In Psalm 73, Asaph wrestles with one of the hardest truths with which we contend in this sinful and miserable world. Even in their great sin and evil, the wicked of this world seem always to prosper. Seldom does it seem to our tired and weary hearts that the most vile god-haters and sociopathic misanthropes (man-haters) are made to play the fool in public eye. Their deeds, far from being judged and punished in this life, seem to be rewarded. Their methods, far from being condemned as disobedient to God’s revealed will, are weighed for their worldly success and adopted even in many churches.
If we are honest, we can all tend toward a desire to weigh the world’s methods on the basis of outcome. This is the approach that was enshrined in the early 20th century American philosophy known as Pragmatism. Originally codified by men like William James and further developed in particular fields of study like education by men like John Dewey, Pragmatism teaches that the measurement and acceptance of a truth claim ought solely to hinge on the question of result.
Much work has been done to answer the claims of Pragmatism within secular fields of study. Sadly, one would be hard pressed to find even one book that addresses the widespread infiltration of Pragmatism into the church of God. We all recognize it as a concern, even a cancer eating away within Western churches, but where is the body of work addressing it head-on? Perhaps it goes unaddressed because no theological tradition is immune. Within a few generations of a practice being implemented within the church, usually within the realm of “Pastoral Theology,” it is weighed for its effectiveness and, if it proves successful or compelling, it becomes dogma.
As Christians, we must guard ourselves against such extra-biblical dogma. The creeds, confessions, and catechisms are good tools for pointing us to the main and plain truths of the Bible. Beyond those main and plain truths, we must be very wary of binding the hearts and minds of men. As we sojourn in this world, we will be inundated with the successes of men who gain success by the use of evil methods. We must not envy them. They will answer to God one day for the means they used to accomplish their ends, and so will we.