Why are we afraid of assertions?

(c) Flickr User: drgbb

(c) Flickr User: drgbb

I was reading a recently published commentary on the upcoming pericopes for the week. What struck me about the commentary is how mealy-mouthed the author is and unwilling to make assertions about what the text actually means. Here are some phrases that appeared as the commentary author was commenting on the text:  “probably not accidental” “probably conveys the thought” “[biblical event] qualifies as [something that fits the criteria described]” “it is tempting to see a parallel (without any indication as to whether such a temptation is to be pursued or rejected)”. These are taken from 3 consecutive verses of the commentary text.

After reading this section of the commentary, I found myself thinking of this quote of Martin Luther in BONDAGE OF THE WILL:

It is not the mark of a Christian mind to take no delight in assertions. On the contrary, a man must delight in assertions or he will be no Christian.


And by assertion— in order that we may not be misled by words– I mean a constant adhering, affirming, confessing, maintaining, and an invincible persevering. Nor, I think, does the word mean anything else either as used by the Latins or by us in our time.


I am speaking, moreover, about the assertion of those things which have been divinely transmitted to us in the sacred writings… Nothing is better known or more common among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions and you take away Christianity.

How far our theologians have come since the days of the great reformer – that we aren’t even willing to assert whether or not (and how) a passage refers to Jesus and his ministry.

To be fair, the text under consideration is a parable, and there is often contention in the interpretation of a parable.  Therefore, getting through “doctrinal review” is much like writing for a grade at the Seminary.  There is a great temptation to shy away from “dogmatic assertions.” Such assertions reveal the division between truth and falsehood – and we poor sinners often prefer to give up truth in order to maintain the outward sham that we are unified – or at least so we can wiggle and worm our way through the evaluation of others.

The quote from Luther indicates, such temptation is to be resisted.

God is not mealy-mouthed.  God tells it like it is.  And He tells it like it is in His Word.

While we ought to be humble to enough to acknowledge we were wrong when it has been proven from the Scriptures, the possibility that we are wrong should not keep us from making bold and confident assertions.  We ought seek for certainty in matters of faith and that includes the meaning of the Biblical text.  We dare not hid behind hedges and ambiguity for fear of a negative evaluation by others lest, by taking away assertions, we lose the faith as Luther indicates will happen when he says,  “Take away assertions and you take away Christianity.”

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