Skip to comments.Dr. Os Guinness: "The Great War of Words"
Posted on 07/19/2006 4:40:13 PM PDT by sionnsar
As part of a series of sermons at The Falls Church in Virginia on "Isaiah and the Politics of Faith", Dr. Os Guinness, the noted Anglican theologian and writer, preached this sermon titled The Great War of Words. This sermon is based on the account of the invasion of Judah during the reign of Hezekiah by Sennacherib of Assyria, narrated in Isaiah 36-37. Dr. Guinness looks at this, gives us some very good exposition of the passage, and then gives us these points to apply to our lives today:
What can we take home to apply to our lives today? Let me give you two things to think about. First, here is a thought for each one of us personally. I said last time that if our God is the one true living God, then even in a day of titanic superpowers and huge forces and fears, two things are true: God is greater than all. And God can be trusted in all situations. Which leads in turn to two practical conclusions Isaiah emphasizes: Have faith in God. And Have no fear.I have to say that Dr. Guinness' question, Do we, in all our thinking and living, make and keep the Word of God supreme? is perhaps the most important question we can ask ourselves as Christians seeking to live coram Deo, "before the face of God." May we indeed seek to make this a reality in our lives.
But in light of this extraordinary story we can sharpen these points further. First, we are never better off than when we trust God plus nothing, even when we suffer the indignity of knowing thats all we can do. Second, we are never better off than when we so depend on God that whoever attacks us find themselves attacking God.
Second, let me share another thought for all of us together as the people of God. Is the word of God as decisive, independent, and authoritative for us as it is in this story? There is something about the role of the prophet in this story that is not immediately obvious. If you compare Judah/Israel to all the nations of the world at that time, all other nations had as their chief political officer a warrior-king. And that notion of governance flows down through historykings who lead their armies, presidents who are commanders-in-chief, and so on. But Israel was different. God was their Warrior-King, and under God were various political officers such as the king, but in situations like this one the Chief Political Officer, as it were, was the prophet -- who represented a direct communication and a decisive corrective from God.
In other words, the Jews had their own distinctive separation of powers long before Switzerland or the United States, but the most independent, decisive, and authoritative voice was not the kings, although he had the power of the sword and the purse. It was the prophets, although he had absolutely no power except that of the Word. In the history of Israel, kingship was a temptation to follow the surrounding nations, and the prophets were often opposed to the kings because they politicized power at the expense of the authority of the Word.
Now look at Christian history. Again and again we see two equal and opposite problems. One is the privatization of preaching making faith purely private and spiritual. This error strikes at the integration of faith in the whole of life. That is a massive problem in many parts of the church today. But another problem is the politicization of preaching making faith serve political interests and agendas, so that the church becomes a political party at prayer. This error strikes at the independence and the authority of the Word over the whole of life, including political life. To be sure, much of the church in America is privatized, and it is understandable why people, reacting to a faith that is privately engaging, publicly irrelevant should swing towards the old temptation of the power of the king in other words, the power of the sword (or ballot box). But we need to recognize the other danger too.
Dont misunderstand me. For lay people to be living and working in the political world is a calling that is not only legitimate but critical, and many of you are distinguished examples of that calling. But the preachers calling is to preach the Word decisively, independently, and authoritatively, without fear or favor, and never subject to any agenda or interest. When the Word is made to serve any political agenda or interest as happened when Constantine reached for the power of the church, or when the Renaissance popes reached for the power of the state the church is secularized and loses its voice and its authority in a culture. This danger has grown serious in America in the last generation, and we must recognize and resist it. For the people of God, the Word is always above the sword and the purse, and above all earthly powers.
Needless to say, the importance of the true person of the Word also creates a need to recognize false prophets and sadly we have them today. For example, we have recently seen a Christian leader who, not for the first time, is saying things in the name of the Lord whose content is not right, and then retracting it. The Scriptures teach us to judge the content of a prophets word and to test whether his words come true. But it is surely a modern mark of a false prophet that they retract and apologize for what they said earlier in the name of the Lord. No true prophet ever apologizes or retracts what God has told him to say.
Along with false authorities, we now have the problem of other authorities people who rely on authorities other than the Word. In the liberal wing of the church we have many who are baptizing the gospel into the latest ideas of our culture, and preaching that instead of the Word. And in the last few years we have conservatives whose passionate pursuit of relevance is a similar use of the latest insights and techniques.
Is the word of God decisive for us as the people of God? I am a layman, not a clergyman, and it is a great privilege to be invited to take part in this series with John. But I would say to you as a layperson with a profound reverence for the Word and the place of the Word, Do we, in all our thinking and living, make and keep the Word of God supreme?
When the lesson was read earlier in the service, we responded to the final words, The Word of the Lord, by saying: Thanks be to God. That response must never be a cliché or a mere ritual, but a decisive reality in our lives. Let us make it so and keep it so.
Ping to read later
Finish reading later. I love Oz.
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