It is important to speak and write with conviction. Proverbs says somewhere “the fear of man brings a snare, but the fear of the Lord brings safety.” When we speak and write as theologians, Christians, we should do so coram Deo, before the ‘audience of One,’ and allow that reality be what determines how we communicate. The Apostle Paul wrote this in various contexts:
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1.10
4 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time,before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. I Corinthians 4.1-5
For the Apostle Paul it was the reality of the Gospel that shaped his con-versation; he did not speak or write to please men, but instead He spoke with the approval of God in mind. Furthermore, and quite interestingly, Paul’s speech was eschatologically oriented; in other words, His speech, Gospel-speech has a different court to be accountable to, not the court of humanity, but the court of God. He was willing to speak boldly for the Gospel’s sake, and ignore the judgments of men while anticipating the judgment of God. He knew that the Gospel (Jesus Christ) was His Savior, and at the “end” (eschaton) His Gospel-speech would be found adequate because of the adequacy of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 3); this gave him the boldness he often asked prayer for in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Jesus in his dominical teaching in the Gospel of John said this:
41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5.41-44
This is the iteration from the Lord that Paul in his writings above would have been reiterating; if we are so worried about receiving the approval of men, and seeking the glory of man (versus the theology of the cross) we will be cultivating a life of unbelief; even and especially when we are waxing eloquent platitudes about theological reality.
As theologians, Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ we need to speak the Gospel boldly, for therein is the power of God! I think this axiom applies even more pointedly to theologians who regularly traffic in theological discussion. It is this danger (the approval of men and women) that I believe professional theologians are most prone to. Things are rigged in such a way, in academia, wherein the approval of others becomes tantamount to career upward mobility (i.e. peer reviewed etc.). The theologian, and Christian in general will do well to heed Jesus’ and the Apostle Paul’s warnings to speak, communicate Gospel reality eschatologically; the kind of communication that inherently is shaped by fear of God rather than fear of man. He is able to put us where He wants us, He is able to open career paths despite the political apparatus in place within Christian academia. I believe He uses Christian academia, usually inspite of itself, as such, we need to be good and obedient stewards and speak boldly as we ought to, having a speech seasoned with grace for the hearers.
Speak the Gospel boldly for it is the power of God!