Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
In John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress there was an individual who fit the nominalist or practical atheist category. Talkative professed faith in Christ and he knew the language to speak, but it had no ultimate impact on his life. It was, as observed by Eric Metaxas, a “talkative faith.” This, he observes, is a good explanation of the many Christians who live as practical/sexual atheists in which God’s truth does not influence, affect or determine ethical/moral/sexual behavior.
On their way to the Celestial City, Christian and Faithful meet a fellow traveler at Vanity Fair with the name Talkative. He knew many truths and had many good things to say about Christianity. Christian was concerned because Talkative had previously been his neighbor. He had observed his life, and there appeared to be a disconnect between his lips and his life. Christian explains, “Religion has no place in his heart, or home, or manner of living. All that he stands for is based upon his tongue; to make a noise with it is of the very essence of his religion . . . there is neither prayer nor any sign of repentance for sin.”
Both Christian and Faithful attempted to persuade Talkative of the gospel of Jesus Christ which was to result in a change, a transformation of one’s life, but it was futile. After this lengthy and protracted conversation Faithful concludes, “I see now that saying and doing are two different things.”
Talkative had a talkative faith but no walkative faith.
It is not an either/or but a both/and. The gospel of Jesus Christ is received and it transforms one’s life from the inside out. One must remember to put together (not pit against) the teaching of Romans and James. It is the foundation (Romans) and fruit (James) of the gospel of Jesus Christ: those who have been made righteous by faith (Rom. 1:17; cf. Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), live by faith (Jms. 2:21-26). It is vital to reiterate that it is not doing good or good behavior or reforming morals that make one a Christian. But a Christian, one who has been made new (2 Cor. 5:17), will have a changed life and will do good (Eph. 2:10) to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
As those truly transformed and being transformed, let’s be talkative (the gospel is good news that must be believed and proclaimed) and walkative!