Disciplines of the Disinherited -- By: Bruce Shelley

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 117:465 (Jan 1960)
Article: Disciplines of the Disinherited
Author: Bruce Shelley

Disciplines of the Disinherited

Bruce Shelley

[Bruce Shelley is Associate Professor of Church History in the Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.]

“Pig” and “Judas” were the titles given Boris Pasternak in Russia. His novel, Doctor Zhivago, had earned for him the Nobel Prize for Literature but because of the nature of the story its literary merits were obscured in Communist eyes. Boris Pasternak learned how difficult life can be in a society in which you do not really belong.

The Christian too is a pilgrim and a stranger (1 Peter 2:11). He is in the world but his home is “beyond.” This life of a Christian in pagan surroundings is particularly well described by a second-century writer: “They manifest the marvelous and admittedly strange deportment of their own citizenship. They live in their own homelands but as strangers…. Their lot is cast in the flesh but they do not live according to the flesh. They spend their time upon the earth but they have their citizenship in heaven…. They love everyone and are persecuted by everyone…. They are put to death and they are gaining life…. They are dishonored and they are glorified in their dishonor.”1

But such conduct as this is rare indeed today, chiefly because vigorous tendencies in America today centripetally tow us unsuspectingly into the “accepted.” As a result disassociation becomes difficult if not altogether impossible. I do not mean that being peculiar is difficult—many are peculiar without being disassociated; one is external while the other is internal—but I do mean that there is an ever present proclivity toward the “Christianity of Main Street,” a susceptibility to the popular. Christianity has a way of becoming an aspect of Americanism, and the believer’s unique role in an unbelieving world is lost in the process. Redemption, we must ever keep in mind, does not come from within but from the outside, and to whatever degree the church has been swallowed up by this monstrous inclusivism, to that degree she has forfeited her prophetic role.

In this connection a look at the early days of Christianity

is highly rewarding, for as a disinherited people the church had a perspective and a mission which are almost impossible to duplicate in this modern religious melting-pot called mid-century America. By “disinherited” we mean simply that which Peter meant by his use of “pilgrim,” and that which Paul intended by “heavenly citizenship” (Phil 3:20). It is a convenient phrase which s...

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