Suffering and the Christian understanding of truth

No Christian teacher is worth listening to who is not willing to suffer if need be for the truth that is being taught. The readiness to suffer for the sake of the truth is intrinsic to the whole fabric of Christian living, and hence teaching, and thus not an optional part of the equation of the equipping of the public teacher of Christianity.

Paul’s teaching was personally validated by his willingness to be “exposed to hardship, even to the point of being shut up like a common criminal; but the word of God is not shut up” (2 Tim. 2:9). Some hearers will find in the truth of the one who was “nailed to the cross” merely a “stone of stumbling” and “folly” (1 Cor. 1:23; cf. Rom. 8:17, 18). Jesus did not hesitate to make it clear that his disciples must be prepared to “be handed over for punishment and execution; and men of all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me.”

The truth, Christianly understood, is an event in history, a birth, death, and resurrection, God’s own personal coming to us in mercy and grace, a Word spoken through a personal life lived, a personal event in which we are called personally to participate. To tell the truth rightly is to follow the one who is truth.

The “right method” for guarding Christian truth was set forth in Luther’s three concise instructions: oratio, meditatio, tentatio – first by prayer, then by textual meditation, but decisively by suffering temptation and the experience of testing through affliction. Listen to him poignantly acknowledge how much he owed to his enemies: “Through the raging of the devil they have so buffeted, distressed, and terrified me that they have made me a fairly good theologian, which I would not have become without them.”

Thomas C. Oden, Defending the Faith: Christian Apologetics in a Non-Christian World, paper presented at The 1995 Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting

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