Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #3

Albert Mohler

How Does It Happen? Trajectories toward an Adjusted Gospel


When an airplane crashes, we are determined to find the cause so that we can in the future avoid that same disaster happening again. But sadly we don't have anywhere near that same kind of urgency when it comes to theological disaster.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:8-9
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.
1 Timothy 6:3
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:8-14
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 3
The New Testament is really clear about the realities of a false gospel. Yet there is seeming ignorance to the danger of false gospels in the church today. But if we love Jesus, we must love and guard the gospel.

Underlying the thinking of this postmodern age is the assumption that the world has change, that what has been true of us in the past is no longer true today. From Nietzsche to Freud and every modern day philosopher, these assumptions have been made in different ways. So the assumption is that the gospel must change. Christianity must change...or die.

Theological disaster is almost always at the hands of those who would claim to save Christianity rather than marry it. They think that they need to save Christianity from itself. This temptation has been constant.

Picture the church as a raft that is on a river and is getting ready to enter into some turbulent rapids. The raft is filled with lots of weight, which represent doctrine. It's been said that the church only has two options: either head for the shore and hold on because that's the only way it's going to survive with the weights (this is fundamentalism). Or start throwing the weights out of the boat in order to be able to make it through the rapids without capsizing (this is liberalism).

This is what leads to theological disaster. How does this theological disaster take place? There are 8 trajectories.

1) The modern trajectory - We can't believe in a modern explanation of reality and New Testament miracles at the same time. So we must de-mythologize the gospel. We must get rid of the supernatural. We lose confidence in the Bible as the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. When we begin to lose the supernatural in Christianity, we are walking down the modern trajectory.

2) The postmodern trajectory - We live in an age in which we don't have to worry about the question of truth. We don't have to answer the historical questions. The reader is the location of meaning and truth rather than the text.

3) The moral trajectory - Our modern moral consciousness is superior to the moral consciousness contained in the Scriptures. We see this in the example of the cross being called "divine child abuse" or "cosmic child abuse." We see this when people speak of God having to be fair, saying things like it's not fair for God to send people to hell.
4) The aesthetic trajectory - We are too easily seduced after the Fall by the merely beautiful, by the superficial. We don't need bloody crosses. They don't look nice. When we're afraid to preach texts because they're unpleasant, we're walking the aesthetic trajectory.

5) The therapeutic trajectory - All we know is that we are sick and need therapy. We need to medicate. We see ourselves as ill, sick, or afflicted rather than as evil or depraved. The therapeutic trajectory points to a self-diagnosed problem, a self-defined solution, and a self-realizing eschatology.

6) The pragmatic trajectory - We have a problem, and so we solve it. All solutions must be pragmatic. Ministers define their ministries as a product within a market and they are reduced to managerial in function. Pragmatism produces crowds that are not churches and results that are not regeneration, but at least it's immediate.

7) The emotional trajectory - We are dependent on an emotional experience. We lean towards that which brings an emotional reward. We dismiss that which comes at an emotional cost. We preach what we feel like preaching or what we think our people feel like they need. But we must preach the Bible, however we may feel about it.

8) The materialist trajectory - What we can see is more real than that which we cannot see. This is prosperity theology. Prosperity theology follows a trajectory that is not only false but makes God out to be a liar. This is where we come to think that we can have our best life now. This trajectory comes from seeking instant gratification.

Two dangers that will easily lead us down any of these trajectories:
  • Succumbing to doctrinal fatigue. We grow tired of continually having to preach against the tide.
  • Embarrassment. We feel foolish for preaching what we preach knowing that people will think we're crazy and ask or think to themselves, "Do you really believe that?"
This is what leads to us beginning to bargain away the faith.

Back to the analogy of the raft, our task isn't to avoid the rapids or to get rid of the weights. The boat is Christ's church, which is His bride. It belongs to Him. We must trust Him.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:66-69
How will we respond to this same question that Jesus asked His first disciples?

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