I was reading a review of Andrew Sullivan’s new book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back by Mark Gauvreau Judge of Christianity Today.
He doesn’t think much of the book, primarily it seems because Sullivan writes that we are bound by our culture, time, and place and because of this and other reasons we cannot know for sure. Sullivan separates “conservatism” from “fundamentalism.” Fundamentalists, it seems, say that “we know!” From the review, it seems Sullivan claims that true conservatives are willing to say “we are not sure” or â€œwe do not know.â€ I havenâ€™t read the book, so I am relying on Judgeâ€™s review of the book.
Here’s the thing: there are large swaths of the Church that feel that they must say “we know!” They do not separate empirically confirmed knowledge from belief or faith. Our Christian life is based on what? Fact or Faith? It is based on faith because it is not empirically provable. It is metaphysics, not physics. Scripture says in I Corinthians 13:12
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
There are those who convince themselves that what they believe is absolute and without question – making what is held by faith into something of fact. They must deny the truth in order to believe the Truth. I can say with all expectation that I am saved through Jesus Christ, but what proves it? Nothing empirically – it is only by faith that it is realized within me. Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
â€For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithâ€”and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godâ€” not by works, so that no one can boast.â€
Well then, of course, anyone who does not agree with the “facts” is apostate and cannot know God. Yet, Scripture tells us that we will not fully (exactly) know what is the Truth of God until we see Him face-to-face.
This isn’t relativism as it has been known. It is humility. It is humility in the sense that we do not think that in this time and in this place and in this culture that we have all knowledge, all that is necessary to know, or that we are now for the first time capable to knowing all things. It simply is not the case, and to claim otherwise is contrary to reason, tradition, and Scripture. Paul wrote, “I know that I know that I know….” We can claim the same and it is true to us, but the assertion is based on faith.
So, if Sullivan will not confirm to this swath of the Church that there are certain things we must know absolutely and without question and can know as “fact,” then he is (we are) what?, a relativist, an agnostic, a person believing contrary to the Truth of God. If Judge is accurate concerning what Sullivan honestly believes, and if Judge demands that Sullivan is in grave error if he says, “I’m not sure,” then perhaps Judge is a fundamentalist after all, and not a true conservative.
It is hard to truly move within an intrinsic sense of humility â€“ I do not know everything and I could be wrong. It is God-given as we yield ourselves to formation in Godâ€™s ways. Oh, that we are able to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.