Against All the World
Athanasius, early bishop of Alexandria, stoutly opposed the teachings of Arius, who declared that Christ was not the eternal Son of God, but a subordinate being. Hounded through five exiles, he was finally summoned before emperor Theodosius, who demanded he cease his opposition to Arius. The emperor reproved him and asked, “Do you not realize that all the world is against you?” Athanasius quickly answered, “Then I am against all the world.”
An Open Mind
An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.
C.S. Lewis, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Volume 4/Number 5, p. 16
An Open Mind is Nothing
Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid. - G.K. Chesterton
Battle Is Your Calling
When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith. - Abraham Kuyper
Conviction versus Preference
Difference between a conviction and a preference, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. A preference is a very strong belief, held with great strength. You can give your entire life in a full-time way to the service of the preference, and can also give your entire material wealth in the name of the belief. You can also energetically proselytize others to your preference. You can also want to teach this belief to your children, and the Supreme court may still rule that it is a preference. A preference is a strong belief, but a belief that you will change under the right circumstances. Circumstances such as: 1) peer pressure; if your beliefs are such that other people stand with you before you will stand, your beliefs are preferences, not convictions, 2) family pressure, 3) lawsuits, 4) jail, 5) threat of death; would you die for your beliefs? A conviction is a belief that you will not change. Why? A man believes that his God requires it of him. Preferences aren’t protected by the constitution. Convictions are. A conviction is not something that you discover, it is something that you purpose in your heart (cf. Daniel 1, 2-3). Convictions on the inside will always show up on the outside, in a person’s lifestyle. To violate a conviction would be a sin.
David C. Gibbs, Jr. Christian Law Association, P.O. Box 30290, Cleveland, Ohio 44130
Courage of their Convictions
I am tired of hearing about men with the “courage of their convictions.” Nero and Caligula and Attila and Hitler had the courage of their convictions—but not one had the courage to examine his convictions, or to change them, which is the true test of character.
Sydney Harris in Bits and Pieces, Oct. 1991
Elijah Lovejoy (clergyman)
That great American hero, editor, school teacher, and Presbyterian clergyman Elijah Lovejoy left the pulpit and returned to the press in order to be sure his words reached more people. The Civil War might have been averted and a peaceful emancipation of slaves achieved had there been more like him. After observing one lynching, Lovejoy was committed forever to fighting uncompromisingly the awful sin of slavery. Mob action was brought against him time after time; neither this nor many threats and attempts on his life deterred him. Repeated destruction of his presses did not stop him. “If by compromise is meant that I should cease from my duty, I cannot make it. I fear God more that I fear man. Crush me if you will, but I shall die at my post...” And he did, four days later, at the hands of another mob. No one of the ruffians was prosecuted or indicted or punished in any way for this murder. (Some of Lovejoy’s defenders were prosecuted! One of the mob assassins was later elected mayor of Alton!) However, note this: One young man was around who was deeply moved by the Lovejoy martyrdom. He had just been elected to the Illinois legislature. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
Paul Simon, “Elijah Lovejoy,” Presbyterian Life, 18:13 (November 1, 1965), quoted in K. Mennenger, Whatever Became of Sin, p. 210
Fiddler on the Roof
Tevye, the Jewish dairy farmer in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, lives with his wife and five daughters in czarist Russia. Change is taking place all around him and the new patterns are nowhere more obvious to Tevye than in the relationship between the sexes. First, one of his daughters announces that she and a young tailor have pledged themselves to each other, even though Tevye had already promised her to the village butcher, a widower. Initially Tevye will not hear of his daughter’s plans, but he finally has an argument with himself and decides to give in to the young lovers’ wishes. A second daughter also chooses the man she wants to marry: an idealist revolutionary. Tevye is rather fond of him, and, after another argument with himself, he again concedes to the changing times.
A while later, Tevye’s third daughter wishes to marry. She has fallen in love with a young Gentile. This violates Tevye’s deepest religious convictions: it is unthinkable that one of his daughters would marry outside the faith. Once again, he has an argument with himself. He knows that his daughter is deeply in love, and he does not want her to be unhappy. Still, he cannot deny his convictions. “How can I turn my back on my faith, my people?” he asks himself. “If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!” Tevye pauses and begins a response: “On the other hand...” He pauses again, and then he shouts: “No! There is no other hand!”
Uncommon Decency, Richard J. Mouw, pp.123-124
Sociology professor Anthony Campolo recalls a deeply moving incident that happened in a Christian junior high camp where he served. One of the campers, a boy with spastic paralysis, was the object of heartless ridicule. When he would ask a question, the boys would deliberately answer in a halting, mimicking way.
One night his cabin group chose him to lead the devotions before the entire camp. It was one more effort to have some “fun” at his expense. Unashamedly the spastic boy stood up, and in his strained, slurred manner—each word coming with enormous effort—he said simple, “Jesus loves me—and I love Jesus!” That was all.
Conviction fell upon those junior-highers. Many began to cry. Revival gripped the camp. Years afterward, Campolo still meets men in the ministry who came to Christ because of that testimony.
Our Daily Bread, April 1, 1993
He Believes What He Preaches
David Hume, 18th century British philosopher who rejected historic Christianity, once met a friend hurrying along a London street and asked where he was going. The friend said he was off to hear George Whitfield preach. “But surely you don’t believe what Whitfield preaches do you?” “No, I don’t, but he does.”
J.R.W. Stott, Between Two Worlds, p. 270
High School Rap Session
I was once conducting a rap session with high school teenagers. I told them that they could ask me any question on any subject, and I would try and answer it. Their questions were typical of ones I had received in similar sessions scores of times before. As the session drew to a close, one girl toward the back, who had not said anything, raised her hand. I nodded, and she said, “The Bible says God loves everybody. Then it says that God sends people to hell. How can a loving God do that?”
I gave her my answer, and she came back to me with arguments. I answered her arguments, and she answered my answers. The conversation quickly degenerated into an argument. I did not convince her, nor did she convince me. After a few more questions I dismissed the session. After the session I approached her and said, “I owe you an apology. I really should not have allowed our discussion to become so argumentative.” Then I asked, “May I share something with you?” She said, “Yes.” So I took her through a basic presentation of the gospel. When I got to Romans 3:23 and suggested that all of us were sinners she began to cry. It was then that this high school senior admitted she had been having an affair with a married man. The one thing she needed was forgiveness. When I finished the presentation of the gospel, she trusted Christ. The reason she did not believe in hell was because she was going there. In her heart she knew she had sinned. Her conscience condemned her, but rather than face the fact of her guilt, she simply denied any future judgment or future hell.
Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, p. 163
Macready the Actor
There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: “I wish you would explain to me something.” “Well, what is it? I don’t know that I can explain anything to a preacher.” “What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.” Macready’s answer was this: “This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.”
G. Campbell Morgan, Preaching, p. 36
Make Up Your Mind
If you don’t make up your mind, your unmade mind will unmake you. - E. Stanley Jones
Preaching Resources, Spring 1996, p. 71.
What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.
G.K. Chesterton, in Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 65.
A well-known professional golfer was playing in a tournament with President Gerald Ford, fellow pro Jack Nicklaus, and Billy Graham. After the round was over, one of the other pros on the tour asked, “Hey, what was it like playing with the President and Billy Graham?” The pro said with disgust, “I don’t need Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat!” With that he headed for the practice tee. His friend followed, and after the golfer had pounded out his fury on a bucket of golf balls, he asked, “Was Billy a little rough on you out there?” The pro sighed and said with embarrassment, “No, he didn’t even mention religion.” Astonishingly, Billy Graham had said nothing about God, Jesus, or religion, yet the pro stomped away after the game accusing Billy of trying to ram religion down his throat.
R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God
What Kind of Flower?
“What kind of flower is that in your buttonhole?” a fellow asked his friend.
“Why, that’s a chrysanthemum,” answered the friend.
“It looks like a rose to me.”
“No, you’re wrong. It’s a chrysanthemum,” insisted the friend.
“Spell it,” the fellow said.
“K-r-i-s-, no it’s K-h-r-y-, no it must be C-r-i-s-...By golly, you’re right. It is a rose.”
Winston K. Pendleton, 2121 Funny Stories and How to Tell Them (Bethany)