The Gospel Coalition website offers an article by Trevin Wax entitled 60 years of ‘Honest to God’.  Sixty years ago, I was a young freshman at Augsburg College, having spent the previous two years at a Lutheran Bible school in California.  As a recent convert determined not to lose his faith, I had my testimony of new life in Christ and a deep commitment to the Word of God as my guide to both life and practice.  Bishop A. T. Robinson’s book Honest to God came as a shock to my newly-formed biblical frame of reference.  I vividly remember struggling with some of the bishop’s proposals. 

Feeling inadequate to respond to Robinson’s book, I asked whether I should I cling to my orthodox faith as I prepared to become a pastor. Should I reconsider restating “traditional orthodoxy in modern terms” in order to reach an increasingly secular culture?  The bishop warned that the survival of Christianity was at stake.  “There is no time to lose” in seeking to “recapture ‘secular’ man.”  According to the bishop, the church needed radical change, embracing a “metamorphosis of Christian belief and practice,” while calling for a recasting that would “leave the fundamental truth of the Gospel unaffected,” yet still requiring “everything to go into the melting – even our most cherished religious categories and moral absolutes.”  I wondered what that would mean.

I am very thankful that I weathered the spiritual storm caused by Honest to God. I remember being unsettled with Robinson’s criticism of “supernaturalism” and “the miraculous.” I felt my own personal experience as a believer was under attack.  I had my testimony but did not have the spiritual maturity to disprove Robinson’s point of view.  In the words of Trevin Wax, Robinson believed that “the church should heed the naturalist critique of supernaturalism because it exposed many of Christianity’s cherished beliefs as ‘an idol’ we must no longer cling to.”

Wax observes, “Now that postmodern waves have crashed upon modernity’s shore… Robinson’s ‘recasting’ looks like little more than an outdated attempt to curry favor with people who have ‘come of age’… What the church needs most isn’t another proposal that integrates Christianity from the vantage point of our contemporary sensibilities but leaders who interrogate our current moment from the vantage point of historic Christianity.”

Men, this is my testimony after over 60 years of contending “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).  I was motivated by Paul’s words to young Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles to word of truth” (II Tim 2:15).  I remember clinging to II Tim 3:16-17: “All Sculpture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  I believed fervently that I had been filled with God’s Holy Spirit.  Jesus said of the Spirit, “He will not speak  on his own; but he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13).

What did this mean for me?  First, I wholehearted wanted at a young age to a “worthy workman” for the Lord.  I surrendered myself to him as best as I could.  2) With all my heart and mind I believed scripture to be “God-breathed” and I submitted myself to the authority of God’s Word.  3) I realized I am helpless without the work of the Spirit in my life – and I praise God for the “fullness of his presence” in me.