Carl Trueman has been kind enough to issue a clarification and a quasi-challenge, which is better, I suppose, than a queasy challenge.
First his clarification:
“I do have a problem with the term ‘Christian worldview’ because it is vague to the point of being philosophically useless even as it has proved rhetorically and politically useful.”
He goes on to mention various topics that represent profound worldview differences, but where professing Christians disagree — transubstantiation, salvation by free grace, covenant baptism, and so on.
“The list could go on but the point is clear: professing Christians disagree on all of these things and yet convictions on all of these things shape our view of the world. In short, there is really no such thing as ‘the Christian worldview’ in the singular; there is rather a variety of Christian worldviews.”
Well, okay, but this would have to mean there is no such thing as Christian doctrine either. It also means there is no such thing as a Christian church. There is no such thing as Christianity in the singular, because there are way too many disagreements and traditions. But now we are sounding like the pomos.
The Christian worldview has to be grounded in Scripture because the Christian worldview is simply Christian doctrine applied to the world. Whatever mental adjustments we make to understand the phrase Christian doctrine, we also make to the phrase Christian worldview.
So we have to watch how we are using our terms. When I say that thus and such is Christian doctrine, I mean that it is taught in the Bible and that all Christians are obligated to believe it, whether or not they do. I would do the same thing with the phrase Christian worldview. The Christian worldview prohibits abortion-on-demand and homosexual marriage, for example. This does not mean that all professing Christians do, or even that all professed adherents of “the Christian worldview” do. It means that such Christians ought to. If they do not, then they are, to use a word that I know Carl Trueman knows how to use in other settings, “wrong.”
We then come to his quasi-challenge. Despite his disparagement of the efforts of the transformationalists, I really believe Trueman when he says that he would much rather live in the society envisioned by the transformationalists than the one he is stuck in now. But he believes that he is stuck here, and that the way to prove him wrong is to get him unstuck. I am tempted to call him Carl Trumpkin because all I can hear at this point, as we cluster around to get him unstuck, is “bedknobs and broomsticks!”
“I know in which world I would rather live; thus, I look forward to the transformation of the latter into the former by my critics and truly wish them well in their endeavour.”
But it is not “their” endeavor, but rather “ours.” Trueman may be a reluctant ally, and I really wish he weren’t reluctant, but I do count him an effective ally. Here’s how he could be a far better one. While we are busy trying to rebuild this stupid gate, why doesn’t he use more of his ammo on Sanballat? When Tobiah the Ammonite delivers his witticisms about foxes jumping on walls, I would love to hear a Trueman retort aimed in that direction.
“The basic point in my post was, of course, not that Christianity has never made a difference to society. Kuyper did make a difference (which I never denied) as did others — e.g., Thomas Chalmers, William Wilberforce, George Muller, Thomas Guthrie; but even acknowledging that, the lack of proportion between the rhetoric of some of today’s transformationalists compared to what they are actually achieving is really rather embarrassing.”
What Trueman is missing here is the fact that all these men mentioned are safely dead and in Heaven, and their biographies have been written. We may now safely build the tombs of the prophets, and shine up the marble floors real nice. But during the course of their lives, it was still safe (among the respectable) to call them every kind of idiot you wanted to.
Not only is there a disparity between our results and Wilberforce’s, but there was a huge disparity between Wilberforce’s early results and his later results. There is nothing being said about The King’s College now, or New St. Andrews, or Patrick Henry, that could not be said, and forcefully, about Kuyper, Chalmers, et al. before their successes. Nobody ever waltzes in, strewing reformation left and right like roses out of a hat.
In the middle of every reformation, it is God’s purpose and intent to overwhelm us with the task. He does so in order that we not make the mistake of thinking we did this ourselves. We do not serve a local grove baal responsible for uplift throughout our little valley. We serve the God who raises the dead. And as Trueman points out, we do meet that qualification. We supply the carcass, and now it is God’s turn.
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).
Why does God love cliffhangers? Why does He take His beloved ones through the gauntlet? There are many reasons, but one of them is that reformers are the kind of people that I would not feel safe entrusting easy victories to.
Why is there such a disparity between our rhetoric and what we are actually achieving? This is the way it always is. Was there disparity between Paul’s rhetoric — to present every man perfect in Christ, forsooth! — and his inability to keep people from stoning and leaving him for dead outside their towns? Well, yeah.
And when Nehemiah was in the middle of his lunatic reformation project, he had to contend with the enemies without, of course, but also with the discouragement within.
“In Judah it was said, ‘The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall’” (Neh. 4:10, ESV).
Along the wall, the people were sitting on the stones, talking about Trueman’s recent post about how bad the rubble was. This sense of discouragement is rational. It makes perfect sense. The empirical data support it. It labors under the sole disadvantage of not being true, and therefore not what we needed to hear from our friends.