Friday, December 14, 2007

Pilgrim or Soldier?

I was reading from Gary North's book today which you can download for free here entitled Backward Christian Soldiers. He was comparing the old Hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" to another hymn "Wayfaring Stranger." Although most people know the soldier hymn better, today they are more likely to have the stranger attitude. Since most Christians, at least in America, travel in style, comfortable and happy, they seem to prefer the pilgrim paradigm more than the soldier one.

North gives the example of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Christian, in the allegory, was basically just an unemployed drifter before conversion and an unemployed traveler after. He didn't seem to have any means of support or calling. Christian kind of just plods on through life. Bunyan, who was just a tinker in real life, at least contributed to the market and culture with a valuable service. Christian, in the story, seems to be more of a vagrant. I've always like Pilgrim's Progress but I think North brings up a good point here.

The pilgrim paradigm emphasizes internal and personal struggles over sin rather than external enemies. The soldier moves from boot camp and training into the battlefield where he knows he has real enemies to fight. The pilgrim is introspective and struggling constantly within himself. He is at war with his flesh but not with his external environment. All the allegorical characters of Pilgrim's Progress were external representations of internal enemies like vanity, doubt and despair. While the pilgrim is just passing through the soldier is more about conquering and dominion (overcoming evil by doing good).

Gary North gives another example from the seventeenth-century book by William Gurnall entitled The Christian in Complete Armor. North calls this book the most "detailed pilgrim manual." The book devotes over 2000 pages to every possible personal temptation imaginable except, unfortunately, the temptations of the battlefield. Gurnall didn't want to get involved with the great theological battles of his day. He insured his income as a State-certified pastor by signing the Act of Uniformity in 1662 while 2000 puritan pastors were thrown from their pulpits or thrown into jail for refusing to sign.

As North points out: "Gurnall preferred a life of irrelevance, warring with his own internal lusts, ignoring the external civil issues of his day. However harrowing his internal battles may have been, this pilgrim made his journey through his environment in comfort and relative safety." The battlefield is not safe. People get hurt and killed. They don't get paid much and they are always at risk.

We are, in one sense, pilgrims who are here today and will be gone tomorrow. But there is also a war going on between the Kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. We do have to fight against our internal temptations and struggles but that is for the purpose of making us better soldiers. "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Tim 2:3-4) The struggle within is not an end in itself. It only prepares us to fight the real battle within the culture.

We shouldn't be content to just be pilgrim survivors who lost the earth and made it through to heaven and took a few with us on the way. We must pray that we can be used by God as soldiers of Christ to bring God's will and way to our culture on earth as it is in heaven. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Their is work to be done here and now. Christ is reigning and giving His faithful followers dominion in the earth.

1 comment:

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