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  • Christy Wang

Combating Self-Righteousness

Part II

As Christians, we are certainly called to resist the postmodern objection to the existence of an objective reality and the truthfulness of a God who reveals Himself in both nature and Scripture. However, we must also deconstruct the myth that there has always been only one, unchangeable set of ‘truths’ or one single biblically-mandated way of worship and church government that Christians of all ages hold to. For someone like me who adheres to the Reformed tradition and considers themselves a conservative evangelical, an acknowledgement of other denominations as well as respect for different theological strains within the Church of England is still important. As is a genuine love and support for fellow Bible-believing Anglicans.


Historian J.H. Hexter is certainly right that labelling, or 'the fabrication of epithet' is 'the only technique of warfare in which the Industrial Revolution has wrought no perceptible improvement.'[1] We continue to sow unnecessary divisions today. 'Charismatic,' 'evangelical,' 'conservative' could be helpful terms that denote specific viewpoints we interact with, but very often, either on social media or in everyday conversations, they become ideologically loaded labels we used to push down those we disagree with or epithets we use to indicate more than what the terms signify literally.


Over this past year, the student I meet with on Saturday has been burdened by the fact that she occasionally feels side-lined or not as valued by other Christian friends because the church she attends is not the church that everybody else goes to. She feels like her opinions about faith or CU activities are not as appreciated as others’ because things she says will always be put under scrutiny by those who consider themselves more theologically sound. Tensions like these operate within a church or a close-knit theological circle as well. A like-minded writer can be labelled by fellow complementarian Christians as a 'dangerous feminist in disguise' conspiring to take over the church when his or her book on gender did not explicitly teach their versions of godly submission. A public theologian can also be denounced as participants in the wicked schemes of anti-Christs when they refuse to endorse 'the Christian party”' in an election. We might have also seen friends who left the church because church leaders have not been promoting the 'biblical view' on lockdowns and mask-wearing. Divisions over the boundary of orthodoxy continue, and very often, things that should be undisputedly indifferent to the fundamentals of the Gospel take centre stage.


And yet more often, many of us who consider ourselves moderate both theologically and politically, struggle with dealing with those Christians who seem different or even 'radical' to ourselves. Instead of regarding them with love, and moderation, we secretly condemn them in our hearts and distance ourselves from them, reinforcing existing divides. Perhaps a sense of self-righteousness often prevails in us, even though we are called to imitate the love and humility of our Lord who died for us and has united us to Him as His body. Rather than loving our brothers and sisters who are different from us with a Christ-like love, we too often label them as the religious 'other'. Perhaps a way to start cultivating unity as individual believers is to engage more deeply with real people in real relationships. To walk alongside our friends with genuine respect, love, and humility and not to dislike or reject them when differences emerged, even when we firmly believe that they are in the wrong.

[1] J.H. Hexter, “The Problem of the Presbyterian Independents,” The American Historical Review 44, no. 1 (Oct 1938), 48.

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Christy Wang is currently doing a PhD at the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University. Her research is on the Dynamism and Fluidity in the Shaping of Puritan Church Polities 1628-1680

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