Al Gooderham has been in good form of late, offering some really helpful reflections. Here he thinks about the idea of the pastor’s sabbatical. I agree with his main concerns here.
‘B.B. Warfield was already registering doubts about the meaning of the term “evangelical” in 1915. The current religious debates we often see as brand new (such as “who is an evangelical?”) have deep historical roots. Warfield’s onetime Princeton colleague J. Gresham Machen, a founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and of Westminster Theological Seminary, also faced the question of what orthodox Presbyterians should call themselves.’
‘Whenever I teach on Islam, whether at seminary or in a church, I invariably get asked questions that begin like this: “What would a Muslim think about…?” My standard response is another question: “Which Muslim?” Imagine someone asking a parallel question: “What would a Christian think about such-and-such?” Well, what kind of Christian?’
This was an interesting case.
‘It really is better to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23) and to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor. 5:8). But if we stop there, if that is all we say, we’re missing the really good bit, because the pinnacle of Christian hope is not release but resurrection; it is not that we would be released from the pain and suffering which comes from having a physical body, but that we would be resurrected with a physical body that will never experience pain and suffering.’
This is an important reminder – the gospel really is urgent and the Lord gives us the friends he gives us for a reason, doesn’t he? ‘Our friendships are not cosmic accidents. They are ordained by God. But why does God ordain our relationships? What’s the point? What are we supposed to do with our friends and family, our coworkers and neighbors?’
‘It is a sad state of affairs that we struggle to get people to come simply out of gospel concern. Perhaps to resolve this problem we need to consider incentivising workers to move to deprived communities in need of more resources. The problem, at heart, is esentially still a problem of the heart. The question for the Evangelical church at large is how do we get our overwhelmingly middle class and white people to move to places full of people not like them? We need to revive the missionary spirit in order to see the urban poor and BME people won for Christ.’