The Expository Files.


Elenctics

 

Last month, while downloading several digests and pieces of listmail, I ran across this quote from the list that distributes quotes from John Stott. Mr. Stott does not always say all I would like for him to say, and we do not share a common heritage. But he can say some things that need to be said. For instance ...

Tuesday, September 10, 1996
ENCOUNTERS WITH MEN OF OTHER FAITHS
We do not . . . deny that there are elements of truth in non-Christian systems, vestiges of the general revelation of God in nature. What we do vehemently deny is that these are sufficient for salvation and (more vehemently still) that Christian faith and non-Christian faiths are alternative and equally valid roads to God. Although there is an important place for 'dialogue' with men of other faiths . . . , there is also a need for 'encounter' with them, and even for 'confrontation', in which we seek both to disclose the inadequacies and falsities of non-Christian religion and to demonstrate the adequacy and truth, absoluteness and finality of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This work is technically called 'elenctics', from the Greek verb elengchein, to 'convince', 'convict' or 'rebuke', and so to call to repentance. J. H. Bavinck . . . defines it as 'the science which unmasks to heathendom all false religions as sin against God and . . . calls heathendom to a knowledge of the only true God'.... I wish only to draw attention now to a few of his main points.

First, the purpose of elenctics is not to 'show the absurdity of heathendom', still less to ridicule other religions or their adherents. It refers chiefly 'to the conviction and unmasking of sin, and to the call to responsibility'. 'In all elenctics the concern is always with the all-important question: "what have you done with God?"'

Next, the justification for this task is the Bible itself, for 'the Bible from the first page to the last is a tremendous plea against heathenism, against the paganizing tendencies in Israel itself, in short, against the corruption of religion'.

Thirdly, elenctics is not the harsh or negative activity it may sound. It 'can be exercised only in living contact with the adherents of other religions'. So 'in practice I am never concerned with Buddhism, but with a living person and his Buddhism, I am never in contact with Islam but with a Moslem and his Mohammedanism'. Further, this living contact must also be a loving contact. . . .

A fourth and final point is that ultimately elenctics is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is he who 'convicts' of sin, righteousness and judgement. . . .

The very concept of 'elenctics' is out of accord with the diffident, tolerant mood of today. But no Christian who accepts the biblical view of the evil of idolatry on the one hand and of the finality of Jesus Christ on the other can escape it. . . .

-- John Stott
Excerpted from "Christian Mission in the Modern World"
with permission of the publisher, InterVarsity Press.

 By Warren E. Berkley  
The Final Page
 From Expository Files 3.10; October 1996

 

 

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