23 August 2006

A Call to Reformed Bloggers: Love

I want to say something to my fellow bloggers. I'm speaking specifically to those of you who love Christ and long to make a difference in our generation and who would describe yourselves (as I would) as Reformed, theologically conscientious, culturally engaging disciples of Christ.

First let me say that though I have just started this blog this week (so perhaps no one will read this anyway!), I have been reading blogs the past several years, and have enjoyed reading the blogs of several of you who do such an outstanding job of promoting the true interests of the Kingdom in culturally sensitive and biblically faithful ways. Yet there is often something missing in the Reformed Blogosphere, and we must constantly be called back to it since, despite being foundational, it is so counter-intuitive--even, it seems, for Christians. It is this: love.

I am a 5-point Calvinist. I love Calvin and the Puritans and Edwards and Lloyd-Jones and Piper. I refuse to water down rock-solid truth. I will say things I know will take criticism if I feel they must be said. I am not interested in sacrificing doctrine on the altar of felt experience. I am not wishy-washy. I enjoy theological arguing more than I probably should. I believe in the crucial value of the life of the mind. I intend, if God wills it, to pursue a PhD in New Testament next Fall. I am very discouraged with the minimizing of clear biblical ethics and critical, God-exalting theological categories evident in the writings of some members of the Emerging Church.

In short, I am not as naturally loving as some are, and I believe sharp theological categories and unambiguous doctrinal clarity and precise dogmatic formulation are utterly crucial to the vibrant health of Christ's Church--the Church, friends, not only the seminaries. And it is because I believe this--not in spite of it--that I must keep love at the core of what I am about, on the web and off.

Have you understood your heart? There is an instinctive reflex in the human heart which, when confronted with an idealogy or movement or individual or statement with which it disagrees, takes up arms to fight fire with fire. We want to beat them at their own game. If they argue a certain way, I'll argue right back at them the same way. I will win.

The tragic irony, counter-intuitive though it be, is that instead of winning a brother and edifying onlookers--some of whom may be unbelievers?--this method of disagreement simply causes defenses to go up all around as the chance for real progress slips, unnoticed, out the back door. I am not saying we ought to ignore mistakes brothers make in the ministry, whether in theology or praxis. I am saying that when we interact and defend truth, we do it in a certain way, being ever conscious--even suspicious--of our own motives and the true source of our zeal for God.

I know that those of you who have read this far into this post know the Scripture passages about love; I need not list them here. I know you have been captivated by the staggering love of a God who would become a worm to save worms. I know you believe love is important and that you want to make a difference with your life. So do I. Please listen, then: there is a way to disagree that is of the Spirit of Christ, and there is a way to disagree that is of hell. And the trouble is that hellish disagreement can feel so heavenly. We are right, after all. Truth is at stake! God is being dishonored by this person with whom I disagree. And again I say to you that it is because of this, not in spite of it, that we must respond in love--unyielding, uncompromsing, love. Look consciously for what is right and good in others. And when you do--when you treat others with respect and honor them as created persons whom God loves--that opportunity for fruitful exchange will come back in the front door and you will have won your brother and edified your onlookers. True, you may not convince him; but you will have been Christ to him in the way you treat him. And if you are indeed right and he is wrong, he will see it one day in the presence of Christ. And you will be vindicated. Until then: love.

Brothers, falsehood argued irenically is often more persuasive than truth argued ascerbically. Watch your tone. Look for the good. Love your brother--Calvinist or Arminian, Emergent or not, Auburn Avenue or not, Presbyterian or Baptist, Carson or McLaren, Piper or Boyd, Gaffin or Wright, Driscoll or Keller or Mahaney or Mohler or Bell or Chandler or McKnight or anyone who might align themselves with any of these (1 Cor 3:21-23).

Love, brothers. Love. Whatever else happens in your life, be one who loves. This will delight the Lord. And it may win you an audience you would not otherwise have had.


For the best sermon I have heard in a long time, Keller and Piper included, and on this very theme, listen by the link below to Zack Eswine's message "Finding Your Place in This World: Living and Loving Authentically." Dr. Eswine is assistant professor of homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary. He preached this sermon in December 2005 at a Covenant chapel service. You can also find it by going to the seminary webpage (www.covenantseminary.edu/).



Ray Van Neste said...


I was glad to come across your blog. It sent me searching the internet to confirm that you were Ray Ortlund, Jr.'s son. Your father was a favorite professor of mine because he was such a model of the sort of thing you mention in this post. It is a challenge to wed clarity and charity as it is often a challenge to hold together academic study and deep devotion. Your Dad was a good example to me of this reality lived out.
Thanks for this fine post. May it be heeded.
Blessigns on your labors,

Dane Ortlund said...

Thanks for the note Ray. Yes, may what we confess doctrinally ever inform how we behave relationally. Only by grace.

It's fun to hear of the connection between you and Dad. Blessings on your continued work at Union.