In a fallen world, life is not worth living without convictions. If such things as evil, lies, and suffering are not mere illusions — not just the darker side of our social constructs — then evil must be fought, lies unmasked, and suffering eased. If such things exist at all, and especially if they flourish, then we must fight. Fighting nobly requires convictions.
The greatest enemy of conviction is not antagonism but assumption. The frontal assault and the silent assassin are both dangerous — the first for its strength, the second for its stealth. But the silent assassin poses a more sinister threat.
Antagonists press against conviction, test conviction, and therefore refine conviction. Of course, there is always great danger that convictions may erode or even fold when pressed by opposing claims and competing visions. But an equal opportunity exists for conviction to be bolstered by those intending to tear it down. In this way, antagonism can serve conviction.
But assumptions have no such potential effect. Assumptions neither strengthen our convictions through opposition nor build them through instruction. Assumptions only erode our passions, like a creaky, neglected home that lacks both the strength to withstand a storm and the warmth to house a family.
Assumed beliefs are obese beliefs — non-functioning mental acquiescence. Convictions are mobile, agile, and hostile. Assumptions are low-octane fuel, if they are fuel at all. Convictions are high-octane fuel, driving the heavy vehicle of right attitudes, actions, and priorities over rough terrain and up steep grades.
I have been privileged to serve at two institutions led by convictional warriors: Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Southern California and President Albert Mohler at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Both men have warned against this sad tendency toward convictional erosion: The first generation fights for truth, the second generation assumes the truth, and the third generation loses the truth.
The assumptions of a pastor may become the assumptions of his church, but the assumptions of that pastor will never become the convictions of his church. A mother’s assumptions may become her daughter’s assumptions, but they will never become her daughter’s convictions. A man may hold a dozen views, but if they don’t hold him, others will not deem them worth holding.
So parent with conviction. Pastor with conviction. Teach with conviction. Live with conviction. If all you have is a wet wick, dry it out. If all you have is a dry twig, scratch up a spark. If all you have is a flickering candle, light a torch. Wherever you’re at and whatever you’re doing, stop living off of cold assumptions and passive opinions. Get a conviction, and let it burn.
Because darkness only answers to a flame, and life is only worth living for something you’ll die for.