As the Church of England’s general synod sits to vote on the way woman bishops are introduced to the church a number of pragmatic arguments have been put forward. We must have women bishops or the world will see the church as out of date, sexist, or incompetent—the pragmatic argument runs. The logic is that the church should do what makes the world think best of it.
Can we please recognise that in matters such as these pragmatic arguments are wrong? Pragmatism is seeing with the eyes of the world and judging what will be the best option. On certain matters, pragmatism is fine. What time your church service is, what style of music you use, whether you serve coffee or not, on these matters God has revealed no specific pattern, do whatever pleases in love.
But in matters where God has revealed his will, pragmatism needs to be abhored and shown to be a sinful distrust in God. Pragmatism says “we can’t defeat this soldier, he is too big” but the eyes of faith see a humble shepherd destroying the enemy. Pragmatism says “there is no point painting our house with the blood of a lamb, how can that protect us?” The eyes of faith say the blood of the lamb will carry you safely through death. Pragmatism takes Jesus aside and rebukes him when he promises to die and rise again. The eyes of faith say for the joy set before me I will endure the cross. Pragmatism does not “have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33) Pragmatism sees the world as bearing down on every side undefeatable without a truce. Faith sees the world ringed with horses and chariots of fire, those standing with us, more than against us (2 Kings 6:16)
The problem with pragmatism is that it’s inherently self-centred; the solution is the one you can see. What do I see with my eyes that’ll obviously work? It asks then seeks to do it. The problem is that our eyes are weak and don’t see clearly. When God has revealed another way then we must trust him even if it looks foolish. Whether this measure to introduce female bishops is right or not, We can trust God has spoken to us about it in his word. Let us not deal with the question with the blind eyes of pragmatism, and be left worrying the world will hate us, or mock us, or pity us, but trust in the risen Lord and by faith see that he will provide for his church.