Thursday, February 01, 2007

Have we lost the Gospel?

For the last several years I have been expressing my growing concern that, in many ways and in many places, evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular have lost the Gospel. One of the first blog articles that I ever posted addressed this concern and I have repeatedly expressed it in lectures, sermons, interviews, private conversations and articles. Founders Ministries, of which I am the Executive Director, is committed to working for "the recovery of the Gospel and the reformation of local churches." I entitled a book I edited, Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches.

Anyone who has read this blog even intermittantly over the last year and a half should have some awareness of my burden for this issue. Some take strong exception to having this question even raised. To them, it is tantamount to denominational insurrection. But they typically belong to the crowd that judges any criticism or questioning of the "post-conservative-resurgence" SBC to be an act of war, more likely to get you lumped and dumped into the CBF crowd than if you denied the Virgin birth. Quite honestly, I don't have much hope of persuading folks from that sector of the family of the legitimacy of my concern.

I am much more hopeful of those whose commitment to Scripture's authority is not mixed with political ambition or misguided bureaucratic loyalties. Honest evangelicals know that something is horribly wrong in our corporate life. Too many evangelical churches are spiritually unhealthy due to the extended neglect of basic biblical teachings, principles and practices. At the top of this list is the Gospel itself.

When we interview perspective church members, we always ask them to give us a brief explanation of the Gospel. Some of the answers that we have received--even from long-time members of conservative evangelical churches--have only confirmed in my mind that the Gospel has been significantly neglected in much of American evangelicalism over the last generation. If you want to liven up your next Sunday School party, ask people to take 2 minutes and write down a simple statement of what the Gospel is. Then collect those papers and read them aloud. It will be better--and potentially more profitable--than pictionary! It will probably also be very sobering.

The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ. I teach the people I serve to think of it simply like this: It is the message of Who Christ is, What He has done, and Why it matters. Answering these questions from the Scripture will provide an outline of the biblical Gospel.

Here is a summary of my concerns about spheres in which we have lost or are losing the Gospel in our day.

1. In preaching
I took several hours last spring to listen to a number of SBC seminary chapel sermons. I heard lots about leadership, commitment, courage, faithfulness, sheep, shepherds, prayer and devotion, I heard very little of Jesus Christ. Often Christ was mentioned almost as an afterthought. I realize that this is far from a scientific study (but if you are interested in one that corroborates my concerns about Southern Baptist preaching, see Marsha Whitten's All is Forgiven) but the sermons were preached by well-known and highly respected Southern Baptist pastors. It is not unreasonable to expect that their sermons to seminarians would be carefully prepared. Assuming that to be the case, I came away from my exercise rather discouraged.

Here is an experiment that I recommend. Get a simple outline of the Gospel in your mind and listen to the sermons preached in your church (even if you are the preacher!) or other churches and try to determine to what degree the Gospel is the basis of them. Too often only some facts related to the Gospel are tacked on at the end of a message in order to justify some kind of altar call, but the Gospel itself is not foundational to it. If a sermon would play just as well in a Kingdom Hall or Jewish Synagogue as it would in a Baptist church, you can be sure it is void of the Gospel.
2. In Christian living
Very often the Gospel is viewed only as the threshhold into the Christian life by which one must enter the kingdom. Once in, however, the Gospel loses its importance. Where this happens in conservative churches moralism tends to gain preeminence and Christianity tends to be conceived in terms of rules and requirements. In moderate and liberal churches sentimentalism tends to reign and attitudes and actions are evaluated in terms of how "loving" they feel. Do not misunderstand--the Christian life includes both rules and especially love (rightly understood, of course), but the Christian life is based on neither. It is based on Jesus Christ--who He is, what He has done and why it matters. That is why we are called to live by faith. Faith in what? Or whom? The person and work of Christ. This is also why Paul could write, "For to me, to live is Christ." Christ was life for Paul because the Gospel had come to him in power. Read the ethical portions of the New Testament to see how the Apostles exhorted the early church to holy living. It wasn't by moralistic teaching. They teach the law on the basis of the Gospel. I see very little concern for the relationship between law and Gospel in Southern Baptist life today. The reason, I believe, is due to the removal of the Gospel from the heart of Christian living.
3. In our churches
The Gospel is the power of God to save all who believe. Churches are to be comprised of those who testify to having experienced this saving power. Of all the sectors of evangelicalism, Baptists most certainly should stand firm on this point. Yet, simply take an honest look at our churches--even good, "Bible-believing," "flagship" SBC churches. What do you find more often than not? Bloated church rolls with twice as many members as regular attenders. The overwhelming majority of our churches have neglected Gospel order, taking cues more from the marketing world or corporate America or therapeutic professions than from Scripture. John Dagg, the first writing theologian among Southern Baptists put this in his Treatise on Church Order, "When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it." If he is correct, then how many Christless churches might we have within our ranks? Read Revelation 2 and 3 to see that Jesus Himself warns of this possibility. If the candlestick has been removed from a local church then the Gospel has been taken with it.
So, have we lost the Gospel? I think we have, in many ways. I know this seems like a harsh judgment, but I do not make it with any joy or intent to harm or even embarass. Neither am I suggesting that every church or evangelical (or denominational) entity has lost the Gospel. Rather, I am suggesting that the Gospel has been forgotten, misunderstood, undervalued and marginalized by many churches and ministries that consider themselves evangelical. We can no longer assume that we know the Gospel and prize it as the transforming power of God that saves all who believe. Such assumption, I fear, has contributed to the Gospel's demise in many churches.

Why even raise this question, knowing that it will inevitably provoke the angst of some brothers and sisters whom I respect and tempt them to dismiss me as a crank or some kind of helpless malcontent? I do so because it is simply too important to leave unaddressed. Too much is at stake. The glory of God in the salvation of sinners is at stake. So is the eternal destiny of many who may think that they are right with God but who are merely religious (Matthew 7:21-23).

If I am right in my suspicions, then all of the many other issues that are clamoring for our attention right now in SBC life and beyond are minor in comparison to this. If we have lost the Gospel, or are losing it, then nothing else matters.

96 comments:

M. Jay Bennett said...

Hi Tom,

I think you are right. This is the central issue. I just graduated from Dallas Seminary (ThM, Historical Theology) and am a soon-to-be former member of the SBC. Last semester Dr. John D. Hannah delivered a lecture entitled "The Gospel Clarified: A Joyful Celebration--Something to Remember and Something to Perpetuate"in chapel on this very issue. Of course, his assessment was not directed toward the SBC, but SBC churches would certainly be included. It was very very insightful and, I thought, right on the mark.

Robert Owen said...

I agree with you completely Dr. Ascol. Many of the people I know who claim to be in conservative evangelical SBC churches in upstate SC simply do not know the Gospel. This is completely evident in the way they live their lives and in the ways they worship. Most of the churches I am in contact with are seeker sensitive and strive to make everyone comfortable. They have 15 minute speaches and say they are expounding the Scriptures when they have no clue of the cultural and historical context of the text they are reading. If people truly understood the Christ-centered Gospel found in the Gospel, they would rid themselves of the sickening man exaulting fluff done at so-called worship gathering. We must continue to reform the churches we have influence in and pray that God would change the hearts of those in authority of the churches without the Gospel. I have no doubt they read their Bible. That in itself has the power to change them. Our rantings can do nothing without the Holy Spirit opening their eyes to the Word they are reading! May God bear fruit in these places that bear His name!

Tom said...

Jay:

Thanks for the tip to Dr. Hannah's message. I will download it.

Reformed Owen:

Our experiences are similar. I think the reformation we are seeing is directly linked to the inerrancy movement within the SBC. When Christians start reading their Bibles with understanding, they become equipped to discern between what is and what ought to be and are motivated by the Spirit to long for and strive for the latter.

martyduren said...

Tom-
Be careful, my friend. You might be called upon to repent for this post.

Timmy said...

Amen and amen.

It is to our own detriment if we do not take seriously this ominous reality. It will only serve to show that indeed the loss of the gospel is more pervasive than we think. We must get back to the mission and message of Jesus Christ and work together for the sake of His Church.

We came together on inerrancy before, and it is time that we center ourselves and our attention on the gospel and taking it to our increasingly post-Christian world. May God grant us the renewal and revival which our churches so desperately need.

Tom Bryant said...

Absolutely right! I revamped my preaching schedule a few months ago when I heard a pastor say on his tv program to simply say these words.... He led them in the "sinners prayer".

I realized I had slipped into much the same line of thinking. If we lose the gospel, if we lose a truly regenerate church all will be lost

Malachi_Abaddon said...

At least you're trying to do something about it. Having grown up in one of the few moderate PCUSA churched left in America (and that one is fast going liberal), it is nice to see that you're trying to help your brethren in that denomination.

davidinflorida said...

Brother Tom,

The only thing I can say about you post is AMEN, AMEN and AMEN.

The Blood of Jesus Christ..!!!

wayner said...

Dr. Ascol,

Thanks for an excellent post. On the radio program Issues Etc, Todd Wilken will review "sermons" using a 3 part diagnostic. I can't remember all of the elements, but it basically comes down to, "is the subject of the sermon the Gospel of Jesus Christ"? Until my exposure to the Founders Ministries, Alistair Begg, White Horse Inn, R.C. Sproul and other reformed ministries, I thought the tacking on of "Gospel" elements onto the end of a sermon was normal. I started listening/reading to the above ministries and realized what a dis-service to the Gospel this really is. Since this change in my "hearing" I truely wonder what exactly the unsaved person was supposed to resond to.

On a side note...While visiting the Truth For Life (Alistair Begg) website, there was an announcement that Alistair has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Tom said...

Marty:

I hear ya! If I am I will try not to be offended and will try to rejoice in the knowledge that at least our brothers who disagree with us still believe in repentance!

Timmy:

May it be!!

Tom:

I fully understand how that can happen. I experienced something similar years ago. Through dryness in my own soul the Lord showed me that, despite what I thought to be careful grammatical/syntactical analysis of the text in my preaching, for the most part, I was missing the main point of the whole Bible: Christ. It was a humbling, refreshing experience.

jbuchanan said...

Tom,
You bring out some great points. The loss of the gospel in Southern Baptist pulpits and churches is simply tragic. What is even more tragic is that the vast majority of our pastors do not see it. The problems that we are facing in our churche and across our denomination are largely do to a the Americanized, feel-good gospel that is being preached.

Ched said...

These are sobering thoughts.

curmudgeon said...

Hi Tom,

Well written and spot on! How easily we get lost in analysis of the text, but never find our way to Christ. Spurgeon's alleged maxim is correct, "make a bee line for the cross."

Doug Shivers

Earl M. Blackburn said...

Bravo! One reason we in the SBC have either lost or minimized the gospel is because we have not fully understood the absolute Fall of man and the pervasiveness of sin, which necessitates the gospel. Instead of a full-orbed Christ-centered, gospel-centered preaching of the entire Word of God, we've subsititued a "simple" gospel thrown into or tacked onto the end of an emotional, "tear-jerking" sermon. Oftentimes, being more concerned with programs, activities, and ministries that keep our denomination afloat, we bypass the true power of God that brings divine blessing and real advancement into the kingdom of darkness. It must not simply be Christ & the gospel initially at our salvation/conversion, but a gospel-centered motivated Christian life that empowers us to the end; remember as Paul said that in the Last Day God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to the gospel (Romans 2:16). Don't worry about the nabobs who cast aspersions. There are people hearing what you say whose hearts resonate with your plea. Keep up the good work.

scripturesearcher said...

This is not your first expressed concern but it is your finest effort to date.... many thanks!

Please persevere - and I am very confident you will.

Others who know the truth about which you write will continue to pray and persevere, too.

Do I believe we can experience redemption, revival and reformation
in the SBC?

YES, because I believe in God but it will be painful - very painful.

Rev. said...

Tom:

Thanks for the post! This is the main issue ("What is the Gospel?" / "What is the Church?") that needs to be addressed in the modern evangelical scene, particularly in the SBC.

A long while ago I was shocked at some of the things believed by my parishioners. Individuals can live like the devil day in and day out and still expect Heaven; Jesus is not God; unbelievers are not going to Hell; etc. These misguided beliefs all hinge upon a failure to comprehend the Gospel.

Trying to address it in the SBC, at times, is an effort akin to spittin' in the wind. Many who try get labeled as "insurrectionists" or get kicked to the curb as "not being Southern Baptist." I think that is why some younger guys, like the honorable Jay Bennett, are on their way out of SBC life. Am I wrong, Jay?!?

willreformed said...

Brother Tom:

I think your post can be summarized in Spurgeons motto for his ministry and his church: "We preach Christ and Him Cruicified".

This is bedrock of Christianity. Here is found all of the essential doctrines of the Bible, because to understand the Cross one must understand the sin nature of man, the righteous and loving nature of God, the need for perfect atonement, Christ's substitionary death, imputation of his righteous to us and our sins to him, the resurrection and continuing priesthood of Christ. And, by the way, it teaches and illustrates the sovereignty of God and the trinitarian formula.

In my opinion, it is because of the Arminian teachings of the seminaries and the leadership of the denomination which have led us to this chasm. No one who truely believes that salvation is ultimately up to man truely understands the cross, and from that point, it is all down hill.

Bless you for trying. May God honor your heart and devotion.

Will

Clay said...

Tom,
This hits the nail on the head. I have thought this since reading "The Cross Centered Life" by Mahaney. I was in a church for almost 4 years as a staff member and then one day it hit me, "The gospel is missing." There was moralisms and even preaching through books of the bible, but we rarely heard about Jesus. Now that I am on staff at a church that loves the gospel, it is a refreshing to my soul.

Earl M. Blackburn said...

To: m. jay bennett,

As one who left the SBC many years ago, but came back in, let me entreat you to stay in and not leave. What can you say outside the Convention tommorrow that you cannot say inside today? It is the Convention that has strayed from the theology and practice of our founding fathers, not you or I. I encourage you to stay in, cry out, and make your voice heard.They will have to boot me out before I leave.The SBC needs us now more than ever!

I have much appreciation for your struggles.

Alan Cross said...

I agree completely, Tom. I have noticed the same thing for some time - walk into any Lifeway store and you will get the same idea.

It isn't just that we have quit preaching the gospel, people have quit desiring it. We preach our agendas and to tickle the ears of what people want to hear. Generally, they want to hear about themselves and how their lives can become better and happier. As preachers, our job is to create a taste for Jesus in the hearts of our listeners. You are absolutely right. Paul said, "I preach nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified." If only we could join Paul in that statement instead of doing the opposite.

concernedSBCer said...

I'm a little slow on the uptake but just found this blog. I have had many concerns about the SBC for several years now. My question is this: What can be done to help it get back on track? ScriptureSearcher said it can be done (because with God nothing is impossible) but it will be painful. I agree. It seems to me the SBC has been in a "watering down" mode for quite some time. This truly concerns me because I don't see believers getting meat. I also don't see the complete character of God being taught. It seems to me the "good" side of God is continually focused on; not the whole character of God. Some churches do not display crosses because it might "offend" someone. I believe we need the reminder of what Jesus went through for us! I am offended that we tippy-toe around in fear of offending! As much as I have read the Gospel, I don't recall Jesus watering down His message. In fact, in Jesus' conversation with the rich young ruler, the rich young ruler didn't want to get rid of his worldly goods to follow Jesus. Jesus let him go. He didn't run after him trying to work out a compromise! We are compromising the Gospel! It requires more than warm fuzzy feelings to bring it to life. Personally, I see the denomination slipping into a worldly attitude about many things: music, reading, schedules, running churches like businesses instead of allowing God to show His Power and Will. The marketing of the church would not be necessary if we all lived the Gospel. Please do not think I'm saying I have it all figured out! But these are my thoughts.....so.....original question....What do we do?

centuri0n said...

My first concern, of course, is that you did not condemn the use of alcohol in this post, which makes we worry that you're going presbyterian on us.

My second concern, however, is that the people who need to hear this have already judged you based on the first concern. What I say here in jest they mean as a shibboleth, and unless you will partner with them on their fool's errands, they will not take you seriously about the real matters of bringing Christ to all men, and bringing those who will come closer to Him by the Word and the work it calls us to.
____________________________

Back in 1998, I attended a lunch chapel with my former pastor at the Mid-America seminary branch in Schenectady, NY. The text was Titus 1:1-4. It's a brilliant text to deliver to seminarians -- because it delivers the whole Gospel and makes it a particular burden for the pastor to disciple men to the end of making them elders who lead "for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth".

I will never ever forget that sermon -- because it taught me about what kind of man I ought to be in my church, and it cast such a brilliant light on my former pastor who was still shepherding me even though I wasn't on his member roles because I hadn;t settled down in a church yet.

God be willing that this is what goes into and comes out of our seminaries.

Joseph Botwinick said...

"I realized I had slipped into much the same line of thinking. If we lose the gospel, if we lose a truly regenerate church all will be lost"

Tom B.,

I am glad that you have got back to the foundation of our faith in your preaching. Your last statement, however, raised some questions in my mind immediately as I read it:

1. I believe that God will not ever lose the truly regenerate Church no matter what we do. Remember, God is in control, and if we fail, God will never fail and will raise up someone else to do his will. Ok...that was really a comment and not a question.

2. When you say that "all will be lost", what exactly do you mean?

Joseph Botwinick said...

"Too often only some facts related to the Gospel are tacked on at the end of a message in order to justify some kind of altar call, but the Gospel itself is not foundational to it."

Tom A.,

I agree with most of your post, but wonder if this doesn't go a bit far. How would you preach a verse by verse expositional sermon in which its primary focus is not the Gospel? For example, preaching a sermon about Jesus' sermon on the Mount of Olives. The primary focus of the passage is on the events of the end times.

ajlin said...

re: "I took several hours last spring to listen to a number of SBC seminary chapel sermons. I heard lots about leadership, commitment, courage, faithfulness, sheep, shepherds, prayer and devotion, I heard very little of Jesus Christ."

I would encourage you to listen to the chapel sermons of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) from Fall '06. Though I've heard that SBTS, in the past, went through a kind of "slump" in which the chapel sermons were often not Gospel-centered or expository, for the most part the preaching I've witnessed from the chapel since I began classes here last August could be described as nothing less than excellent. We've been blessed by the preaching of men such as Al Mohler, Don Whitney, and Mark Coppenger, all whom have spoken at Founders' Conferences in the past. We've heard from others from the Together for the Gospel conference, such as John MacArthur and C.J. Mahaney (R. C. Sproul preached here last spring and John Piper will speak here this spring). We've heard from other great preachers as well, such as Russell Moore and O. S. Hawkins. Last Fall one preacher (whose name I forget right now) even preached an excellent, thorough sermon on God's sovereignty in salvation. Though things here are certainly not 100% perfect, I truly believe that SBTS is a place that Baptists in the SBC can trust to provide Gospel-centered, Christ-exalting education to those sent here to train for ministry.

Tom said...

Joseph:

You raise a good question:

>>I agree with most of your post, but wonder if this doesn't go a bit far. How would you preach a verse by verse expositional sermon in which its primary focus is not the Gospel? For example, preaching a sermon about Jesus' sermon on the Mount of Olives. The primary focus of the passage is on the events of the end times. <<

I plan to write more on this later, but suffice to say here that, as Jesus said, the Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:39). For the sake of argument let's grant your assertion that the Olivet discourse is about the end times. What is the focal point of the end times? It's Christ! We need an expansive view of this point. Paul said that he professed to know nothing among the Corinthians but Jesus Christ crucified. He was not being reductionistic, but asserting how all-inclusive the Gospel of Christ is.

Blessings,
tom

David said...

Tom,
I want to thank you for such a passionate post and for sharing this sobering burden. We can't get enough reminders about focusing our preaching (no matter what text we are using) around the gospel message and I thank you for placing that once again in the forefront of my own mind.

I too have been discouraged by the lack of knowledge concerning the gospel message displayed at times by my own congregation. My tendency was once to question solely their own commitment to reading the Bible but I find more and more that it is a deficiency that has grown just as much from a lack of solid preaching and teaching.

In my teaching, I have tried to present my messages in a way that emphasizes the saving capacity of the gospel for the lost and an empowering capacity for those that are saved (please correct me if this is wrong). In doing so I have found that many have no better understanding of the gospel than the Jews did of the law and their faith (as seen in Matthew ch. 5-7).

This is very discouraging but I am glad to know there are many others that feel the greatest thing we stand to lose is the gospel itself - the number one reason behind our lives and our service to Christ and His church. May God keep the gospel at the forefront of our lives, our preaching, and our teaching!

J.D. Rector said...

Tom: Your comments, regarding a gospel that is lost in many of our SBC churches, are sober indeed. How would you respond to a young seminary student who asked me last week why we don't preach enough "felt need" sermons within our denomination? I told him that from my perspective, there are many "felt need" preachers in our denomination today and gave him examples of some titles of sermons that I have perused over the internet and listening to some of them from many churches within our convention. I explained that man's basic need was spiritual not "felt",even though I work in my ministry meeting people's needs, I still remind myself from God's word that man's greatest need is profoundly spiritual in nature because of his total depravity.

This young man could not even give a clear answer to what is the gospel in my opinion.

I am astonished that I have spent countless hours and days for the battle of the Bible in my denomination for this!?! No, I know it was not in vain, but it is discouraging to say the least when I heard his answer knowing that he was reared in one of our most conservative churches in the SBC.

Thank you again Tom for all you and the Founder's Ministry do to remind us "... to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." Jude verse 3

Sincerely,
J.D. Rector

Tom said...

JBuch, Doug, Earl Clay, Will and Charles:

Thanks, brothers. We who see these things in a similar light need to encourage one another to persevere!

Rev:

I think you are exactly correct in your assessment. I am grateful that we have seen some trickle the other way as men of experience and proven usefulness in the kingdom have joined the ranks of the SBC recently (such as Brothter Earl!). But it concerns me that we are losing some really good guys over these issues. I think many of them are willing to stay and contend for the faith if they can be encouraged by some of us with greying and disappearing hair (I qualify on both counts!). May the Lord enable us to do so.

Cent:

As usual, you are correct! Thanks for the great testimony concerning your former pastor. There is a growing number of such men among us who are faithfully serving Christ's sheep day by day. We must never forget this.

ajlin:

Thanks for this good report about SBTS. We should rejoice over all the progress being made there and elsewhere in the SBC.

David:

Well stated, brother. That is the way that I want to preach, as well.

Tom said...

J.D.:

Thanks, brother. I think I would say pretty much what you said. I share your view. The Gospel is what we need because Christ is life. We simply must diligently work to see this ourselves and help our people to see it, including young seminarians.

Joseph Botwinick said...

"For the sake of argument let's grant your assertion that the Olivet discourse is about the end times. What is the focal point of the end times? "

I believe it is generally accepted by scholars (please correct me if I am wrong) that the end times, or coming of the Lord primarily focuses on a day of wrath and judgment on the wicked and a day of deliverance for the righteous. Thus, our Lord uses as an example the story of Noah where all the wicked were killed and Noah and his family were left behind. Certainly, we can see the Gospel of salvation in the deliverance part of this passage, but the context of the passage as a whole certainly deals primarily with the wrath of a Holy God being poured out on the wicked.

irreverend fox said...

"If a sermon would play just as well in a Kingdom Hall or Jewish Synagogue as it would in a Baptist church, you can be sure it is void of the Gospel."

AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!!

AMEN!

Habbukuk said...

Brother Blackburn and others,

I understand the "stay and fight" mentality for ministers, but what about laymen? I'm a concerned father. I don't want to leave the SBC, but I want my children to hear the gospel on Sundays and Wednesdays. At my church right now we hear a lot of sermons on forgiveness, facing trials, "storehouse tithing," family, etc. We get all the usual evangelical hot button issues like abortion and homosexuality thrown in for affect. Sadly, straight up gospel preaching has ended.

For the good of my children should I stay or should I go?

Habbukuk said...

Ooops...misspelled "Habbakuk"

M. Jay Bennett said...

Hi Earl,

Thanks for your encouragement. I understand where you are coming from. If I were still baptist I would certainly stay with the SBC. But I have recently shifted to a covenantal perspective. In short, I have converted to Presbyterianism.

Alan Cross,

I feel your pain with regard to LifeWay. I work at a LifeWay in Dallas, TX and many if not most of the books on our shelves deny the cross. By that I mean many of our books deny the full extent of humanity's sin problem by couching redemption in therapeutic terms.

I think the reason this problem is that as a business, if it wants to be competitive, LifeWay has to sell what is popular. The cross is not popular. It never has been, and I don't think it ever will be. A business simply cannot run on the cross and be competitive. The masses will always choose Barrabbus when it comes down to a vote.

flawedcricket said...

The central theme of preaching is no longer Christ and Him crucified, but man and him satisfied.

CT

Bob Cleveland said...

I seriously doubt I can even organize my thoughts about this excellent post, so they can be understood. But that never stopped me before.

The conditions which give rise to this may stem all the way to the circumstances by which we reach out to people, and how they come into our churches. The Holy Ghost said He would convict lost folks of their guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. In my own history as a believer, I know several folks who have simply been convicted thusly, and have sought a Savior. They stand out in my mind.

I had lunch with a dear friend today who was saved by God convicting him, almost without any "middle-mortals". He KNOWS what he was saved from, and it sticks out all over him all the time. And I know he loves the gospel, plain and simple.

It seems to me that in the current context of programs of outreach, in which we go out and tell lost folks about the Savior, and invite them to "make Him their Lord", we may be bypassing conviction beyond a nodding assent to guilt. We then have a congregation of folks who never come face-to-face with what they were really saved from.

This has bothered me for some time. Thanks for giving me some space to carry on about it.

Oh .. answers? Who, me? I'm just a guy in a pew.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. A,

Thank you for sounding this call in the SBC.

I encourage all your readers to do a survey of the 12 (more or less) presentations of the Gospel recorded in the book of Acts. Some are long, some are short, some are complete, some are interrupted. Note the common features and the general three-part structure. Then compare these presentations with what is common in the SBC today. And reform your own proclamation accordingly!

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Chris Webster said...

"The central theme of preaching is no longer Christ and Him crucified, but man and him satisfied."

flawedcricket,

What tragically accurate statement! I think you will agree with this great, recent quote from Vern Poythress:

"Only by befriending the mainstream will they be able to make positive relationships grow, and at the far end of those relationships they hope to witness to their non-Christian friends concerning the attractiveness of Christ and of the Christian faith. Attractive, yes. But it will be attractive because it has conveniently dispensed with all that is offensive."

Do Modern People Have Room for the Wrath of God? Jan. 17, 2007

SJ Camp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SJ Camp said...

Tom:

Excellent post brother! This is an issue near to my heart as well.

The gospel has been truncated and marginalized in too many evangelical circles today-and sadly, even among reformed brothers.

The law is seldom proclaimed in most gospel presentations; repentance from sin is no longer front and center; the Lordship of Christ is an after thought at best; justification by faith is forgotten; the wrath of God and His anger against sinners is considered out of date and passe; the call to deny self, take up a cross and follow Him is too offensive; and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is now considered to be unnecessary in gospel proclamations--even by reformed brothers.

And if you do hear some elements of the gospel preached today, it will have an anthropocentric, synergistic emphasis.

"We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord..." That should be branded on the doorposts above every pastor's study in America.

Lastly, some in the SBC and in reformed circles have adopted a romantic view of God as a frustrated suitor or powerless lover who is begging sinful man on bended knee, to take the engagement ring of salvation. He is presented as One who is powerless to act and impotent to save until depraved man decides to accept Him.

God helplessly waits on man to "decide and follow Him."

How perverted is this view... Instead of picturing God begging sinful man to "marry Him", waiting for man to accept the proposal - why not picture sinful man on his knees mourning over his sin, crying out in repentance for forgiveness of his sins and that the Lord would show mercy upon his soul granting him saving faith by which to confess Jesus as Lord; that the dread Sovereign of the universe would accept him and save him.

This "almost gospel" can only produce "almost Christians."

I thank you dear brother for your constant uncompromising dedication to the whole gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot piece meal out the truth and tease lost souls with only a fraction of its life giving truth. We must proclaim the whole counsel of God in evangelism, imploring men on behalf of Christ as His ambassadors to be reconciled unto God.

God has not stuttered--He has spoken clearly in His Word about His gospel; may we not edit its message and remove the offense of the cross to simply appeal to men; as if Christ needed our methods and techniques to do His eternal work. The gospel itself IS the power of God unto salvation... amen?

As my dear friend James White is fond of saying, "what you save them with; is what you save them to." Such is the plight of seeker sensitive, emerging and emergent churches where the audience remains sovereign--not the message. People want to feel God today, but they do not want to know God today.

In a time where even just this last week the leaders of the church of Scientology declared Tom Cruise "the new Christ" and said he is to be worshipped in the future for his spreading of Scientology; in this generation we need to boldly present the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel unashamedly, in love, and with fearless courage. We should never speak of hell with dry eyes and treat with a cavalier attitude the cross of Christ as if it were a comic book.

There is an offense to the cross; may we not make void its power, by trying to dumb down its truth in order to make it "relevant."

As Luther said, "I would rather preach the truth with too great a severity, than to ever once act the hypocrite and conceal the truth."

The cross is a radical thing...

Sola Fide,
Campi
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Brian said...

I heard a sermon at a PCA church last Sunday on the self-cenetered ness of God, truly the opposite of seeker sensitive bologna Gospel stuff you are talking about. Even so, it had Christ as an after thought too. It used words like supralapsarian and other big vocab that means nothing to most people. (being a theology guy even I didn't find it relevant)

It was as if someone decided to be so opposite the trend you talk about that they took it to the opposite extreme - and still forgot about Christ. We truly need Christ to be the center of our teaching. This is not a calvinist/reformed issue.

ColinM said...

I must say, about Paul's "I preach nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified," that he is saying much more than that single statement, as was Christ to the two disciples in Luke 24 as he opened their eyes to the Scriptures...showing them nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. It makes me think that many equate the meaning of the gospel to the call to salvation, not to the revelatory witness from genesis to Revelation.

On the seminaries, I have had maybe one prof (who is now gone) that I would suspect uses the sinners prayer, but none to ever teach it. Further, the closest I have heard to arminian theology is the rejection of one, possibly two, of the five points. (And to respond to 50% of the blogosphere: The closest I have heard to armenian theology was this guy visiting from Russia.) So from my vantage point, I am not seeing the seminary doom and gloom. In fact, I have a greater measure of optimism. Further, your post echoes what I am being taught in seminary. It is too bad some don't see the far-reaching implication in giving it a black eye for political or "ethical" motivations...

On the gospel, it is interesting the concept of the loss of the gospel, which is in fact, by implication, the loss of the full counsel of God and His redemptive plan. Therefore, it must be assumed that a "recovery" of the gospel will manifest itself in a strikingly profound way- it will expose the people in the pews (and perhaps behind the pulpits) for not living in a manner worthy of God (1Thess 1:10-12). It will, as Dever surmised to be the solution to an ailing problem, "close the front doors and open the back." It will not, however, suddenly create a denomination that acts or behaves like they are saved. In other words, to recover the gospel, one needn't look past the pulpits. For from the pulpits, people's behavior and expectations and consumerism mentalities will be exposed for what they are, and what Christianity is not. (For this reason, folks, I pray you would set out to nurture our seminaries and our seminary staff, pray for them, and support them with sound exposition and visits to impart wisdom and friendship.) It makes me wonder what the regenerate church membership resolution would look like applied retroactively in all churches who made it covenant.

On Lifeway, not that I am pointing to particular commentors in this thread (I am not), but I have detected logic run amuck recently. I have read some of the same criticizers of Lifeway defend the preaching of modalist TD Jakes at the upcoming conference on [html code for strikethrough> the gospel[/s> efficiency. I have heard some other criticizers defend open theists and those that eject doctrine to foster open lines of communication with gen x,y and z. And, I am more than optimistic that our new Lifeway head will seek the face of God in his leadership.

On your post, Dr. Ascol, what do you think a radical recovery of the gospel will look like in the SBC?

ColinM said...

Excuse me, for the above reference should be 1 Thess 2:10-12.

M. Jay Bennett said...

After the last comment I feel the need to clarify my previous comment with regard to LifeWay.

I would not defend T.D. Jakes's preaching or the doctrine of open-theism. I consider both herterodoxy.

Also, my comment was not meant to criticize LifeWay for having bad books on the shelf, but to simply point out that the books on LifeWay's shelves are emblematic of the systemic denial of the Gospel among evangelicals in America.

Personally I think the term Christian business is an oxymorn. There is no such thing. There are Christians who own businesses but not Christian businesses.

I would criticize LifeWay, because they claim to be a Christian business, for trying to be so competitive that they are willing to sell a false gospel.

I think LifeWay should decide, like the church, whether they are committed to competitive growth or doctrinal purity. If they are committed to competitive growth, then doctrinal purity should be abandoned. (BTW, this is occurring on some levels anyway. LifeWay is committed to not stocking its shelves with authors like Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn, but if a customer wants to special order those books we'll do it).

If they are committed to doctrinal purity, then the push to be a competitive American business should be abandoned. The two simply will not happen simultaneously this side of glory.

Earl M. Blackburn said...

To Habakkuk,

There is a wrong way and a right way to leave a church. I understand the dilemma you face with your family. I suggest the following:

1) Approach your Pastor and express your love for him and express your appreciation for his endeavors to give the Word of God to the people. Then give him a booklet and ask if you could share with him somethig that has blessed you. Then in a week of two do the same. Two booklets I recommend are: 1) "Preaching" by Al Mohler"; 2) "The Cross: A Vindication of God" by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Both are published by Banner of Truth and cost only $2.50-3.00 each.

2) If that doesn't help, ask to meet with your Pastor. Graciously, carefully, and forthrightly express your concerns. Then give him either "A Cross-centred Life" by C.J. Mahaney or "Preachers and Preaching" by Lloyd-Jones or "According to Plan: The unfolding revelation of God in the Bible" (IVP).

3) If that doesn't work, then look for a good gospel-centered church that expounds the entire Word of God froma Christ-centered perspective.

In other words, don't just simply walk away without saying anything and giving your Pastor an apportunity to gorw and mature in his preaching. I know several Pastors who have been won over by gracious, well-studied laymen who took the time to help them.

To Jospeh,

The Olivet Discourse, along with all other eschatological passages are not simply about "end time events." All have to do with Christ and HIS 2nd coming. I suggest the book "The Eclipse of Christ in Eschatology" by a South African whose name I cannot remember. Google the book title or go to Amazon.com and search for the title. You can find it. It helped me tremendously.

To Jay,

You can be covenantal and still be baptistic. I've tried 3-4 times to become a Presbyterian, but my exegesis would not allow me. If I'm not mistaken, Bro. Tom did his Ph.D thesis on the conenant theology of Witsius. Dr. Fred Malone recounts his struggles and journey from Presbyterian to Baptist in the booklet "A String of Pearls Unstrung." Also, his book "The Baptism of Disciple Alone" by by Founders Press is a solid read. I think it has not be sucessfully answered by any paedobaptist. Furthermore, if you contact Reformed Baptist Publications at (562) 944-3366, they will send you a booklet entitled "Covenant Theology: A Reformed Baptist Overview." I completely understanding your struggles. Let me encourage you not to "throw out the baby with the bathwater."

I hope these quick comments help.

Tom said...

Brian:

You are absolutely correct--this transcends the intramural Calvinistic-Arminian debate. Like you, I have heard sermons that were very God-centered but that had very little or nothing of Jesus Christ. I must admit to my shame, I have preached such sermons. Those who respond to the concerns raised in this post by dismissing them as simply another attempt to "push Calvinism" demonstrate that they simply do not get it. And that is true regardless of what position they hold or how many academic degrees they possess. Thanks for clarifying this.

Tom said...

Colin:

Great question. When I read the exhortations that come from the Gospel preaching and teaching of the Apostles, and consider the kind of life that is held up to us as examples of the Gospel coming in power upon people, I think I could best summarize my answer by saying that there would be a renewed, widespread manifestation of the Spirit's fruit. The convention will change when churches change. Churches will change when members change. Members will be changed by the power of the Spirit as He applies the Gospel in their lives enabling them to live by grace.

Tom said...

Steve:

Good words. Thanks, brother!

Earl:

Thanks for those recommendations. Fred Malone's book is excellent. Founders hopes to publish a revised edition of it later this year.

ColinM said...

Jay: "I think _______ should decide...whether they are committed to competitive growth or doctrinal purity. If they are committed to competitive growth, then doctrinal purity should be abandoned."

Very true. So true, in fact, enter in any noun you want: American Christianity, the church (like you had), the politicos in the current controversies, emerging movement, seeker-sensitives, the touted "cutting-edge" evangelism programs... Jay, I would also urge you to decide what you are committed to. If you are committed to preaching the gospel at all costs, despite man and his machinations, why should you be bothered by the politics of the SBC enough to find new friends?

Steve: Sounds like your friend had the same advice as Adrian Rogers, "What you catch them with, you have to keep them with."

Dr. Ascol: I think we will see what you describe, but more specifically: drastically reduced membership, a broadscale public and media attack on the "SBC Fundamentalists" who are rejecting people's "desired" membership, a renewed attack by baptist moderates, many more churches without pastors, and an unexpected humbling of all calling for these things now. Can you imagine the gospel's taking hold, and church members who begin to question how much football you are watching, how much golf are you playing, what kind of television programs are on in your home?

I can hear Brian Williams now, "America's largest Protestant denomination is telling over half their membership that their qualifications aren't good enough anymore..."

May God bring us to revival as you describe.

Morris Brooks said...

There are many different reasons why the gospel is not preached or included in sermons, but to me another glaring ommission from modern sermons is sin. According to I Corinthians 15 "Christ died for our sins." Without understanding sin, his own sinfulness, and the penalty for sin man will not truly see his need for salvation, nor understand what true salvation is, and what the gospel truly does. In writing to the churches, to believers, Paul, James, and John talked about the struggle with sin. So it not only is a pre-salvation issue, but a post salvation issue as well.

In preaching to felt needs pastors do not see that the issue underlying felt needs is sin. In preaching the gospel pastors forget that the reason man needs the gospel is because of sin. That is the reason for preaching both law and gospel, because through the law comes the knowledge of sin, and not just sin before salvation, but the sin we must deal with post salvation. Sin is truly the great enemy of man. It brought about our death, it seeks to master us, it is what we are tempted to do, it is lawlessness and rebellion against God. It is Satan's greatest tool as it is my sin and your sin that wounds others and impedes kingdom work. Sin, the great enemy, was what was put to death at the cross as Christ became sin on our behalf, and according to Romans 6 is what we have been freed from through our baptism into Christ.

So in our thinking through the losing of gospel in the SBC, maybe one of the biggest reasons is that we have lost sight of our sin.

Tom said...

Morris:

I agree with your thoughts. The whole reality of sin I would put under, "Why it matters." Sin is transgression of the law, and one of the law's purposes is to stand, unwavering, mercilessly showing just what God requires and, by the Spirit's illumination, just how far short of that we fall. But where God's law is not clearly understood or preached, the knowledge of sin will be diminished.

Colin:

You may well be right. Without a doubt our churches would begin to appear on paper to be much smaller than what we typically report now. And humility would characterize our relationships more than is the case now. As the Puritan John Flavel once said, A crucified style best suits the servants of a crucified Christ.

scripturesearcher said...

Having read the helpful additions in Dr. Tom Nettles' updated, revised and expanded edition of BY HIS GRACE AND FOR HIS GLORY, I urge all readers to contact by computer, telephone, regular mail or smoke signal Founders Ministries
and order your copy ASAP.

If I were financially able (if oil or gold is discovered in my back or front yard) I would buy
and distribute MANY copies of this
OUTSTANDING BOOK BY ONE OF OUR MOST FAITHFUL SEMINARY PROFESSORS.

This historical and theological classic is filled with the TRUE GOSPEL OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD.

Evangelist Charles Rosson
heaven-bound3@juno.com

Joseph Botwinick said...

"To Jospeh,

The Olivet Discourse, along with all other eschatological passages are not simply about "end time events." All have to do with Christ and HIS 2nd coming. I suggest the book "The Eclipse of Christ in Eschatology" by a South African whose name I cannot remember. Google the book title or go to Amazon.com and search for the title. You can find it. It helped me tremendously."

Earl,

Thanks for the recommendation on the book. I am currently in the middle of about 2-3 different books, including Sproul's "The Last Days According to Jesus", so it might be a while before I can get into the other one.

In response to your other comments, let me say that I didn't state that the Olivet Discourse was only about end time events. I did, indeed, acknowledge that the message of redemption is part of the passage. If you, however, look at the context of the passage as a whole, I think it is abundantly clear that the primary purpose of the passage is to warn about the coming wrath of God in the Last Days at his coming. As a matter of fact, I would dare say that a good 95% of the passage deals with his judgment against the wicked.

RefBaptDude said...

Tom,

A perfect example of your current blog topic "Have we lost the Gospel?" is a local Baptist church here in Northern Virginia that has sermon series on losing weight.

The sermon series is entitled “Bod4God”.

See the link below
http://www.capitalbaptist.org

Refbaptdude
Steve

M. Jay Bennett said...

Earl M. Blackburn,

I have read Malone and commented on his thoughts briefly here.
In short, I think Malone's argument is okay, though not sterling, if you accept his assumptions. But its at the assumption level that the baptist perspective differs from the svoenantal perspective. I thought Malone did a poor job recognizing that difference throughout his book.

I've also read Schreiner's and Wright's new book and commented on some of Schreiner's thoughts here. I came away with similar conclusions as when I read Malone.

I think a baptist could call himself covenantal, but I don't think a baptist could be consistently covenantal in the traditional sense of the term. I think the term covenantal has traditionally meant that the Abrahamic Covenant is essentially the same as the New. The baptist approach simply will not allow for that.

colinm,

According to my understanding at this point, which is surely flawed on many levels, I have decided that I am a committed covenantalist. I have not left the SBC because of any political wrangling. Anyone who would do so has missed the point of Independency. I have left the SBC because I have come to belive that the Reformed/Covenantal perspective is to be preferred over the Baptist perspective.

Lance said...

Thank you. As a pastor, I feel your pain. It's hard sometimes to preach the gospel and see so many eyes glazed over. Many folks have walked the aisle, said the "sinner's prayer," etc., but sometimes it's hard to tell who is trusting in Christ alone. I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I'm not.

M. Jay Bennett said...

But . . . I love my baptist brothers dearly! I am so excited about the movement to reclaim the gospel in SBC churches through ministries like Founders. I am so appreciative of men like Tom Ascol and my pastor Eric "Gunny" Hartman and my spiritual family at Providence Church who are willing to stand up and say something about what matters most, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All you guys give me great hope about what God is doing and might do in SBC churches over the next few decades. I've got nothing but love for you all. I commend you and encourage you all to keep the faith.

Your brother and friend,

MJB

kingofbleh said...

Dr. Ascol,

THANK YOU for articulating what I think for some time has been a growing longing among SBC laity. Many of my brothers and sisters are quietly clamoring for gospel-centered preaching. I am attending the pastor's conference this week at First Baptist Jacksonville and so far all of the keynote speakers (Mac Brunson, Junior Hill, Jerry Vines, etc.) have focused on this theme.

BTW, John Sullivan is scheduled to speak tomorrow night. We shall see if he mentions the new FBC alcohol policy. :)

GUNNY said...

Jay,

Part of the problem/situation is that Lifeway is not a ministry of the SBC. In other words, it receives no SBC funds, but is self-sustaining.

While they may want to put out some good slooge, they need to cover their expenses. If it was a ministry, they could lose money and not be concerned about appeasing Barrabas.

Incidentally, me thinks Jay the Bennett is still a Baptist at heart and I haven't given up on him. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more)

By the way, GREAT Dr. Hannah lecture, brother. Danke!

One of the great discussions I've been having with Jay on the side is the tenuous position of being covenantal (per the traditional WCF exposition of it) and not having children as part of the covenant.

It's fascinating stuff and I'm just glad we get to have such discussions instead of just opining about our favorite Left Behind novel or the merits of The Prayer of Jabez vs. The Purpose Driven Life.

Oi vay!

M. Jay Bennett said...

Hi Gun!

Yep. You're right about LifeWay. Unfortunately, they don't view themselves as a business. They view themselves as a ministry. I sat through 4 hours of training videos a couple weeks ago where I was told over and over again that LifeWay is a ministry. The actual phrase used was, "We consider selling a ministry." And I never heard the words sin or atonement, though a part of the training was dedicated to encouraging associates to lead people to Christ. Compared to other retail outfits though, LifeWay is a fine atmosphere in which to work.

I don't know about still being Baptist at heart, but I will always have baptists in my heart. Happy Valentines Day!

That Hannah lecture was good! I want to be friends with it. I think I'll give it another listen tomorrow.

I always enjoy our discussions too. What a joy to search the depths of the wisdom of God in Christ with dear brothers!

MJB

One Salient Oversight said...

Allow me, as an Australian, to use an American cultural "thing" as an illustration.

Too many Christians see the Gospel as though it was a ticket to the Superbowl. In order to get into heaven/Superbowl, you need to have the Gospel/ticket. But once you have the Gospel/ticket, what do you focus on? Do you focus on the Gospel/ticket, or do you focus on the upcoming event? In this scenario, the gospel is just a ticket to heaven - essential, but not worth worrying about.

Of course, we know that the ticket and the game are the same thing. When we have the Gospel, we have every blessing that God has given us. That's why the Gospel should be central to our preaching, to our public worship, and to our ministries.

Tom said...

Lance:

Aren't you glad God gave us 2 Tim. 4:1-5! Those verses have kept me going on many occasions.

Kingofbleh:

Thanks for the encouraging news from the J'ville conference!

Onesalientoversight:

Well, put, mate!

completed Jew said...

Brother Tom:

As a laymen, we are blessed in my church to have a pastor who preaches the gospel, week end and week out. We are a solos church, of whcich I am so thankful for.

Having read your post and those that have responded, may I interject that though you have identified the effect, the cause has not been readily identified. The cause in my humble opinion is that too much emphasis is made on numbers, both in people and in dollars.

Having attended a church where the emphasis was "mega-church" the gospel as we know it and as you so readily defined it, was not preached. It is not preached for if it were, it is unlikely that we would have so many "mega-churches". I stress again that much of the problem is the image that many of these pastors seek and the reputation they desire to have. If that were not so, then they would not have a mega-church pastors meeting each year.

The other reason that we see a lack of solos scriptura (if I said this wrong, remember, I am a laymen and not as trained and well versed as those posting), there is an extreme lack of church discipline both in the congregation and within the pulpit. We are seeing a good ol boys network now and men will not stand or speak up for the truth. It is no wonder that the gospel has been watered down to nothing more than a feel good remedy to help one get what one wants in life. Jesus has been reduced from the Savior, the Son of God, the Great I AM, to a vending machine that will dispense all your wants, needs and desires, you need only ask. Think not, ask Joel Olsteen or discover your purpose in life by reading RW's book , because Lord knows you won't find it in the bible.

I have ranted long enough but I wish for all of you pastors to know that there are some out there who truly want to hear the gospel and they don't want their ears tickled. To Tom and all of you, stay the course, fight the good fight and Finish Strong.

Shalom

Mark Borofsky

Mike McIlwain said...

"Too many Christians see the Gospel as though it was a ticket to the Superbowl. In order to get into heaven/Superbowl, you need to have the Gospel/ticket. But once you have the Gospel/ticket, what do you focus on? Do you focus on the Gospel/ticket, or do you focus on the upcoming event? In this scenario, the gospel is just a ticket to heaven - essential, but not worth worrying about.

Of course, we know that the ticket and the game are the same thing. When we have the Gospel, we have every blessing that God has given us. That's why the Gospel should be central to our preaching, to our public worship, and to our ministries."

Those are some powerful, but true words, One Salient Oversight. Sadly, they were once true of me, even for a time as a minister of the gospel. As I am growing in grace in my daily walk with Christ I am appalled at how shallow I have been in the past in my walk with Christ. It is going to take solid gospel preaching that Pastor Ascol has advocated combined with a powerful outpouring of God's Holy Spirit to convict and revive us.

I do know that in the past year my wife and I have talked to people who have been attending the seeker-friendly, user-friendly churches who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the shallowness of the preaching and the worship services. God is stirring up hearts, but if we don't take Romans 10:17 seriously, then we are going to miss our opportunity to speak to the true needs of our decaying culture.

May our great and Sovereign Lord Jesus give a revival of true religion in our land in this dark and trying time.

craigkendall said...

Here's what I think is an interesting question: Have many of today's churches reduced the mandate to be, as we are going, discipling to inviting someone to church?

Maybe I'm on a different page here, but I truly am amazed how many people are focused on inviting people to their churches rather than telling their stories about the change Jesus has made in their lives. Could this be part of the breakdown in "losing the Gospel"?

SelahV said...

Dr. Ascol: Haven't lost the Gospel since the day He came into my life. Every where I've been the Gospel has gone with me. He lives within me, walks with me and I'm privileged to be able to share with others why He does that.

I cannot speak for other churches. I know that I've never been a member in a reformed church, nor had a pastor who was reformed. In fact, I can't say that in my 51 years as a Southern Baptist and twenty plus years as a minister's wife, that I've ever known any folks who attended a Southern Baptist church that was reformed.

So, no. I haven't lost the Gospel. And I don't count myself as belonging to "the crowd that judges any criticism or questioning of the 'post-conservative-resurgence' SBC to be an act of war".

I do find myself, questioning the legitimacy of your concern, though. Not because I think you aren't sincere. Not because I view your view as illegitimate in itself. But because you have "no hope of persuading".

How can one even begin to reach a world of churches to see their need for change with "no hope of persuading" them? SelahV
P.S. I thought Calvinists didn't believe in persuading anyone anyway.

willreformed said...

Selahv
I find your post to be, at best disingenous, at worst, an attempt at blatant sarcasm.

Dr. Ascol's exact words were "Anyone who has read this blog even intermittantly over the last year and a half should have some awareness of my burden for this issue. Some take strong exception to having this question even raised. To them, it is tantamount to denominational insurrection. But they typically belong to the crowd that judges any criticism or questioning of the "post-conservative-resurgence" SBC to be an act of war, more likely to get you lumped and dumped into the CBF crowd than if you denied the Virgin birth. Quite honestly, I don't have much hope of persuading folks from that sector of the family of the legitimacy of my concern."

His point is simply that there are those in this denomination who will not accept any criticism, no matter how well founded. He works as hard as he does on this blog and other outlets because of his concern for churches and his desire to see them return to the gospel.

Unfortunately, your words also betray a sad lack of knowledge about what "calvinism" and "reformed" really mean.

In HIS Name
Will

SelahV said...

Will: you are correct. I have a sad lack of knowledge about what Calvinism and reformed really mean. In fact I have asked repeatedly for the differences of the two to be explained to me. (and if there are differences, then what are they) And all I get for my inquiries is more reading material. Which I read. But unlike many who are going to seminary, I am not afforded the opportunity to ask of my professor a question in regards to a question in my mind on the doctrines of grace or the abstracts of principles. Therefore, if I come across as sadly lacking in knowledge, dear Brother, it is not for the lack of wanting that knowledge.

As for your assertion that my other statements were either disingenuous or blatant sarcasm, I'm going to say you are entitled to read my words in whatever perspective you so desire.

Our Lord knows I spoke as a person who was reading a blog that posed a question: "Have we lost the Gospel?"

I was assuring Dr. Ascol and others that Jesus was alive and well in Lawton. If you don't believe me, come visit our church. I'm sure you may find some things we do objectionable, but we preach Jesus, we love Jesus and we share Jesus in our church. And we grow disciples. Not all are as equipped as the Apostle Paul would want them to be, but we are all doing our best to teach Jesus. So to whether or not we must be reformed, I guess I will have to take the fifth. I don't know what you mean by being reformed.

But I have never ever ever been a part of a reformed theology as I've read it explained on this blog and a few others. Maybe I was too busy sharing my simple faith in the only way I knew how. But as I understand the Gospel, it is about Jesus. And the flow of his blood is from cover to cover in the Holy Bible. And the fruit of the Spirit is evident in all who believe. And in that fruit there is no worms of doubt or confusion.

Perhaps I assumed too much. I thought Dr. Ascol was referring to a crowd as those who didn't agree with Jesus as the Gospel. So I'm wrong? So that is a faction within the SBC? A group of folks who just play church? Or just a group of leaders within the SBC? Shucks, Will, I'm no authority on this stuff. I was just pointing out to Dr. Ascol that he mustn't be without hope if he wants to persuade folks to be reformed. (whatever that is)
And I still say the same thing about Calvinists and persuasion. I was told that by a Calvinist--albeit, I don't know what kind of Calvinist. Persuasion is not necessary with a Sovereign God. And please, dear Will, understand, I'm not trying to persuade you to believe me, here. You don't know me. I don't know you. I haven't gone to your webblog and you probably haven't gone to mine.

You may have read this statement I made to Dr. Ascol and surmised what you did as fact. If that be the case, then fine--I can live with your disdain. I think Dr. Ascol is sincere in his burden. I am sincere in the health of my heart, too.

I've refrained from commenting here many many times, because I have not felt welcomed. In fact, each time I've come here, I've found someone like you who splits every syllable and dissects every phrase I make as if I have a coded message in my comments.

But this was one question I was compelled to answer. If you feel it was blatant sarcasm, I beg your forgiveness and the forgiveness of our host and his readers. Since you've basically pronounced me ignorant and sadly lacking in knowledge, I'll leave you folks to expound on your knowledge to each other.
You have to admit, though, I make a pretty good example of the unreformed in need of reforming, don't I?
See, Greg, I told you I can't talk over here. SelahV

Joseph Botwinick said...

" And the fruit of the Spirit is evident in all who believe. And in that fruit there is no worms of doubt or confusion."

Selah V,

I have a few question about the following passage in 1 John 5:13 in light of what you have written above:

"13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. "

1. To whom is John writing this letter of encouragement?

2. What is the stated purpose of the letter?

3. Why do the believers need assurance that they have eternal life if what you have written is true?

Thanks.

completed Jew said...

Selah V

I am no way a great student of the bible (though I am doing my best to learn more and more)and often times I rely on my sons for their honest and intelligent input. However, I am intelligent enough to not only understand what Brother Tom has written, but why he has written this and posed the question, "Have We Lost The Gospel" I have no reason to doubt that you are sincere in what you think is the truth and you are blessed and fortunate that your husband preaches solso scriptura. However, Lawton is not the rest of the country and if you travel around as I have, you will find that this is both an unfortuante but fair question to ask.

The easy believeism that is out there, the "just follow me in this simple little prayer and mean it" mentality is one of the many things that causes us to ask the question that has been posed here.

Having left a church that was a mega church and a pastor with a mega ego and mega desire to be in the limelight and to "preach sermons prepared in 15 minutes or less; I got mega fed up and left. I am blasting the notion of mega because for the most part, I think the mega mentality has done much to help reshape and redefine the gospel to what it is today in many SBC churhces. By the way, if you question the notion that the gospel is lost, please explain the theology and doctrine of those in the BGCT and other GCT's.

It is because people such as your self, who refuse to recognize the the plight we are in, that will drive this question of the lost gospel to a point whereby many will call Brother Tom a nay-sayer, trouble maker and (Lord forbid) a calvinist. I do not mean to be disrespectful and I applaud you for making your post and for expressing your view. But, in my opinion, you are wrong. The question posed is legitimate, accurate and necessary.

My biggest fear is that Brother Tom and others like him, Dr. Mohler, Piper and other great and learned men are being dismissed, because they could very well be rocking the "mega-boat" and stepping on good ol boy traditions.

Give me a church with 200 people where that church is solos christo, solos scriptura, solos gratia and all the other solos (I told you, I am not a bible scholar)and I will take that church over Saddleback, First Baptist of Jacksonville, Prestonwood (or as my oldest calls it, Prestonworld or Six Flags over Jesus) or any other mega-church. I am not saying that a large church can't be a reformed church, but typically, it became large because someone scaled back the gospel in order to be attractive to all the people.

As a final note, and this is my honest opinion and conviction; if I don't leave a service where my heart has been pierced, my thoughts rampant with questions and some conviction, either I was not listening or the pastor watered down the gospel. If I leave the service and I am feeling really good about myself....something is wrong. Praise God my pastor preaches the gospel so that I do ponder, I do think, I do seek forgiveness and I do ask God to create in me everything that is the Lord and remove from me everything that is not. In my day, we called this discipleship and disclipleship comes from the true and honest gospel.

Shalom from completed Jew


mark

Greg B said...

Hey SelahV:
Glad to hear from you again. Yes, I think you were misunderstood by someone who hasn't read your posts before. You are indeed a great sister.
I haven't read the posts that followed yours and the first misunderstanding response.
It is obvious that many churches are preaching the Gospel, but many in our SBC are not. I had a guest preacher this week as my pastor was away at the 1st Jax conference. Well meaning local church planter in our Assoc. He gave a nice little talk about rearing children. I did learn from it, but I was not told about Jesus until the invitation. That is what leads to losing the Gospel. From what you have written before, you and your godly pastor husband remember the centrality of Christ and His Gospel when He saved you and now that He sustains you.
Grace Alone,
Greg
Hey folks back off. SelahV is actually a visitor without an agenda except to learn more about her Lord. Remember to practice Matthew 18:15...check out your sinning brother or sister in private first and you may find you are misunderstanding them.
Greg again.

SelahV said...

Dear Joseph Botwinick:
I don't know what you are asking me, here. Are you referring to a statement I've made elsewhere? As to your three questions in reference to what I said, what exactly do you think I said?
SelahV

SelahV said...

Shalom CompletedJew: If you read carefully my first comment, I said I could not speak for other churches. And I am sorry to hear there is so much emptiness in our SBC churches as you all are reporting.
I haven't lived in Lawton all my life. In fact my husband's ministry has been in Kentucky...from rural to city. We've been around a few blocks though not the whole country. But again, I must repeat...I do not speak for all churches.

I was simply sharing a good report from one of the sisters in the SBC. Now, from now on I'll keep my great reports to myself. Or rather, share them where optimism abounds and can rejoice with me.

Can't help you with an explaining "the theology and doctrine of those in BGCT and other GCT's. Not familiar with all those folks.

Never said it wasn't a fair question to pose. I was simply giving an answer.

Sorry I got everyone's tailfeathers in a stir. Chalk it up to the fact I'm a dumb woman and stay out of the men's clubs.
SelahV

kingofbleh said...

Guys,

Heard two very stirring sermons tonight from Dr. John Sullivan and Dr. Johnny Hunt. Both continued the theme laid out by Drs. Brunson, Hill and Vines yesterday. Clearly there is a call going to these pastors to keep their passion for the gospel central in their ministries. There were only two very indirect and vailed references to the reformed ressurgence but for me they were vastly outweighed by their call for gospel-focused preaching. Even heard an indirect endorsement of "Simple Church." :)

Clearly we have overwhelming common ground in this area that we must all work towards, regardless of your slant on the doctrines of grace. As Dr. Ascol has said on this blog before, I would much rather work with a warm-hearted Arminian who is sold out for the gospel than a cold-hearted hyper-Calvinist any day. My prayer is that all involved with this conference (and throughout the SBC) will not allow their zeal for the gospel to retreat as they return to the "real world".

Selah V,

Clearly you and your husband are not in scope for what Dr. Ascol is discussing. If only more of the church leaders and ministry professionals in our denomination had the same passion for Christ and His gospel as you, we might not even need to have this conversation. But with so many churches today abandoning any talk of repentance from sin, the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the absolute objective truth of His word (i.e. the Emergents) this problem requires our intense focus and vigilence. This need is evidenced by the attention it is getting at this week's FBC Jax pastor's conference. I strongly suspect/hope we will hear more about this same theme in next week's NC Evangelism and Church Growth Conf in Raleigh (both Brunson, Hunt and Frank Page are scheduled to speak) and in Jerry Vines' Power in the Pulpit events throughout the year.

Thank you for your post and for reminding us that there are still people out there with a hot heart for the gospel of Christ. Your candor is very encouraging to me.

SelahV said...

Hello Greg B! Glad to see your warm words too. I've been busy blogging. Got several sites going at once these days. Am getting read to wrap up a series of posts I did on the fruit of the Spirit.

Thank you for coming to my aid over here, but I think I've worn out my welcome. Drop by my site sometime. http://selahvtoday.typepad.com/whatmatters selahV

SelahV said...

kingobleh: a friendly voice. praise the Lord, I was just getting ready to leave. But you are kind and so I read what you said. About "the emergents"...are they a new church group within the SBC or are they a group unto themselves? Thank you. selahV

kingofbleh said...

Selah V,

I am sure others in this blog who are ministry pros could answer you more succinctly than I, but here is my somewhat-informed understanding of the Emerging Church movement. Emerging Churches are characterized by a strong emphasis on personal experience and emotion as the medium of God's revelation of the gospel rather than the word of God. Their theology is heavily influenced by postmodern culture and thinking, and their worship style is almost indistinguishable from modern hip-hop and rock concerts. They do not recognize that truth can be revealed or relayed through words and therefore deny the infallibility and innerancy of scripture. The SBC has given support to some of the more moderate emergent churches either as NAMB church plants or by simply recognizing their rapid numerical growth. None of these churches that are affiliated with the SBC display their affiliation openly, and most of them contain the word "Mosiac" in their names.

If you would like to know more about the movement, there is an excellent primer on the Emerging Church movement at Mark Dever's site 9marks.org.

kingofbleh said...

Correction...."Mosaic"

kingofbleh said...

Here is a link to an article by Ed Sezter at the NAMB which might be a bit more descriptive of the NAMB's "official" stance on Emergent Churches:

http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/pastors/1372534.html

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian said...

Greetings Pastor Tom,

I could not agree with you more on this entry. A pastor once told me that to what extent a church grasps a proper understanding of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone, will tell you how far they are from the true gospel of Christ. It is unfortunate to see state that the church is in today across all denominational lines.A continual prayer of mine is that God would prepare the hearts of men in creating a climate that is condusive to a proper understanding of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone. Thanks again for thought provoking article!

Hi M. Jay Bennett,

Do you believe that it is possible for someone to be both Baptist and Covenantal in their theology? I have been studying this very issue for just under a year now and believe that the answer is yes. The biggest issues seems to be the nature of the New Covenant and the working of the CoR through the CoG in it. Maybe this is not the place to discuss this but you definitely sparked my interest. feel free to email me meaniecalvinist@yahoo.com

SelahV said...

kingobleh: I think my comment to you just got gobbled up by the Cyberdemon. so I will try posting it again.
Thank you brother, I will look at the site today. I appreciate your kindness. May it be returned to you a hundredfold from those you encounter along this journey we call life. SelahV

C.T. Lillies said...

Tom and everyone else too:

Here's a blind spot that we need to think about and it's popped up again right here in this comment thread. A LOT, A whole bunch, dare I say MOST Southern Baptists are woefully lacking in any sort of theological education. You can't get that from sitting in an SBC pew Sunday by Sunday and chances are, if you get any references at all to the great theologians of the past its in quotes, snippets, or sermon illustrations.

So when a layman like myself hears about 'reformed theology' and 'Calvinism' it has to stew for awhile. Say a year or two. The few references he gets collect. Finally he works up the nerve to go ask his pastor about it and the poor man jumps out of his skin. The pastor tries not to show his concern though his head is awhirl. If he gets any SBC papers at all, he knows this is, for some reason, a hot topic. Not a nice one either. He remembers the resurgence. Thoughts of retirement flutter about and then he reacts in one of two ways: 1. He regurgitates all the bad things he's heard from other pastors and read in his papers or 2. He says, "Well I'm not sure but you can read this book or that book and it should help." Theres probably a 'three' in there somewhere that involves faking it too.)

The point is that unless you all are willing to take questions like 'Whats the difference between Calvinism and being reformed?' at face value no one is going to learn anything.

The learning curve is pretty steep gents. If you ever want to get IT above 10% someone needs to figure out how to put in some rest stops along the way.

Josh
"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

SelahV said...

Josh: I especially liked your statement about rest stops and answering the question I posed on my Q&A blog at face value.

Since posting here, I've received some input from the "kinder gentler" folk within Founders readership. Let me tell you that it is refreshing. They have not talked above my head, nor condescendingly patted it. They have not been threatened by my earlier posts, but have encouraged me to "come back to the table". They've assured me the men's club has a section for women. I hope that is true.

Let me say up front, that this comment is in no way meant to be sarcastic. And the following questions are not meant to provoke, bait or incite. It's simply been eating at me since yesterday's responses to my first comment. I've been praying about it and I am even hesitant to ask, but decided I needed to make at least one last stab at communicating here.

Do the pastors, leaders, elders and fellow reformed believers address inquiries from people like me in the same manner in which I was addressed yesterday? Do these same reformed folks perceive all questions put to them as a criticism toward their theology and doctrine? I spoke for myself yesterday, not other churches--nor other members of any other churches. I was excited to share that my Saviour was alive and well in my life, my church and my town. For that I was rebuffed. Is it because my Saviour is offensive? I am offensive? Or I am incapable of communicating in this forum?

I see our host has moved on to another topic, so this may get lost in the general rush to move on to that discussion. Should anyone care to talk to me, you can click on my name, email me, or visit my webblog.

Should you not, I wish you the greatest blessings of God. May His Grace be sufficient to meet all your needs and abound. May His favor be upon you and all wisdom be yours as you seek to share Jesus with a lost world. selahV

Joseph Botwinick said...

"Dear Joseph Botwinick:
I don't know what you are asking me, here. Are you referring to a statement I've made elsewhere? As to your three questions in reference to what I said, what exactly do you think I said?
SelahV"

I think when you said:

" And the fruit of the Spirit is evident in all who believe. And in that fruit there is no worms of doubt or confusion."

...that you were stating that if one is saved, they will not ever doubt their salvation. If that is not what you meant, then please accept my apologies. If it is, then please answer my three questions.

Thanks.

SelahV said...

Hello Joseph Botwinick:

I'm very sorry, Joseph, but I've gone back through the comment threads and cannot for the life of me find where I stated the statement you quoted me as saying, which I repost here, "And the fruit of the Spirit is evident in all who believe. And in that fruit there is no worms of doubt or confusion."

I am not saying I did not say it, because it does sound like something I said. However, in order to give you a complete answer I need to know the context in which I said that. If you would be ever merciful on my forgetfulness, I'd appreciate you telling me where I said that. And then, of course, I will respond.

However, so as not to inflame you or have you think I am avoiding your questions, let me accept your apology up front. Because I do not believe I was speaking of salvation in that statement above. If I was talking about "fruit of the Spirit", I'm talking about the fruit manifested within a believer via the Spirit of God. Evidence of the Spirit.

In the Spirit's fruit there is no worms, no doubt. A believer is both flesh and Spirit. So if there are any worms or doubt, they would be in that believer's flesh--not the Spirit. Therefore the fruit would be wormless and without doubt.

I hope I've communicated and clarified what I think I said whenever and where-ever I said it. To your questions, I beg off at the moment because I do not think they apply to my thinking process at the moment.

May His grace be sufficient to meet your needs and abound. selahV

kingofbleh said...

SelahV,

This thread has gotten somewhat convoluted (which often occurs in internet communications where we cannot see each other's expressions and intentions). Here is my meager attempt to sort out what I am reading. You intitially indicated that the premise of the original article that we have lost the gospel is not true on a personal level - that those whose lives have been transformed by the power of the gospel still have a passion for it. AMEN and AMEN.

Dr. Ascol's original article I believe was not aimed at anyone on a personal level, but rather towards evangelicalism in general and the SBC and church movements in particular. There are trends and movements within churches calling themselves Southern Baptist that are taking their focus away from the simple gospel.

The comments by willreformed, et al in their own unique way point out that those who recognize the inseperable link between the doctrines of grace and the development of historical Baptist doctrine have been ostracized by SOME of the leadership within the SBC. In many cases, these leaders only have limited knowledge of the doctrines of grace, the historic baptist confessions and distinctives and the relationship between the reformation and the beginnings of the baptist denomination. Many times this resistance precludes open, honest discussion of these doctrines among baptist brethern and sisters and SBC leaders. In some cases this resistance takes the form of attack which can make some of us (like me) a bit kneejerk in our reaction.

Again, I don't think any of this was aimed at you or at your love for the gospel. You are an example of what reformed-minded baptists have been asking God for years to fill our churches.

For those concerned, the difference between "Calvinist" and "reformed Baptist" are numerous but focus on two main distinctions:

1. Baptist - Infant baptism (Calvin's view) versus believer's baptism (reformed baptist's view).

2. Church governance - General Assembly/presbytry (Calvin's view) versus local church autonomy (reformed baptist view).

For these and other reasons I prefer to label myself "reformed baptist" rather than simply "Calvinist".

SelahV said...

Kingobleh: BTW: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I really think this conversation we are having is germame in regards to this post. How can one hope to educate the un-reformed if they do not discuss a unreformed thinkers questions. I'm admittedly several hairs short of a mane when it comes to my understanding of Calvin vs. Reformed. But I'm willing to hear and to try and understand. I feel understanding (even if one disagrees) creates great room for smoother existence within the same community. Take hispanic speaking folks and English speaking. When they learn each other's languages, they are much more able to build a house together. Don't you think?
selahV

SelahV said...

KINGOBLEH: I have a prime example of a cog in the wheel of communicating. The comment I made just now (previous to this one) was actually suppose to FOLLOW the one that never appeared which follows below. The comment you read before the one I'm writing now could surely be construed as dismissing your wonderful explanations to me on Calvinism vs. Reformed.
Had I not checked back, all you would have of my thoughts on your comments to me would be one in which I pleaded my case of all my comments being germane to this post. To me, that would smack of arrogance. Praise God, I checked back and that I saved my earlier comment before I posted the one on being germane. Indulge me, if you would to read the comment below that should have already appeared:

"kingobleh: so in simplicity, reformed Baptists are (and I say this with all due respect) folks who have "re-formed" Calvinist theology in a broader way (or narrow way) depending on one's perspective. Correct?

I'm glad to see the "Reformed's" take on infant baptism and church autonomy. It answers a multitude of questions for me. So that is why SOME Calvinists come across with such passion when talking with non-Calvinists.

I wonder further, is Founders a
"re"-formation of Calvin's theology, then? Is this why Dr. Akin chose to label some Calvinists as "extreme Calvinists"? Because the "extreme C's" adhere to theology which includes such things a infant baptism and Assembly/Presbytery?

Do you think that this misunderstanding of "reformed" is what fuels so much controversy? Or is it the "limited attonement" issue?

I'm sorry I was miscommunicating my enthusiasm and for my SBC church and myself to the readers in this blog to incite them and inflame them in such a way toward my simple proclamation. I will take any sensitivity toward my comments as I did in the first place...misunderstandings. Which is why I responded to Will and Joseph. Had I believed they understood what I'd said, and the intent from which I spoke, I would have ignored them altogether and simply moved on in silence.

However, I am bent on communicating thought and my passion is scaling walls if need be and providing ladders for those who are at odds with me to meet at the top of the wall and chat a spell. For the record--I'm not out to inflame, incite, aggravate or bait anyone.

I think that may be why my friend Greg B. came to my aid (indeed, rescue). He knows from which direction I come. I suppose I blind-sided those who did not. May grace be sufficient and abound...selahV

SelahV said...

KINGOBLEH: I have a prime example of a cog in the wheel of communicating. The comment I made just now (previous to this one) was actually suppose to FOLLOW the one that never appeared which follows below. The comment you read before the one I'm writing now could surely be construed as dismissing your wonderful explanations to me on Calvinism vs. Reformed.
Had I not checked back, all you would have of my thoughts on your comments to me would be one in which I pleaded my case of all my comments being germane to this post. To me, that would smack of arrogance. Praise God, I checked back and that I saved my earlier comment before I posted the one on being germane. Indulge me, if you would to read the comment below that should have already appeared:

"kingobleh: so in simplicity, reformed Baptists are (and I say this with all due respect) folks who have "re-formed" Calvinist theology in a broader way (or narrow way) depending on one's perspective. Correct?

I'm glad to see the "Reformed's" take on infant baptism and church autonomy. It answers a multitude of questions for me. So that is why SOME Calvinists come across with such passion when talking with non-Calvinists.

I wonder further, is Founders a
"re"-formation of Calvin's theology, then? Is this why Dr. Akin chose to label some Calvinists as "extreme Calvinists"? Because the "extreme C's" adhere to theology which includes such things a infant baptism and Assembly/Presbytery?

Do you think that this misunderstanding of "reformed" is what fuels so much controversy? Or is it the "limited attonement" issue?

I'm sorry I was miscommunicating my enthusiasm and for my SBC church and myself to the readers in this blog to incite them and inflame them in such a way toward my simple proclamation. I will take any sensitivity toward my comments as I did in the first place...misunderstandings. Which is why I responded to Will and Joseph. Had I believed they understood what I'd said, and the intent from which I spoke, I would have ignored them altogether and simply moved on in silence.

However, I am bent on communicating thought and my passion is scaling walls if need be and providing ladders for those who are at odds with me to meet at the top of the wall and chat a spell. For the record--I'm not out to inflame, incite, aggravate or bait anyone.

I think that is why my friend Greg B. came to my aid (indeed, rescue). He knows from which direction I come. I suppose I blind-sided those who did not. May grace be sufficient and abound...selahV

SelahV said...

Dr. Ascol: Hmmmmn. Now it appears my second comment to Kingobleh has posted after my "germane" post in duplicate. Please forgive the cyber-ghosts of postings. And please delete one of the two identical comments of mine. Thank you. selahV

C.T. Lillies said...

kingofbleh wrote:Dr. Ascol's original article I believe was not aimed at anyone on a personal level, but rather towards evangelicalism in general and the SBC and church movements in particular.

Right. My comment above is in the same vein but aimed at the reformed individual who attempts to engage a non-reformed audience. You will get significant eye-glaze if you start talking about any of the Doctrines of Grace in a group of SBC regulars. Even the six million who show up on Sunday don't speak the fine old language of theology. They want to feel better. They want to go to heaven. Some of them even want to do good things 'for God'. But lets not wade off into the attributes of God or the number of sparrows or hairs on my head.

To the average church member the definition of the Gospel centers around 'look at what Jesus did for ME! look how happy I AM!' and the 'plan of salvation' is a footnote at the end of a cold visit which culminates in a prayer and an extracted promise that they'll come to church on Sunday.

In short, its all about man and none of God and thats a high hurdle.

Josh
"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

SelahV said...

Josh: now MY eyes are glazed over. I thought I knew what you were saying in your first comment. But now I am thinking I may have misinterpreted it upon reading your second.

I had an very interesting discussion over coffee yesterday. A sweet friend of mine and I were engaged in the differences of our faiths. She a Lutheran attending our SBC church and serving faithfully as a living breathing child of the Most High.

Though we discuss theology and our ignorance of theology, we don't go to church expecting a sermon to boost our morale or curry favor with each other. We seek to grow in our knowledge of our Saviour and to be chastened and corrected by the study and preaching of God's Word. We often discuss how to apply the message to our everyday lives. In fact, at our coffee exchange, we were discussing how she could better share Jesus with her next-door neighbor who is a Buddhist. She is the fill-in for her Buddhist friend who is due at any moment to have a baby. And her husband is serving in Iraq. Her Buddhist friend asked BJ if she was a Christian because of the kindness and love she has seen expressed in her actions. I really don't understand if this is doing things in a untheological way, or if it waters down the Doctrines of Sovereignty. But it was clear to both my friend and myself, that the Lord had placed them together for more than aiding in a physical birth of a child.

How far off am I in understanding the correlation between reformed and non-reformed in my comment above? Am I to understand that because I'm not reformed in theology that my effectiveness as a Believer in Jesus is negated someway? Help me out here, Josh. I really am interested. I'm trying to share these things you are privy to in a simple way to my friends. selahV

P.S. This comment in no way is meant to be arrogant, sarcastic, or inflaming.

kingofbleh said...

Josh -

There is a lot of truth to what you are saying. Overpersonalizing the gospel definitely leads to relativing the gospel message, and this had definitely been happening on a wide scale for some time. But it has also created a hunger for a return to the simple gospel message among the laity that I deal with. They do not know where this hunger is coming from they just know that it exists. As a Christian matures he/she craves more "solid" food. Sadly, in our seeker-friendly age, they just don't know where to get it.

The good news is that many of us (ministerial and lay) who ARE teaching the plain gospel and true word with deference to reformed soteriology are finding captive audiences in a growing number of pockets throughout the denomination. I suspect this trend will increase as the baby-boomer Christians mature in Christ and outgrown the "training wheels and baby food" theology offered by the seeker-friendly/purpose-driven movement.

SelahV -

I agree since this is a blog and not a discussion board it's really not suited to conversations.

To answer your initial question more succinctly, we need to look a bit of church history. (I am sure Dr. Ascol and others here will correct me on my dates, but hopefully I have the events in order). In the early 1600's as a result of the Scottish Reformation and the teachings of John Knox, the Presyterian Church was formed and their theology was summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Several decades later the Congregationalists split from the Presbyterian Church over the issue of church goverance (they believed in church autonomy). They modified the Westminster somewhat and issued the Savoy Declaration (1646) among other confessions. The Baptists later split from the Congregationalists over the issue of infant baptism. Their primary confessions are the 1644 and 1689 London Baptist Confessions of Faith.

All the while the Baptists kept the doctrines of man's depravity, God's unmerited election, substitutionary atonement for sin, particular redemption, the effective calling of God's grace and the perserverance of the saints at the center of their theology and confessions of faith. This continued into America through the first and second great awakenings, the Charleston Association, the Sandy Creek revivals, and even through the formation and the first 70 or so years of the SBC.

In the 20th century we lost our focus on the simple gospel and reformed theology due to the onslaught of fundamentalism, dispensationalism, liberalism and postmodernism. All of these movements in culture and the church have had destructive effects on how church goers view the gospel, and even on how the gospel is presented.

There are numerous articles on this site that explain how we got where we are today much better than I. Sorry for all the big words but I wanted to keep the post short.

kingofbleh said...

SelahV -

Oh, and praise the Lord that your friend has been given an opportunity to share the gospel with her neighbor. Clearly, the Holy Spirit opens these kinds of doors when we show the love of Christ to others. My prayer is that your friend will be able to share how God's grace and mercy towards her despite her sinfulness is the cause for that love. Please encourage her to share the WHOLE gospel of Christ (God, sin, law, grace) with her neighbor every chance she gets. That is our command from Christ. There is nothing "unreformed" whatsoever in sharing the gpspel with others. On the contrary, it is when we STOP sharing part or all of the gospel that we become "unreformed".