Friday, August 05, 2011

Ten Things You Need to Read Before You Go Watch "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" This Weekend

1. Chris Anderson just highlighted a blogpost from Jay Adams that simply floored me. Though I share Adams' concern that "gospel-centeredness" can be an amorphous blob of mystical platitudes, he proceeds to suggest that learning to preach the gospel to yourself is an unhelpful idea. It seems clear to me that he doesn't really understand the concept. (NANC has developed a reputation for emphasizing moralistic human effort over our need for the ongoing work of the gospel as we pursue sanctification, has it not?) It's just difficult for me to imagine that Adams—having surely forgotten more counseling sessions than I'll lead in my lifetime—seems never to have encountered someone who needed to learn how to remind himself of the past, present, and future work of the gospel in his life.

2. The senior managing editor of Christianity Today believes people find evangelicalism to be "bankrupt" because of "crazy uncles" Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Ironic?

3. Some fascinating statistics on church planting rates for various denominations.

4. Some reflections from John Piper on John Stott. This comment from Piper is very close to the reason I have a rather sporadic interest in The Gospel Coalition blog (exhibit A):
To this day I have zero interest in watching a preacher take his stand on top of the (closed) treasure chest of Bible sentences and eloquently talk about his life or his family or the news or history or culture or movies, or even general theological principles and themes, without opening the chest and showing me the specific jewels in these Bible sentences.
5. Speaking of Stott, somewhere in one of his obituaries I learned that he was Queen Elizabeth II's personal chaplain from 1959-1991.

6. Here's what Stott said in 1996 about when it would be time for evangelicals to leave the Church of England:
I've always felt that it's unwise to publish a list of criteria in advance. Nevertheless, I'm quite happy to talk about them. I think one's final decision to leave would be an exceedingly painful one, a situation that I cannot envisage at the moment.

I would take refuge in the teaching of the New Testament, where the apostles seem to distinguish between major and minor errors. The major doctrinal errors concern the person and work of Christ. It's clear in 1 John that anyone who denies the divine-human person of Jesus is anti-Christ. So, if the church were officially to deny the Incarnation, it would be an apostate church and one would have to leave.

Then, there's the work of Christ. In Galatians, if anybody denies the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone, that is anathema: Paul calls down the judgment of God upon that person.

On the major ethical issues: the best example is the incestuous offender in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul called on the church to excommunicate him. If you want me to stick my neck out, I think I would say that if the church were officially to approve homosexual partnerships as a legitimate alternative to heterosexual marriage, this so far diverges from biblical sexual ethics that I would find it exceedingly difficult to stay. I might want to stay on and fight for a few more years, but if they persisted, I would have to leave.
7. Speaking of things that were never supposed to come true, remember when everybody told us this wouldn't happen? Next up, polygamous marriage rights.

8. Strictly speaking, Stott may not have been the annihilationist he's often claimed to have been. Here's how he described his view in that same wide-ranging 1996 interview linked above:
In Evangelical Essentials, I described as "tentative" my suggestion that "eternal punishment" may mean the ultimate annihilation of the wicked rather than their eternal conscious torment. I would prefer to call myself agnostic on this issue, as are a number of New Testament scholars I know. In my view, the biblical teaching is not plain enough to warrant dogmatism. There are awkward texts on both sides of the debate.
9. This conversation on whether and how much we should study cultural backgrounds to Scripture barely scratches the surface of a topic that has been largely ignored in far too many places. It needs to be at least an hour longer.

10. And finally, anybody else out there who just can't wait to ask Carl Trueman to autograph your Bible after his breakout session at T4G12?


d4v34x said...

Even Cosper has an insightful post now and then. The trick is not to read him too soon after the last good one.

Jason said...

Your comments on Adams are well put. I can't say I'm shocked that he thinks that way, but I do have to admit I'm shocked he would say it so directly.

Shayne McAllister said...

How was Planet of the Apes for everybody by the way?

Ben said...

Didn't make it. I'm waiting for a TGC blog review and hoping to get a sermon out of it.

hannah said...

Concerning #4 Exhibit A - ABSOLUTELY! Very disturbed by that as well.

Joshua Caucutt said...

I think Adam's is trying to say that eventually the Gospel must include the command to simply obey - to actively, purposefully conform oneself to the law of Christ. To expand further, if guys like Keller, et al were to be exposed to the teaching of Paul and Peter without knowing that it is Paul and Peter, they might dismiss it as "moralistic preaching". For instance, Peter does not exhort us to simply rest in the justification of the cross, rather he states plainly: "for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word".

Ben said...

Josh, I'm not sure exactly what you have in mind when you refer to Keller et al, but I have not found his preaching to be devoid of moral exhortation. Not at all.

And if that's what JA was trying to say, he should have said that. But he didn't. He said that preaching the gospel to yourself means:

"Think of all that Jesus did for you on the cross—over and over (“Preach the Gospel to yourself every day”)– and somehow or other you will be sanctified thereby."

As I said before, I'm well aware of the danger that gospel-centered concepts can be poorly explained and devoid of meaningful content. But I've yet to encounter anything remotely approaching his description preached or written. Unless it's happening all over the place and I'm oblivious, I'm inclined to call his critique a caricature or straw man.

Joshua Caucutt said...

Maybe it is a point of emphasis. I would not discount the need to daily re-visit the gospel. Keller tends to emphasize that a believer must constantly look to the cross as if our sanctification is complete. Adams is saying - that cross is of no effect if we are not faithful to the covenant. God is not going to add his justification (or sanctification for that matter) to people who do not submit and obey.

I don't have a direct quote from Keller, but here is a progression that I see quite often in American evangelicalism:

Jerry Bridges wrote: "The truth is Jesus not only died for us, He also lived for us. That is, all that Christ did in both His life and death, He did in our place as our substitute." A statement that implies that we have no obligation to the gospel covenant (although I would say that Bridges is not consistent on this point - for the better).

This quote is then followed by a statement on Twitter from theResurgence: "It's not what your hands are doing, nor even what your lips are saying; the main thing is what your heart is meaning & intending".

And then a statement from a mutual friend who is attempting to construct a consistent theology out of this idea of which Keller is a major proponent: "The fact that I need to try and live the perfect Christlike life has Zero relevance on my citizenship in heaven."

Adam's was simply trying to point out that a gospel that does not come with submission and obedience is suspect. The New Covenant is a covenant that requires faithfulness - not perfection - but faithfulness. Just as was required under the Old Covenant and the covenants before that.