Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #2

R.C. Sproul

The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel: What I Have Learned In 50 Years


We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 6:11-7:1
Paul is addressing one of the principal problems that has plagued the church since the days of Abel.

Two of the most important concerns that are before us today and how they have developed over the last 50 years:

1) The Danger of Messing with “Mr. In-Between”

In the Old Testament, one of the problems the people of God dealt with in every generation was syncretism, which means to blend the elements of pagan religion (worship of foreign gods such as Baal and Asherah poles) and the religion of Israel. This kind of synthesis can be referred to as “Mr. In-Between.”

In the history of evangelicalism, the first synthesis that took place was that between naturalism and historic Christianity. This led in the 19th century to what we know as “liberalism.” This kind of synthesis happens when instead of choosing between a thesis and its antithesis, we take what we like from each and create a new thesis which is a synthesis of the two. But then what happens is that there arises an antithesis to that new thesis, and you go down the same path leading to creating a new thesis from the synthesis of the two and the cycle continues. This is how heresy has evolved over the ages.

Out of this liberalism, Karl Barth and others called the church back to a transcendent understanding of God. But this wasn’t a call to orthodoxy. They gave no room for an objectively inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible.

Trying to synthesize the orthodox view of God and of Scriptures with existentialism led to a decline in the church’s view of the Bible as the Word of God.

Then attempts to create a synthesis between historic Christianity and Marxism led to what we know as “liberation theology”: free speech, free sex, and such.

What followed was a synthesis between analytical thought and Christianity, which led to “the death of God” movement.

Synthesis between process philosophy and historic Christianity, coupled with a humanistic understanding of the free will of man, led to what we know as “open theism.”

All of these movements mess with “Mr. In-Between.” None of them is satisfied to declare from one generation to the next that which we have received from the apostles, which doesn’t need to be made more palatable to the world by being dressed up in pagan philosophy.

2) The Danger of Messing with the gospel itself

Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide were the two doctrines that seemed like the bedrock that all of evangelicalism could build on. But then confidence in Sola Scriptura began to be compromised. And then eventually we hit rock bottom when controversy erupted over Sola Fide, for example, when the “lordship salvation” discussion arose. Then Evangelicals and Catholics Together document arose to unite Evangelicals and Catholics on issues like abortion, marriage, and other social issues but in so doing also implied that Evangelicals and Catholics have a unity of faith in the gospel, but the reality is that Evangelicals and Catholics don’t believe the same thing about faith in the gospel.

At the heart of this discussion on the nature of faith is the topic of justification and imputation. Is the ground of my justification something I can get for myself? Or is it something that must be alien to me, that I must get from somewhere else? There is no “Mr. In-Between” here, no matter what some have tried to say.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together represents the ultimate synthesis that obscures the great antithesis of the gospel.

And today, we see attempts to improve the gospel. But the gospel is primarily about Jesus, who He is and what He’s done.

Our greatest challenge is with respect to our personal fidelity to the gospel. Because the gospel is the great antithesis. And that means we have to be willing to embrace conflict. Nobody likes conflict. But as Paul says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

It’s not our gospel. It’s God’s gospel. And there’s no way to improve.it.

1 comment:

Rob Lombardi said...

Amen. That's why I didn't sign the Manhattan Declaration either. It came along the same line of ecumenical endeavors as Evangelical and Catholics Together. If you get a chance, ask Albert Mohler if he still stands by his decision to sign that document. Many have since taken their signatures off.

The Manhattan Declaration website used to have a list of pastors and leaders that have signed it. It looks like the entire list is now gone.