The Importance of Assertions in the Christian Life

Throughout church history, one notices that those who make the strongest contributions to the Christian faith are those who mine out assertions and propositions from Holy Scriptures, rather than simply disregard doctrinal matters in favor of simple morality. 

While we can find numerous examples from church history, the latest I’ve come across is in revisiting Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will in which he responds to Erasmus of Rotterdam’s work on the issue of free will.  In Erasmus’ contention, this particular doctrine (or really any doctrine) in favor or living a good, moral life.   What matters is that “the world is at peace” (p. 69).  To deal with the issue at hand (free will) or any other assertion is “irreligious … idle … superfluous.” 

My issue lays not with the issue of free will, but with the issue of assertions and convictions from Holy Scripture.  Let’s listen to Dr. Luther on the matter:

To take no pleasure in assertions is not the mark of a Christian heart; indeed, one must delight in assertions to be a Christian at all. . . .  By ‘assertion,’ I mean staunchly holding your ground, stating your position, confessing it, defending it and persevering in it unvanquished. . . .  And I am talking about the assertion of what has been delivered to us from above in the Sacred Scriptures. . . .

Away, now, from us Sceptics and Academics from the company of us Christians; let us have men who will assert, men twice as inflexible as the Stoics!  Take the Apostle Paul—how often does he call for that ‘full assurance’ which is, simply, an assertion of conscience, of the highest degree of certainty and conviction.  In Rom. 10 he calls it ‘confession’—‘with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (v. 10).  Christ says, ‘Whosoever confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father’ (Matt. 10.32).  Peter commands us to give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3.15).  And what need is there of a multitude of proofs?  Nothing is more familiar or characteristic among Christians than assertion.  Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity. . . .

What Christian can endure the idea that we should deprecate assertions?  That would be denying all religion and piety in one breath—asserting that religion and piety and all dogmas are just nothing at all.  Why then do you – you!—assert that you find no satisfaction in assertions, and that you prefer an undogmatic temper to any other? (pp. 66-67)

When we make assertions about the lack of need of assertions, we make assertions!  All of us have our dogmas.  But Christians of all people must have those convictions come from Holy Scriptures.  To do anything less is to “take away Christianity.”

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