Thursday, February 09, 2012

Practical Reading: Episode I

I'm a nerd. I know that. Kind of embrace it. I'm particularly a reading nerd, including stuff like this and this and this and this in my recreational reading. The most "fun" book I've read recently is Soccernomics. So I think that ought to establish the point.

But I also try to organize my reading to include titles that might have a bit of a broader appeal—titles that are useful in discipleship, for evangelism, towards personal sanctification, and for pastoral insight. I want to tell you about four that I've finished fairly recently, taking a couple sentences to make the case why you should read it, and providing a representative quote. Maybe a long one. We'll go one at a time, so more posts coming over the next few days, but we'll start with my favorite.

A Sure Guide to Heaven, by Joseph Alleine

This is basically an evangelistic tract, before the gospel had to fit on a 6-panel leaflet, targeted to people who assumed they were Christians because of their baptism and their religiosity. Punchy and quotable, this is one of the most readable and enjoyable of the Puritan Paperbacks. Alleine just brutalizes the non-lordship view of "conversion"—what a friend of mine used to call the "Not So Great Salvation" view. In other words, this isn't a gospel John MacArthur made up:
The unsound convert takes Christ by halves. He is all for the salvation of Christ, but he is not for sanctification. He is for the privileges, but does not appropriate the person of Christ. He divides the offices and benefits of Christ. This is an error in the foundation.

Whoever loves life, let him beware here. It is an undoing mistake, of which you have been often warned, and yet none is more common. Jesus is a sweet Name, but men do not love the Lord Jesus in sincerity. They will not have Him as God offers, "to be a Prince and a Saviour" (Acts v 31). They divide what God has joined, the King and the Priest. They will not accept the salvation of Christ as He intends it; they divide it here. Every man's vote is for salvation from suffering, but they do not desire to be saved from sinning. They would have their lives saved, but still would have their lusts.

Indeed, many divide here again; they would be content to have some of their sins destroyed, but they cannot leave the lap of Delilah, or divorce the beloved Herodias. They cannot be cruel to the right eye or right hand. O be infinitely careful here; your soul depends upon it.

The sound convert takes a whole Christ, and takes Him for all intents and purposes, without exceptions, without limitations, without reserve. He is willing to have Christ upon any terms; he is willing to have the dominion of christ as well as deliverance by Christ. He says with Paul, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Anything, Lord. He sends the blank for Christ to set down His own conditions. (45-46)


d4v34x said...

In semi-related news, a certain soumeone told me last night he was out of the country. Gone to the tun of a weac or tou. Just sou you knou.

Anonymous said...

If certain people can actually grasp what you are saying Ben, they will have to revise their selfpublished books.

Josh said...

Do you see a contradiction between Pink, Alliene, MacArthur versus Tullian, Tripp, Keller, Horton?

Ben said...

I'm sure if someone wanted to look hard, you could find mutually exclusive sound-bites. But in what I've encountered, I've sensed that the distinction between the two sides is really emphasis, not theological affirmations and denials.

Josh said...

So, in your mind, The Gospel According to Jesus teaches the same gospel as Jesus + Nothing = Everything?

Ben said...

I have no idea. I haven't read the latter.

Josh said...

A change in emphasis can result in a change in the gospel itself. For instance, compare your quote from Alleine to a recent interview by Tullian:

I contend that the gospel being promoted by Tullian (and others) is not consistent with the Gospel of the Bible. I'm not sure that Paul ever wrote anything along the lines of the following:

[We have a ton of things we think we need to do. We have to change the world and we’ve got to fix problems and we’ve got to fix people, and I’ve got to fix my wife and make sure my kids turn out OK. I need to make sure people are obeying God. These are things people, pastors specifically, fall into and Jesus is like, “Just trust me. Trust me. I’ve done it and it is finished. It’s a done deal. Just rest.”]

Instead Paul says, obey what I am writing here, or I am coming with a whip. Peter wrote, if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. And Christ said, obey Me, or your candlestick will be put out.

Are we allowed to even change an emphasis of the Gospel?

Ben said...

Josh, I'm not sure what's in that quote that's incompatible with Paul or any other text. Haven't read the context, but all those things the speaker says "we think we need to do" are actually things that we aren't expected to do.

Nowhere that I'm aware of does Scripture tell us that we have to fix people. If anything, Scripture teaches us that we certainly can't fix people. I think you're hearing him deny things that he's not actually denying, unless there's another quote that expresses it more clearly than the one you cited.

Josh said...

Obviously, "we" cannot fix people, but God does use human beings to accomplish His work of fixing people. One of the main jobs of a pastor is to call people to repentance. If people cannot/will not change, then the Gospel has no power.

A number of passages could be called to bear that contradict Tullian, here are a few: 1 Tim. 4; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 1 Cor. 5ff; Hebrews 5:9; ch. 13, especially: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."

If pastors are not to "make sure that people are obeying God," on what basis can they baptize a believer, allow a believer to partake in communion or practice church discipline? (among other things) Using your quotation here, Alliene says, "the sound convert is willing to have the dominion of Christ as well as deliverance by Christ." Tullian says, "just trust."

I am saying that these ideas are antithetical and only one of them is consistent with "And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."

The promise of the Gospel is that we can have new life, we are new creatures, we can obey, we can change . . . with the power of the Holy Spirit and through active participation on the part of the believer. The professing believer who does not strive against any and all sin, shows signs of not being a "sound convert" as Alliene points out.

Josh said...

People can be fixed...else there would be no reason for preaching, for discipleship, for reason for the Church.

Ben said...

Josh, I think you're reading way to much (or maybe way too little) into what TT is saying when you try to make "just trust" sound like "we don't really feel a responsibility to do discipleship work or practice church discipline."

If you can find examples of him saying that, fine, but I've never heard him say anything that remotely approaches it. What I understand him to mean is that pastors need to get off the hamster wheel in which they feel like heart change in their congregation is primarily contingent their ingenuity and effort. And I'm strongly inclined to agree with him on that point.