Anyone who really believes that yeast works through the loaf slowly is an incrementalist. Anyone who holds that the biblical pattern is reformation, and not impatient revolution, is an incrementalist. Many “clear-headed” individuals on the hard right are functional revolutionaries and not conservatives at all because of their inability to grasp this. Brian Mattson is exactly right to point to the righteousness of Asa and Asa’s incrementalism as an example for us. And I also agree with Mattson that the high places that Asa did not remove were probably the detestable ones. I became an incrementalist a number of years ago for much the same reason that Mattson did. I believe the Word requires it, and all forms of frenzied perfectionism (“utopia tomorrow and free chocolate milk for everybody!”) are just new and different forms of disobedient idelogies. And such impatient disobedience is found on both the left and the right.
But incrementalism is a two-way street
. The other side has its incrementalists also, and they (speaking frankly) are much better at it than we are. How else did we get to the point where Solomon building a temple for false gods could be justified by Asa not tearing down the high place dedicated to false gods? This is a good example of how well incrementalism works. I am not saying this because I am opposed to incrementalism. I am not opposed to slow victories at all (it is God’s ordained way). I am opposed to slow surrenders.
And so I will say it again. Any Christian leader who participates in (as in, attends) any inter-faith worship event (from prayer breakfasts to National Cathedral services), as distinct from inter-denominational events, is guilty of idolatry, and is guilty of leading the people of God into idolatry. Voting for President Bush is not idolatry; reasonable Christians can differ on this, and I understand why they do. But having your vote for the president become so important that you are willing to overlook (or even defend!) the deliberate blurring of the difference between Allah and the Father of Jesus Christ is idolatry. It is also incrementalism, but not an incrementalism that is going in the right direction.
If I am engaged in worshipping false gods, a righteous incrementalism does not mean tapering off from six idolatrous events a year down to two. If I am engaged in reform, incrementalism means keeping ourselves from idols entirely, and being patient while God brings about the slow and incremental transformation of the culture around us.