Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Assorted Gospel Issues

Item #1: Greg Gilbert warns of the pitfalls of talking about the kingdom without talking about how individuals gain access to the kingdom. Listen to his 9Marks interview or his T4G talk (clip below) with the same title as his new book, What Is the Gospel?:
[B]y all means, preach about the kingdom, talk about Jesus’ conquest of evil, write about his coming reign. But don’t pretend that all those things are glorious good news all by themselves. They’re not. The bare fact that Jesus is going to rule the world with perfect righteousness is not good news to me; it’s terrifying news, because I am not righteous! I’m one of the enemies he’s coming to crush! The coming kingdom becomes good news only when I’m told that the coming King is also a Savior who forgives sin and makes people righteous—and he does that through his death on the cross. [transcript via Justin Taylor]
Item #2: I'm not sure Bobby Jamieson's historical survey of the redefinition of evangelism in the 20th century got a lot of play, but it's a provocative and insightful read. His conclusion:
Through John Stott's leadership, Lausanne certainly reasserted several foundational evangelical doctrines, but insofar as it adopted the ecumenical redefinition of mission, it inserted an alien, inconsistent element into evangelical theology. On the crucial question of the church's mission, the trajectories converged, and the echoes of that convergence continue to reverberate through evangelicalism:

"Incarnational ministry." "Holistic evangelism." "Proclaiming the whole gospel to the whole person." "Doing justice and preaching grace." "Bringing God's shalom to the earth."
Item #3: "Imperatives – Indicatives = Impossibilities." This post is a bit old, but it's dead on:
The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that “imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities” (to quote Tullian Tchividjian). Or another way that Tullian puts it: “gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.”

This “become what you are” way of speaking is strange for many us us. It seems precisely backward. But we must adjust our mental compass in order to walk this biblical path and recalibrate in order to speak this biblical language.
Item #4: Meanwhile, this is really helpful [mp3]. Really, seriously. Listen to it. (More audio selections here.) And I hadn't intended to make this comment, but as I started posting these links I've been compiling, a thought struck me . . .

A certain slice of evangelicalism seems absorbed by addressing real threats to the gospel. (See above.) Fundamentalists, on the other hand, are absorbed with talking, not about the gospel, but about that slice of evangelicalism—why it's "ecumenical" and why it's seducing the young people with its music. And they seem very serious about it.


Paul said...

When will the majority of fundamentalists rejoice that these Evangelicals are fighting brilliantly for THE fundamental of the faith, the gospel. You would think that would be enough to view them as friends and applaud their work.

I think that the type of response you describe in your last paragraph can only mean that something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ is central to fundamentalism at large.

ben said...

In fairness, Dan Brown made that case pretty clearly in the session that preceded the panel. (The audio's available.) Then the panel unloaded on him.

Anonymous said...

To point 2., it seems to me that any definition of the Church's mission that presupposes cultural influence or power can be rejected out of hand on that basis. Christians have rarely had that sort of power, and the history of the early Church shows quite the opposite.

Gerry Carlson said...

Ok, we fundamentalists struggle with how to relate to conservatives that strive to exalt the Gospel. But I see a less than clear emphasis about the Gospel with the broad "conservative leaning" popular evangelicalism. I was just at a very large outdoor church event that was definitely evangelical and not fundamentalist. About 20-25 musical numbers were presented and the pastor made the statement about how great it was that the Gospel was being presented in music. However, only two of the numbers presented the Gospel at all. Maybe a couple more could be called "Praise" songs, but the vast majority of the numbers were experiential and behavioral. Most of the lyrics had to do with what God does for me. These were, of course, standard fare CCM. It is encouraging that a strong minority voice of conservative evangelicalism is trying to counter this Gospel-lite approach that envelops most of broad evangelicalism.

ben said...

Hey Gerry!

You're clearly on target that pop evangelicalism (that's a useful term) cheapens the gospel via subjectivism and experientialism. And it's not just in music. It's in the entertainment and therapeutic approaches to preaching as well.

We could probably get into a longer conversation about pop fundamentalism. (I'm thinking about some Ron Hamilton CDs I have stored away somewhere and lots of the stuff in the Majesty Hymnal, and of course, some of the same preaching styles I noted above.)

As men like Kevin Bauder and Matt Olsen have said, the fundamentalists who reject the pop gospel have more in common with the evangelicals who reject the pop gospel than they have with the people inside their respective historical circles who embrace it.

Gerry Carlson said...

Ben, want you to know that I keep up with you. I figured you would know where I was when I attended the local event. It was a wonderfully conducted and reaches out to the community in a very positive way. I was just struck by the way it was linked to the "Gospel" in a way that seemed natural to the pastor, but not evident in the substance.

Anyway, entertainmentism is the really big elephant in the room -- for evangelicalism. The idea seems to be that you can't do evangelism without it -- like an NBA game without musical noise. Fundamentalism can't manufacture a similar corollary, but it does have its own sociological distinctives for sure.

ben said...


I immediately thought of a particular date and a particular location. I'm assuming we're on the same page.

Not sure who said this first, but one generation assumes the gospel. The next marginalizes it. And the next loses it. Surely we see all three happening simultaneously today in wide swaths of a variety of affiliations.

By the way, you might be interested in Ken Hay's workshop at that IBFNA conference. It was a strong, useful argument FOR family-oriented ministry and AGAINST entertainmentism in youth ministries he's encountered. I would have liked for him to connect his critique with a "God-focused" or gospel-centered theology, but his talk was one piece of a much-needed corrective. (His general session was less significant, IMO.)

Anytime you want to write a guest piece, just say the word. ;-)

d4v34x said...

No one else going to comment that these meta comments are disctinctly ben and Gerry flavored?


ben said...

Worst. Comment. EVER.

And that's saying something.

Dave, I still have a TNIV left over from the quote guessing contests I used to run. I think you're now required to take it. And pay for shipping. And read it.

d4v34x said...

Back in the day I'd have only earned a groaner foul. My punishment is greater than I can bear!