[notice]In a newsletter to prayer partners sent on the eve of his departure for the Executive Committee meeting of the Lausanne Congress in Jackson, Mississippi, next week, recently appointed honorary chair of the movement, Michael Cassidy, shares his thoughts on the biggest challenge facing the global church. He says he originally shared these thoughts in an interview with the Billy Graham Centre in Wheaton, Illinois.[/notice]
“In many ways I think that the biggest issue facing the global church is that of truth and the nature and reality of truth. I believe that while it is critically important to be tolerant and respectful of people with different religious views than our own, nevertheless the church dare not abandon its conviction of “true truth”, as Francis Schaeffer used to put it, that Jesus is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life.
“But the problem in many places is that the church has succumbed to post-modern-relativism where it has lost its belief in the Law of Antithesis which says two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time. In other words, A is not non-A. Thus if the Christian says Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead in a truly historic time-space moment, and that His death on the cross is vital in terms of our eternal salvation, and if the Muslim says that this is not so, namely that Jesus did not die on the cross, was not raised from the dead, but simply ascended into Heaven after His earthly life, then one cannot hold to the view that both these statements are true and equally valid. The law of contradiction and antithesis forbids this.
So if the church embraces both intellectual and moral relativism, then it cannot take a stand on the historic convictions and beliefs of the Christian faith. It cannot move out in strong and affirmative evangelism because this might seem intolerant of other beliefs and religious understandings. Thus the nerve of evangelism is cut and its urgency majorly diminished. The missionary motive is then significantly damaged and impaired and the practical outcome of sending passionate missionaries/Christian labourers to the ends of the world to preach the Gospel will simply find itself in steep decline.
“Yet the Great Commission given by our Lord in different forms at the end of the four Gospels and early in the book of Acts still stands before us in stark and deeply challenging terms. These Last Words of our Lord in His earthly ministry must surely be our First Concern.
“This requires the church to re-grasp the understanding of truth as coherence with the facts as they are, Truth being that which accords with reality on a one-to-one ratio. Thus in scientific terms we affirm as true truth that H2O is the correct formula for water, not H3O. In mathematical terms, 9×9=81, and it is not true that it is 91. So truth is that which accords with reality on a one-to-one ratio. Christians need to believe again in the true truth of biblical faith, in other words in the historicity of the events of Jesus’ life and the true truth of what He said. If the church loses this then we will have lost the day altogether.”
In this week’s newsletter, Cassidy urges his prayer partners to obtain a copy of The Cape Town Commitment, a Lausanne Movement document that he considers to be of immense theological and practical importance. He writes: “So, yes I do deeply believe in the Lausanne Movement as, together with the World Evangelical Alliance, it constitutes possibly the widest and most effective network of people concerned for world mission and evangelism today. In this regard I want to encourage all of you receiving this communication to try and acquire for yourselves The Cape Town Commitment (A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action). This can be read online through going to the Lausanne website – www.lausanne.org, or else you can find details there as to how to buy a printed/hard copy. But it is a totally splendid, and in my view, critically important statement of theological conviction and strategic action. Christopher Wright, the Chair of The Cape Town 2010 Statement working group has written: “The Cape Town Commitment is not the memorial of a moment. It is the conviction of a Movement and the voice of a multitude. It distils a vast quantity of input from the global church. We profoundly hope and pray that we are hearing not just the voice of Cape Town 2010, but the voice of Jesus Christ who walked among us there.
“In the opening section in Part II, The Cape Town Commitment says this about the Truth and the Person of Christ, and I think it is critically important for all of us to register afresh: “Jesus Christ is the truth of the universe. Because Jesus is truth, truth in Christ is (i) personal as well as propositional; (ii) universal as well as contextual; (iii) ultimate as well as present.
“A. As disciples of Christ we are called to be people of truth.
“(i) We must live the truth. To live the truth is to be the face of Jesus through whom the glory of the Gospel is revealed to blinded minds. People will see truth in the faces of those who live their lives for Jesus, in faithfulness and love.
“(ii) We must proclaim the truth. Spoken proclamation of the truth of the Gospel remains paramount in our mission. This cannot be separated from living out the truth. Works and words must go together.
“B. We urge church leaders, pastors and evangelists to preach and teach the fullness of the biblical Gospel as Paul did, in all its cosmic scope and truth. We must present the Gospel not merely as offering individual salvation, or a better solution to needs than other gods can provide, but as God’s plan for the whole universe in Christ. People sometimes come to Christ to meet a personal need, but they stay with Christ when they find Him to be the truth.”
He concludes by saying: “In an age which compromises truth as comprehensively as our own, this kind of affirmation taken on board throughout the global church, becomes a tremendous clarion call both to proclaim and to live the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not lose our nerve on that.”