Theological Heroes and Villains

I want my heroes to be good, only good, and my villains to be bad, only bad. I can deal with this. The trouble comes when I see vices in my heroes and virtues in my villains. That is where it all gets complicated.

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This man has a long history of preaching and defending the gospel, but then he makes statements about the inerrancy of Scripture that leave me scratching my head. This woman has had a long and effective ministry of teaching the Bible, but then she allies herself with a ministry that I find very concerning and she quotes an author who is theologically dangerous. Or, on the flip side, this teacher has long questioned some important doctrines, but then he begins to say things that are not only helpful, but uniquely true and insightful.

The problem, I am convinced, is that we expect a kind of consistency that is just not realistic for people so deeply stained by sin. We want our heroes and our villains to be monolithic, to play their roles perfectly. But this world is rarely so clean and neat.

The fact is that we are all a mess of contradictions. We are a mess of contradictions who are highly attuned to other people’s, but blind to our own. We will joyfully believe both A and B, we will joyfully do both A and Not A, all the while thinking that we are being perfectly consistent. But we will not tolerate this in others.

If we demand utter consistency we will eventually abandon all our heroes and miss the virtues of our villains. We will end up on a lonely little island all alone, convinced that we are the only consistent people left. We will follow our consistency to isolation and despair.

I have my heroes just like you do. I have people that I admire, people with whom I have a kind of emotional or spiritual attachment. I may not even know them, but I still look up to them, value their opinions, and even model aspects of my life and faith on theirs. And when I see these contradictions in people who are so godly I can only assume that I must have some significant contradictions of my own. I assume that I am equally blind to these contradictions. I assume that I am equally convinced of the virtues of my vices.

I have learned that I need to choose my heroes carefully. I need to expect that my heroes will be flawed. I need to believe that I am flawed. And I need to force myself to remember that the best of men are but men at their best.

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