A Worldview Wheel II
We have seen that a worldview consists of four basic elements—catechesis, lifestyle, symbol/liturgy, and narrative. We need to consider each of these in turn, and see the necessity of the right connection of each to the grace of God.
“But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).
Christians are inescapably logocentric. Christ Himself is the Word of God, and we learned about Him from the words of His messengers. The word of faith is preached (v. 8), and it is heard by the listeners. Those listening have the word near them—in their hearts and in their mouths. That which was in the mouth of the preacher is now in the mouth of the convert. It is in the mouth of the convert because it is in the heart of the convert, and it is there because it is in the heart of the preacher. Now what St. Paul urges here is confession and faith. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (v. 9) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (v. 9), you will be saved. Now these truths overlap and indwell one another; we are not supposed to put them end to end. That means that you also have to believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, and confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the death. The apostle shows that there is a close bond between the thoughts of the heart and the confession of the mouth. The two can be separated, but only because of sin. When a man is whole, his heart and his mouth speak the same propositional truths.
Basic Christian Confession:
In the early years of the Church, assaults against the truth came in the form of various denials of the confession outlined above. In response to this, the Church faithfully confessed the truth. These basic confessions are still in use today; they are the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. What was the point of these confessions? They were, respectively, confessions of the rooted historical nature of the gospel, the fact that Jesus is God, and that Jesus is fully man and fully God. I say that this is basic Christian confession because these creeds draw the line separating true Christians from heretics.
Mature Christian Confession:
As the Church grew and matured over time, the result was a refined and increasingly mature understanding of many issues contained within Scripture. The Bible talks about a lot of things, and not all of them are about the battle between faith and unbelief. As a result, many reformational confessions addressed issues which separate Christians from Christians. The 39 Articles are held by the historic Anglicans; the Three Forms of Unity are held by the Continental Reformed; the Westminster Confession is held by Reformed Christians in the English-speaking world; the Augsburg Confession is held by Lutherans, etc. This is not to say that the distinctives set forth in one or more of these confessions are unimportant; they are frequently very important. But the differences between the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession are not heaven/hell important. They are wet baby/dry baby important. The original point of confessions was to distinguish the Church from the world. The Reformation era brought us to the point where they began to be used to distinguish one part of the Church from another part of the Church.
Immature Use of Mature Confession:
At the beginning, the impulse was the same as it had been in the early Church, which was to distinguish the truth from heresy—this was the point of the Protesting Catholics setting forth their testimony and confession over against the Roman Catholics. But it was not long before the sidelong glances began. That which would justify Westminster against Trent does not justify Westminster against Augsburg. The former is in the spirit of the early Church; the latter can turn into mere factionalism or sectarianism. These are “our distinctives. We are theonomic, postmillennial, presuppositional, liturgical and . . .” But distinctives to separate from people that Christ has not separated from is illegitimate. Distinctives offered in charity will be how the Church matures and grows. Distinctives offered with pride and contempt will have the opposite effect.
Heart and Mouth:
Returning to our text, we should see that in Paul’s mind, the heart and mouth speak with one voice. When this occurs, salvation occurs. When this occurs, to return to our illustration of the wheel, there is no break between the axle and the spoke of what is affirmed with the mouth. When someone affirms with the mouth what he denies in the heart, the wheel is broken. That denial might be simple hypocrisy, seen when someone joins a church simply because of the business contacts he thinks he will find there, or perhaps to “meet girls.” Or the denial might be a convoluted and theologically sophisticated hypocrisy, seen in much liberal and postmodern thought. “What does it mean to affirm, exactly? And are we assuming too much about referentiality? And isn’t it more important that people preach that Christ rose from the dead than to affirm in a crude and fundamentalist kind of way that He actually did?”
The Gift of God:
The use of propositions to confess our faith is absolutely essential. And the fact that we confess something with our mouth (and that doing so is essential to salvation) means that we do presuppose certain things about language. Language is a trustworthy gift from a trustworthy God; it is not an evolutionary by-product. Adam was created speaking. Our toddlers are born as naming creatures, and they grow up into it. This is also the grace of God.
Now what should we do with grace? What are we to do with a gift? We are to simply receive it, with gratitude. We are not to over-analyze it. We are not to over-engineer it. We must not become victims of a false analogy. It is wrong-headed to say that “we build telescopes, but cannot see God. We build listening devices, but cannot hear God. And we invent languages, but cannot talk with or about God . . .” It is false to say that we invented the idea of propositions; they are the sheer grace of God—whether we want to say the magazine is on the end table or Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.