Why The Christian’s Knowledge Is Not Enough
“He’s all talk.”
We know what this means. A person boasts with their lips about something, but they do not practice what they profess in life. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Take Mr. Molseley from the wildly popular show Downton Abbey as an example. In one episode, the Downton house cricket team is engaging in their annual match with the team from the village. Throughout the episode, Mr. Molesley boasts of his cricket prowess, rehearsing moves and teaching others the game’s finer points. But when the match begins, and Mr. Molesley finds himself squaring off on the pitch, he proves to be a terrible player at the confusion of those who bought into his boasting.
His father shares with another in the crowd that he could always talk a good game but could never play it. Or, in other words, “He’s all talk.”
Talk Only Is Deadly
While this boasting was only detrimental to a simple cricket match, the Christian’s “He’s all talk” can be deadly. Deadly, you say?! Yes, deadly.
Take for example John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress and the story of Christian and his companion Talkative on the road to the Celestial City. In fantastic allegorical fashion, Bunyan captures with Talkative a person who believes and knows all the right things about God but whose life practices none of them. In other words, like Mr. Molseley, “He’s all talk.”
Christian has this to say about Talkative:
By hearing, God’s Word is indeed sown in our hearts, but talking alone in response to that Word is not enough to prove that the seed is bearing fruit in our lives. Let us be very certain that at the day of doom, men will be judged according to their fruits. No one will be asked, “Did you believe?” But instead, “Were you doers, or only talkers?” Accordingly they will be judged. The end of the world is compared to a harvest, the harvest of our souls. As you know, men at harvest time are only interested in fruit. This doesn’t mean that we can believe anything false to true faith as long as we bear fruit. Far from it, but I saw this to show you how insignificant the profession of Talkative will be on that final Day of Judgment…the truth is that a man can have an abundance of knowledge and still be nothing, and so consequently, no child of God.
One can know an awful lot about God and still not know God. When a person can articulate the orthodox truths of the faith, how one is saved and what one must believe, but doesn’t have a life that reflects it, there is a grave danger. Talkative says one thing but lives contrary to what he knows and Bunyan declares this will prove to be “insignificant” on the Day of Judgment.
Jesus’ brother James would sum Talkative up well for us, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). Talk alone can be deadly.
The Danger of Christian Knowledge
In my Presbyterian reformed world, we applaud right and sound theology. We seek the truth of God’s word to inform every area of our thinking and our living. Rightly so!
However, in our zeal for Christian knowledge, we can fall into a dangerous trap of hoarding knowledge. Hoarders accumulate stuff and the disorder is that they never or rarely use what they have. Instead, it collects dust and clutters the home.
We can accumulate and hoard information about God through all manner of sermons, articles, books, and Bible Studies. In this acquisition of the right information about God, we can fall into the danger of thinking we are living the Christian life simply because we know many things about it. This is the danger of Christian knowledge. It is not meant to be hoarded but put to use in our living.
What would God have of us? Indeed, He would have us seek out the right understanding from Scripture about who He is and who we are. But He would encourage us that right thinking leads to right living.
Real orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, right practice.
Like Talkative, our theology can be perfectly sound, but without action, or “works” as James says, the faith we profess to believe and know is shown to be a hypocritical and fruitless faith. The Christian’s life is to be shaped by what we believe; there is to be fruit that is borne because our faith changes how we live, not simply what we know and think.
When we know all the right things and other Christians look at us, they may be tempted to think we are a great Christian. Or worse yet, we think ourselves healthy believers. But without a life that seeks to conform to the call of God’s word on our living—the application of the knowledge of God—the fruit may look real on the outside but be rotten on the inside as it is with Talkative.
There is a danger of knowing the right things, that we will convince ourselves that knowledge is all that is needed to be saved. But in fact, true belief shows itself to be confirmed with both faith and works.
The Danger of The Hypocrite’s Witness
Perhaps an even greater danger of the “He’s all talk” person is the witness they claim to have for the world. Every believer is a walking testimony to those around them about what they believe. And those who masquerade as Christians in the world, but whose lives certainly don’t reflect a living faith, are terrible witnesses.
Christian has this to say about the witness of Talkative:
This lack of plain speaking makes religion stink in the nostrils of many, for there are these talkative fools whose religion is only in word but whose conduct is debauched and vain. When fellows like Talkative are admitted into the fellowship of the godly, the world is puzzled, Christianity is disgraced, and sincere pilgrims are grieved.
The all-talk believer is such a danger to the good news of the Gospel. As Christians share the good news of the Gospel and its life-transforming reality, people like Talkative smudge the attractiveness of Christianity and make it a stink to the world around us.
May we seek to be those who know and talk about the truth as well as those who seek to live it out, having the fruit of our faith so sweet that the world around us delights in the Christians they know. Let us flee from a Christianity that is all talk and no walk.