a bracing dose of reformational resolve to standfast against the wily seductions of the revolutionary impulse. Thanks. I needed that.

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