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Two Kinds of Passion

Phil Johnson, over at Pyromaniacs, has written a little critique of artificial passion in the church (here). He is critical of that whipped up, for its own sake, temporary, fluffy passion. Johnson hits upon something important, but what exactly is it?

Consider, for a moment, a passion for cupcakes. One might be passionate about cupcakes, committed to them with one’s whole heart, believing that cupcakes are, in fact, the best combination of sugar, butter, flour and eggs that is humanly achievable. One might be so passionate that one seeks to share the marvel of the cupcake with anyone who will take a bite.

But even being that passionate about cupcakes does not preclude the alternative - that a Victoria sponge cake is something one could be equally passionate about and that there would be nothing wrong with this. It must be conceded that it is at least possible for such a passion for Victoria sponge to be justified, even if one cannot personally see how a Victoria sponge cake could beat, say, a baby pink chocolate Georgetown cupcake. One's passion may be all consuming, but it is really just an extreme preference for cupcake.

And if it is possible for another person to have a passion for Victoria sponge then it is equally possible for one's own undying love for cupcakes to be replaced with a passion for another form of dessert. In other words, there is nothing intrinsic to passion, of this kind, that precludes the possibility of a change of allegiance  Moreover, there is nothing about this kind of passion that makes it somehow wrong to swap allegiances -  inconsistent, perhaps, but not wrong.

The kind of passion that the Christian should posses, on the other hand, is the kind which considers no alternatives possible. This is not to say that alternatives are not presented as if they are possible; only that the alternatives themselves are dependent upon the truth of Christianity. It is possible to come up with an alternative conceptually, but that is only possible because Christianity is true. This kind of passion not only prefers the Biblical view, but considers all others to be immoral, hostile to truth and dependent upon the truth of scripture for their very existence.

This is what undergirds Paul's speech to the Athenians (here). Paul is asked to speak about his strange view that Jesus was raised from the dead. Instead of presenting a passionate plea for the Athenians to join him in his belief, Paul explains that the Athenian propensity to make idols (the "temple of the unknown god") is only possible since the Old Testament is true. When he finally gets round to saying anything about the resurrection Paul calls it a sign of judgement on the Athenians for their unbelief.