Monthly Archives: September 2009

 

Sep

30

2009

Trevin Wax|3:50 am CT

Kingdom People – September 2009 in Review

Articles

Book Reviews

Series on Evangelism and Ichabod Spencer

Interviews

Devotional Thoughts

Gospel Definitions

New Endorsements for Holy Subversion

Prayers

In the Blogosphere

Notable Items from Septembers Past

 
 

Sep

29

2009

Trevin Wax|3:43 am CT

Why Should I Believe in Original Sin?

Here’s an email I recently received from a friend:

Trevin,

I have a question for you concerning some readings and discussions in class at my seminary.

Recently, we have discussed the topic of Original Sin in one of my classes. One of my professors doesn’t believe it to be biblical and is sharply critical of how it seems to condone thoughtless actions and attitudes towards others outside the church (although any theology can seem to condone wrong actions towards others. I believe it depends more on the people in this sense, although the theology has an effect). Many in the class disagree. I’ve been leaning away from Original Sin for a while, but I want some perspective on it outside of my seminary.

The view (and the one I lean towards) is that people are not inherently evil. We are all good, but a corrupted sort of good. We make mistakes, we drop the atom bomb, we create Hitler’s, but we aren’t evil, although there are some pretty radically terrible people out there.

This of course makes us wonder about Christ. Why did he die on the cross if we are already good (kinda)? In the readings we are discussing, I would say it points us toward the cross serving a different purpose than we might suppose in the theology of Original Sin…

The cross of Christ is a call and recovery. A call for us to die and live again as the imago Christi. A recovery of truer and more real humanity. Following Christ is a deepening of our humanity, the way God intended us to be in the garden.

My question is: What do you think about all this? I’m asking because I think you will give me a balanced perspective I can bring to my mind and to class discussion. What is your opinion of Original Sin? True, wrong, flawed? Do you have a different view altogether?

My Response

First off, let me affirm you in asking this question. When you say you want some perspective outside of your seminary, I am encouraged. (I’m encouraged when people at my seminary do the same.) It’s important to get perspective outside of one’s immediate circle. Even if you do wind up agreeing with your professor that the doctrine of original sin is unbiblical, at least you will have wrestled through it yourself and not just accepted the teaching outright.

That said, I disagree strongly with your professor on this subject and think that the denial of original sin causes more problems than it solves.

Scripture

The ultimate reason that I believe in the doctrine is because I believe the Scriptures teach it. Exegetically speaking, I don’t think you can properly interpret Romans 5 without seeing something like original sin. Paul does not explicitly explain how Adam’s sin and humanity’s sins are connected, but it is hard to understand Romans 5 without seeing that Paul is presupposing a link.

I admit that the doctrine we call “original sin” is a theological construct. No passage comes right out and says “Christians believe in original sin.” Like the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of original sin is constructed by putting together important passages that are best understood through the lens of original sin.

But the fact that we have this theological construct does not mean it’s unbiblical. Instead, the doctrine provides a synthesis that best explains what the Bible says.

I suppose you are familiar with the biblical passages that seem to support the traditional understanding. I won’t take the time to list them all. There are other good reasons to believe in original sin.

Church History

I believe church history got this one right, especially regarding the debates between Augustine and Pelagius. Church history is not infallible, but one should not dismiss quickly the teachings of the church through the centuries.

There are times the church has proven very fallible (think medieval Roman Catholicism, indulgences, infant baptism etc.). On this issue, however, the overall consensus of the church has been right. The Western Church speaks of original sin and total depravity as twin sides. (I understand that the Western explanation differs slightly from Eastern Orthodoxy, but both wings of the church agree at a substantive level that every single individual is a sinner and has a sin nature.)

Beautiful Truth

I believe that original sin is a beautiful truth. (Not that sin is beautiful, but that the doctrine – precisely because it is true – has beautiful facets that deserve consideration.) Upon first looking at it, it seems rather stark. We’re sinners. We are depraved. We are born with a corrupt nature. But I am encouraged by many aspects of this teaching.

1. “Original Sin” gives hope to losers

Let me quote  from Alan Jacobs’ marvelous book, Original Sin: A Cultural History:

“The Pelagian good news is that at every moment you are free to obey; the (unstated, hidden) bad news is that every moment you are equally free to sin, and at the instant of choice a lifetime of strict spiritual discipline will avail you nothing…”

“Pelagianism, like many zealous movements of moral and spiritual reform, writes a recipe for profound anxiety. Its original word of encouragement (“You can do it!”) immediately yields to the self-doubting question: ‘But am I doing it?’”

“By contrast, Augustine’s emphasis on the universal depravity of human nature – seen by so many then and now as an insult to human dignity – is curiously liberating. I once heard a preacher encourage his listeners to begin a prayer with the following words: ‘Lord, I am the failure that you always knew I would be.’ It is the true Augustinian note. Pelagianism is a creed for heroes, but Augustine’s emphasis on original sin and the consequent absolute dependence of every one of us on the grace of God gives hope to the waverer, the backslider, the slacker, the putz, the schlemiel. We’re all in the same boat as Mister Holier-than-Thou over there, saved only by the grace that comes to us in Holy Baptism…”

2.Original Sin” puts us all on the same level before God.

During his preaching ministry, evangelist George Whitefield became friends with Selina, the Countess of Huntingdon. But his preaching on sin – precisely the truth that we are all affected by original sin – repulsed her. She wrote him:

“It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiment so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.”

This kind of egalitarianism is what is so beautiful about original sin. The common people who heard Whitefield’s preaching wept at his teaching about sin. Why? Because Whitefield told them that, though they were sinners, God loved them. He called them to repentance, just as he calls everyone else to repentance, even the king and queen. The message of repentance is for all.

So, in the end, it’s not “original goodness” that makes us value other human beings, but “original sin”, because it levels us and puts us all on the same playing field. We’re all cut down to size, from the prince to the pauper, the rich to the poor, the educated to the illiterate.

3.Original Sin” gives us tools to respect others.

Tim Keller makes a good point. The doctrine of original sin (together with the doctrine of the imago Dei) gives us the tools with which to respect people.

Because we believe that the image of God is in every human being, we know that they are better than their wrong beliefs. And because everyone is a sinner, we know that we Christians are worse than our right beliefs. People who are wrong about Jesus are not as bad as they could be. And we who are right about Jesus are not as good as we could be.

Original sin does not deny that we were created with the image of God. It only says that the image is tainted or shattered. Original sin does not deny the value of humanity.

4. “Original Sin” explains the need for Christ’s death

I agree that following Christ is a deepening of our humanity. We become more human as we grow in sanctification because Christ is the True Human – the greatest reflection of all God intends for humanity.

The problem with excising original sin from this picture is that it neutralizes the power of the cross. It makes the cross a call to new life, but not something that actually accomplishes anything. It’s a call to new life, rather than a gift of new life. The cross says, “Be better.”

For those who deny original sin, the cross is about making (kinda) good people better. In the traditional understanding, the cross is about making dead people live.

I need God to swoop in and change me and save me himself. I can’t save myself. I am so wicked. I know my heart. I know my thoughts. The last thing I need is a checklist. I need to be revived first and then set about to new tasks.

So I take great comfort in original sin. It rings true with the biblical witness and with my human experience.

We are rebellious sinners, but God loves us anyway. That’s a lot better than saying, “We aren’t really as bad as we think we are, and God does love us.” God’s love for me is greater and more impressive because I know how bad I am than by my making myself seem better.

 
 

Sep

28

2009

Trevin Wax|3:24 am CT

Gospel Definitions – PDF Format

A couple weeks ago, I posted links to dozens of definitions of “the gospel” that have been collected on this blog. Several readers have asked for a PDF version of these Gospel Definitions, to make it easier to look over.

Here is a booklet pdf that includes all of the “Gospel Definitions” I have found so far. I will be updating this document periodically.

 
 

Sep

27

2009

Trevin Wax|3:06 am CT

Rouse Us Daily By Your Words

Grant, Almighty God,
that as you shine on us by your word,
we may not be blind at midnight,
nor wilfully seek darkness,
and thus lull our minds asleep.

But may we be roused daily by your words,
and may we stir up ourselves more and more to fear your name
and thus present ourselves and all our pursuits,
as a sacrifice to you,
that you may peaceably rule,
and perpetually dwell in us,
until you gather us to your kingdom,
where there is reserved for us eternal rest and glory
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

- John Calvin

 
 

Sep

26

2009

Trevin Wax|3:01 am CT

Michael Bird Endorsement of Holy Subversion

Bird_MichaelMichael Bird has quickly become one of my favorite New Testament scholars.

He recently published a helpful introduction (Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message) to the life and letters of the Apostle Paul. His most recent book (Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question) makes a persuasive case for believing that the historical Jesus understood his vocation in messianic terms.

Mike is also one of the funniest theologians on the planet. (Check out his dry sense of humor in this video.) I am grateful for his endorsement (in all seriousness!) of Holy Subversion:

Today we live in a land of self-made men who love to worship their creator. Sadly, this very same attitude has crept into the church. Quite rightly then, Trevin Wax challenges us to see what it means to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. To embrace and rejoice in the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over all things.

But this book is not about the doctrine of Jesus’ lordship; it is about how you live out Jesus’ lordship in every sphere of your life.

In an age where there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ bidding for our allegiance, Trevin Wax calls the church to throw down these idols and to order their lives according to the story, symbols, and values of the Lord Jesus Christ. He encourages us to get our knees dirty by bowing them and our hands dirty by serving him.

This is a book that every serious follower of Jesus should read and heed.

- Dr. Michael F. Bird
New Testament Lecturer
Highland Theological College/UHI Millennium Institute

 
 

Sep

25

2009

Trevin Wax|3:30 am CT

In the Blogosphere

Justin Taylor’s “Between Two Worlds” blog (aka, the “Evangelical Drudge Report”) moves to the Gospel Coalition.

Dan Kimball takes a look at Jim Belcher’s Deep Church.

An enlightening interview with Ed Stetzer

Kevin DeYoung on the most important doctrine people don’t give much thought to.

12 reasons to believe in an historical Adam.

The demeanor of humility versus actual humility.

Bryan Chappell transcends the worship wars.

The worst sentences in Dan Brown’s novels. Writers, beware!

Rick Warren interviewed in USA Today.

Tim Challies reminds Americans to not believe everything they hear about Canadian health care.

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: “The Emerging Church: In Retrospect”

 
 

Sep

24

2009

Trevin Wax|3:58 am CT

A Baptist Theology of the Bible

Baptists and the BibleSouthern Baptist have recently gone through a period of tumult over the question of biblical authority, and more specifically, biblical inerrancy.

Does the Bible have errors in any field of reality? Does the Bible contain errors when it comes to science or history?

Conservatives within the Southern Baptist Convention chose to face this question head on. Today, the inerrantist view of Scripture has become the prominent position of most everyone in Baptist leadership.

Baptists and the Bible (Broadman & Holman, 1999) by Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, was very influential during the early years of the Southern Baptist debate over inerrancy. It first was released in 1980, right at the time when the political battle over theology was beginning in Baptist life.

Baptists and the Bible was instrumental in that it makes a strong case for Baptist continuity between contemporary inerrantists and the forefathers of the Baptist heritage. Bush and Nettles argue that inerrancy is not something new in Baptist life. Historical documentation establishes a wide consensus on this issue in the past.

Baptists and the Bible is not primarily about the controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention during the last decades of the last century. It is a book of history and theology. With meticulous historical detail, the book outlines a Baptist theology of the Word of God through the centuries, asking such potent questions as:

  • How is the Bible authoritative?
  • How is the Bible inerrant?
  • How is the Bible both a message from God and from man?

This influential book made the case that inerrancy is not an innovation, but rather the historic doctrine of Baptists throughout history.

 
 

Sep

23

2009

Trevin Wax|3:57 am CT

Jim Belcher's "Third Way" for the Church

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and TraditionalJust when you thought the Emerging versus Traditional conversation had arrived at the point where everyone was safely nestled in their own camps and set in their ways, a Presbyterian pastor comes on the scene and challenges our tacit approval of evangelical fragmentation.

In Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (IVP, 2009), Jim Belcher proposes a ”third way” between Emerging and Traditional. Deep Church is for evangelicals who resonate with much of the Emerging Church’s critique of contemporary evangelicalism, and yet have misgivings about some of the proposed solutions of Emerging advocates. Using the term “deep church” from a 1952 letter written by C.S. Lewis, Jim proposes a way forward that focuses on the strengths of Traditional and Emerging churches.

The book is as much narrative as theological analysis. Jim tells the story of his early involvement in the Emerging conversation. As he evaluates the Emerging critique, he visits actual churches. Far from being an armchair critic, Jim sets out to witness what the Emerging Church is like “on the ground.”

Relying on Ed Stetzer’s division of the Emerging Church into Relevants, Reconstructionists and Revisionists, Jim then considers the validity of Emerging concerns regarding contemporary evangelicalism. In a parenthetical statement near the beginning of the book, he sets the tone of discussion by saying, ”I believe that even when I disagree with others, I can still learn from them.” (36)

The central thrust of Deep Church is a call for unity around the central tenets of the faith. Jim seeks to ground our unity in the central confessions of ancient Christianity:

“We are not ashamed of our tradition; we embrace it and practice it. But at the same time we desire and promote the broader unity of the church.” (65)

Jim’s view has postmodern sensibility, and yet he steps back from fully embracing postmodern philosophy. He critiques Emerging leaders for “jumping on the postmodern bandwagon too quickly.” He sees problems with the idea that the community’s relational hermeneutic should be the final criterion for judging right from wrong. He writes:

“Apart from revelation, there is nothing to hold a particular tradition, community or history accountable. There is no prophetic voice.” (83)

Jim also evaluates the Emerging emphasis on bringing people into relationship with the church before they actually believe. In the Emerging mindset, belonging precedes believing – even on mission trips! Jim carefully considers the Traditional church’s criticism of this idea. In the end, he advocates a nuanced view that portrays the church’s proclamation of the gospel as a well. The well attracts people closer to conversion. But at some point, Jim believes there must be an inside-outside boundary.

The chapter on the “deep gospel” is important. He agrees with Emerging leaders that the traditional understanding of the gospel has been reduced to individual salvation. But Jim ably exposes the reductionism in the Emerging view as well:

“Brian McLaren’s view of the kingdom, which is supposed to be so liberating, tends toward legalism. Without God’s atoning grace, the message of the kingdom sounds like law. and this is, I believe, why so many of my college friends dropped out of Christianity. They could not pull it off.” (119)

Regarding worship, Jim points us back to the ancient church:

“Only the living tradition of the fourth and fifth centuries, passed on through the ages… can help us contextualize the gospel in our worship without it becoming syncretistic or ossified over time.” (134)

Regarding preaching, Jim refuses to pit biblical narrative against systematic theology. He writes:

“The pastors at Redeemer preach sermons rooted in the Bible – both the drama of salvation from each of the Testaments and the wonderful doctrines of Christianity.” (139)

Deep Church is one of the best books to “emerge” about the Emerging Church. I found myself nodding my head in agreement with most of Jim’s critique and proposed solutions. And yet, I have a few misgivings of my own.

First, as a Baptist, I disagree with the idea of setting such a “low bar for membership.” Jim’s church does not require members to subscribe to anything that is outside the bounds of Nicene Christianity:

“Let me provide an example. To become a member of Redeemer Church you must be a Nicene Christian, committed to ‘living as becomes a follower of Christ’ and be willing to submit to the community. What about views on baptism? The Lord’s Supper? Politics? The end times? The anti-Christ? Although important and although we hold views on each of them, holding different views on these topics will not keep you from the Well of Redeemer and belonging to our church.” (158)

I agree that some of the above examples should not be a hindrance to membership. But setting the bar this low appears very invidualistic.

If some in the congregation believe in believer’s baptism by immersion and others believe in baptizing infants, what will take place?

If some believe that women can and should be elders or pastors and others disagree, what will happen?

If some believe in speaking in tongues during worship and others do not, how will that be handled?

My question is this: Is it possible to have a high bar for local church membership (meaning, ask for a certain level of doctrinal unity on some secondary issues) and yet still demonstrate significant appreciation for other churches and denominations that disagree? I think so. I share a certain level of unity with Jim around the central tenets of the gospel and I agree with his “centered-set hermeneutic.”

Regarding fellowship, I can cooperate with Jim as a Nicene Christian. Regarding local church membership, I belong to a Baptist church, which involves an additional level of unity on other issues. Can I still be a Nicene Christian and a convictional Baptist? Can I still be an advocate of “deep church” and have high bars for local church membership? I think so.

On another note, I wonder what the reasons are for Jim’s emphasis on the fourth and fifth centuries. Jim advocates a return to our roots, to the pre-pragmatic era of Christianity. I am glad to see the emphasis on our heritage.

But even as Jim admits “there is not a golden time to return to” (136), it appears that the fourth and fifth centuries serve as a quasi-Golden Age for the book. If we are going back so far, why stop at the fourth century? Why not return to the first?

I like the Robert Webber-influenced “Ancient-Future” emphasis in this book, but I wish that Jim would have made a case for why it is appropriate that we return to the 400′s. Why not return to the 16th century? Or the 900′s? It appears to me that our post-Christian society is becoming more and more like the world before Constantine. I need more reasons for accepting that the Christendom era Jim describes is the most relevant to our day and age.

Overall, Deep Church is a must-read for any pastor or church planter. Jim offers a proposal filled with gentle hope. If you have felt like you are caught in the crossfire between the Emerging and Traditional camps, you will enjoy insights of Jim Belcher and his hope-filled proposal for a united, stronger evangelicalism.

 
 

Sep

22

2009

Trevin Wax|3:56 am CT

The Emerging Church: In Retrospect

robbieToday, I am posting an interview with a good friend of mine, Robbie Sagers.

Robbie is a Ph.D student at Southern Seminary and serves as Special Assistant to Dr. Russell Moore, the senior vice president of SBTS. Robbie has contributed a chapter to the recent book, Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement (B&H, 2009).

Trevin Wax: You and I have talked about being weary of the Emerging conversation. I’ve got my reasons for being weary of the discussion, but I wonder what about the discussion tires you and why we keep talking about it if we’re weary about it!

Robbie Sagers: It’s been said so often that it’s probably become cliche, but even trying to define the different conversationalists in the emerging church discussion can be like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

Several different taxonomies for understanding the different groups or subsets (or even “streams”!) have been provided – Scot McKnight, Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, Darrin Patrick, and Phyllis Tickle, among others, have all tried their hand at it, but up to this point it doesn’t seem that any one breakdown has won the day. The emerging/Emergent distinction was helpful for some time–and is still helpful insofar as it goes–but even it seems a bit outdated at this point. So… discourse over something that seems so inherently amorphous can be tiresome.

That being the case, in thinking critically about the emerging church movement, it can be even more difficult to critique the critiquers. Every time someone lumps, say, Dan Kimball in with, for example, Brian McLaren, I find myself thinking, “But they’re so different! There needs to be greater clarity as to the distinction.”

And so goes the cycle. Those within the emerging church movement claim to be misunderstood by some who seek to understand them–and there may be some truth to that.

But at the same time, the question must be asked: why is it so difficult to understand a theological and methodological conversation that has been carried out for well over a decade? The blame for the lack of clarity here cannot all be placed at the feet of those who critique; those critiqued must know that a lack of clarity (quite different than theological mystery or paradox) is not a virtue in itself.

Another reason why some may be growing weary of the emerging church conversation is that the conversation is losing participants, and those left – with a few notable exceptions – seem to be speaking more softly. I think there are any number of reasons for this, the lack of direction regarding the movement not being the least among them.

Certain segments of the emerging church movement certainly did emerge from something – in the case of those on the most radical wing of the movement, they emerged right on out of Christian orthodoxy. But I think it would be difficult to make a strong case that many within the emerging church have emerged to anything. In the end, it’s hard to continue to gain followers when the leaders don’t seem to have a clear sense of where they are going.

Trevin Wax: In Evangelicals Engaging Emergent, you contribute a chapter on the various views of salvation within the Emerging Church. What are some of the positive aspects of the ECM regarding salvation?

Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church MovementRobbie Sagers: I think that some within the emerging church movement keyed in on some things that have been under-emphasized in evangelical churches for some time. In other words, perhaps one of the reasons that the emerging church movement gained a hearing with so many evangelical Christians is that so much of what has been said is true, and biblical.

For example, many within the emerging church movement seek to recover an understanding of salvation within a narrative context.

Seeing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the climax of God’s story of redemption can be much more powerful when understood within the flow of history (as opposed to isolated proof-texts), as detailed in places like Matthew 1 and Luke 3. The genealogies of Jesus are not placed in those Gospels to make our eyes glaze over as we read; instead, they speak to the fact that God has been working in human history to bring about one Man from a remnant of Jews from the nation of Israel formed by the tribes of twelve brothers descended from Jacob the son of Isaac the son of Abraham the worshiper of the God who created Adam and Eve. Everything leading up to the coming of Christ had been purposed to bring about this seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent.

Understanding one’s own story as ultimately fruitless and hell-bound apart from its being crucified and raised in the crucified and raised Messiah can help one to make sense of his life – his past, his present, and most certainly his future.

Others within the movement have emphasized the need to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, as the Christian life ought to be characterized not simply by a one-time past decision but by ongoing repentance of sin and continual faith in the Lord Jesus.

Brian McLaren, for example, uses the illustration of a runner competing in a race: the person who ascribes to salvation as a one-time decision is similar to the person who stops to congratulate himself after having just crossed the starting line. Not to persevere to the end of the Christian life may evidence someone who was never really running at all.

To propose a dismissal of any distinction between justification and sanctification, as Tony Jones suggests Christians ought to do, is going much too far in this regard, of course, as would be any suggestion that there isn’t a point in time in which God rips out a sinner’s heart of stone to replace with a heart of flesh, even if the exact moment of that conversion is known only to God. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something of this emerging church impulse that should be heard and received through the framework of the Scriptures.

The focus on the future cosmic redemption of all things as having implications for Kingdom seekers today – perhaps even in, for example, the spending of a Saturday sprucing up the local city park – is also helpful in thinking through the now and not yet tension of the Kingdom of God, and the rejection of a sacred/secular dichotomy that infects some evangelical churches.

And lastly, the emphasis of some within the emerging church movement on the need for the individual believer to display his believing within the context of a community of fellow believers – within, that is, the church – is a much needed correction to the individualistic tendencies inherent within some segments of evangelicalism.

Trevin Wax: What worries you about some Emerging Church views of salvation?

Robbie Sagers: What I find concerning about some emerging church leaders’ salvific beliefs is

  • a blunted view of the radical depravity of mankind;
  • the dismissal of the necessity of the bloody, penal substitutionary death of Jesus;
  • the denial of a literal hell in which Christ-rejecting sinners will experience the absence of God covenantally – as well as his presence in his wrath – for eternity (or, at least, the denial of the belief that anyone will actually be there);
  • the possibility of turning the gospel of Jesus Christ into another incarnation of the Social Gospel;
  • and the affirmation that salvation comes only through Christ – while concurrently remaining unclear as to whether one needs to confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God raised him from the dead in order to be saved.

I admit that these concerns, however, could be applied to more segments of Christianity than simply to some within the emerging church movement.

Trevin Wax: How is the atonement treated by different Emerging Church authors? I understand there’s a wide variety of authors out there. Are there any accurate generalizations or does the diversity keep one from making pronouncements about the movement as a whole?

Robbie Sagers: When it comes to the atonement of Christ, what it seems that some in the emerging church movement have in common – to employ perhaps another cliche – is not so much what they are for, but rather what they are against.

The view of the atonement as the penalty-paying, blood-spilling, wrath-of-God bearing, substitutionary death of Christ on the cross on behalf of sinners seems not only reprehensible but also incomprehensible to some emerging church adherents.

  • McLaren, through one of his fictional characters, suggests that such a view of the atonement “sounds like divine child abuse.”
  • Spencer Burke and Barry Taylor believe that penal substitution “can reinforce a caricature of a God who is angry, bloodthirsty, and judgmental.”
  • Doug Pagitt calls penal substitution the “judicial” view of the atonement, exclaiming in response: “Yikes!”

So while they may put any number of things in the place of penal substitionary atonement, some within the emerging church do want to make clear: when they talk about the atonement, they don’t mean that!

Trevin Wax: What will the long-range impact of the Emerging Church be on evangelicalism?

Robbie Sagers: That’s a very good question, and I think that only time will tell what – if any – lasting impact the emerging church movement will have on evangelicalism.

Part of that uncertainty is due to the somewhat shifting nature of evangelicalism itself; after all, what is an evangelical? (A question for another day, perhaps!)

Regardless, these last months certainly do seem to have indicated the demise of the emerging church movement, at least in terms of comparing it to the furor surrounding the movement in recent years. After all, fewer books are being published by self-identified emerging church adherents, less conferences planned, Emergent Village has been disbanded, and some of the movement’s key leaders are now deeply entrenched not primarily in the church per se but rather in national politics–or, at least in one case, running for political office themselves.

I can tell you what I hope the long-range impact of evangelicalism will be. My hope is that conservative evangelicals, after having endured from some segments of the emerging church movement a challenge to doctrinal orthodoxy and orthopraxy, will avoid the temptation to a more-doctrinal-than-thou mentality that can be destructive to the soul. False teaching should be pointed out, yes, and corrected when possible. And there certainly is a place, biblically speaking, for sharp language in pointing out wolves among sheep. But such words should be spoken not with triumphalism, but rather with sobriety, in love.

Instead, I hope that evangelicals will discern humbly, through the lens of the Scriptures, those weak spots that led to some emerging church adherents’ exploitations of certain aspects of evangelicalism in the first place.

If evangelical Christians are able to hear the good and right critiques of their faith and practice coming from some leaders of the emerging church movement, and then adjust their life and doctrine accordingly, such would certainly be honoring to Christ. If that were to be the case then evangelicals may, in some sense, even find themselves praising God for the emerging church.

 
 

Sep

21

2009

Trevin Wax|3:52 am CT

Walking and Talking Evangelism

footstepsI have been thinking lately about the saying, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk.”

The point of that phrase is to criticize those who “talk” about the gospel and yet fail to walk in the way of the gospel. Hypocrisy, of course, is a perennial problem.

But I am afraid some might hear in that phrase a downplaying of the importance of “talk.” In my experience, it appears that those who evangelize are generally seeking to walk worthy of the gospel. And the people seeking to walk the walk usually talk the talk as well.

Whenever I think of the relationship between “walk” and “talk,” I am reminded of the example of John the Baptist. Here was a prophet who foretold the coming of the Messiah in a way that captivated the people of Israel. His lifestyle (seriousness) matched his message (the kingdom is coming!).

First, John saw his own significance in light of Jesus’ identity. He knew who he was. He did not share personal thoughts about his life. He pointed people to Jesus. His entire life was oriented around Jesus, and that lifestyle made his proclamation of Jesus all the more powerful. The lesson for us is that our lives should be distinctively “Jesus-shaped” if we expect people to hear our words about Jesus.

Secondly, John the Baptist was humble. When he speaks about his unworthiness in stooping to untie the sandals of Jesus, he was expressing his lowly status. We need to follow John’s example and realize that we cannot talk about Jesus in a prideful way and expect to be heard. The most powerful evangelists are the most humble evangelists.

Third, John’s lifestyle backed up and enhanced his message. It didn’t detract from it. We need to think about our lives. When people see how we live, they should think, This person seriously believes in Jesus! Does our lifestyle prepare the way for us to share the gospel? Or is it an obstacle we have to get past?

I fear that we too often err in all three areas. We think of Jesus only in terms of what Jesus can do for us. We think of ourselves as being more spiritual than we really are. And we don’t witness to others because our life often doesn’t back up our talk.

Instead, our actions should prepare the way for our words. Our lives should give us credibility when we speak about the transforming power of the gospel. People ought to hear the gospel from our lips and see the gospel at work in our lives.

Walking the walk prepares the way for us to talk the talk. And unless we talk the talk, we really aren’t walking the walk.