Saturday, June 20, 2009

Can Christians Have Heroes?

Iain Murray says we can. In the Foreword to his new book Heroes he acknowledges that "we are all affected by examples, especially when we are young; and figures from the past, rediscovered in their biographies, may influence us deeply" (p. ix). However, a more cynical view of biography has taken hold in our culture, a view that practically disallows presenting people from the past as role models. Murray explains this modern tendency of presenting biographical subjects "warts and all," as though these people were not worthy of emulation. Even in some Christian circles if the biographer doesn't take his subject down a notch, he is suspected of hagiography, "a strange word to use in a pejorative sense" (Murray, p. x).

The Bible frequently refers to believers as "saints." As you may know, the word comes from the Greek word hagios (holy, consecrated to God). Murray comments:
Every Christian believes, with the apostle Paul, that, 'In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing' (Rom. 7:18). But Paul had not forgotten that confession when he also wrote, 'Be followers [imitators] of me' (1 Cor. 4:16; Phil. 3:17). He knew the grace of Christ was in him, and making him all that he was: 'I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not wrought by me' (Rom. 15:18). This is the focus when examples are held up for us in Scripture, and we see it in Luke's account of Paul. It does not mean that significant faults are to be hidden; but it is the outworking of what Henry Scougal called 'the life of God in the soul' that qualifies chiefly for record and for imitation.... Christ is the author and the finisher of the life of the believer. The faith given, the talents allocated, the spiritual ambition, and the measure of usefulness are all from him. This should rule out any adulation. To recognize heroes is not the same as 'hero-worship'....

That there is a danger of thinking and writing too highly of men I do not deny. It is all because of Christ that 'the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.' True Christian biography should therefore concentrate on what is edifying and for the praise of Christ. (Murray, pp. x-xi)
I agree with Murray. True Christian biography is edifying to us and honoring to Christ. So, do you have heroes? Which ones have been the most helpful to you?

Iain H. Murray. Heroes (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009)