Monday, November 7, 2011

The Gospel is the Power of God, Not Discipleship

“Contrary to what some might think, discipleship is not the engine of the church. The gospel is. Without the gospel, both discipleship and church fail. Without the driving force of the gospel, discipleship devolves into self-help religiosity motivated by conservative pietism. The church is reduced to a glorified non-profit in which people lose interest. But the gospel reactivates both church and discipleship!

The good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us, changes everything! In the gospel, God in Christ welcomes sinners and sends out disciples. The gospel, not discipleship, is central to the church. If we make discipleship the engine of the church, we’ll run quickly out of gas. But when the gospel is central, the church gets traction and disciples get depth.”

— Jonathan Dodson

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rob Bell and Universalism

UPDATE: Read Kevin DeYoung's review of the entire book here.

There is a firestorm brewing over Rob Bell's newest book: Love Wins. It is early in the conversation, but it appears that Bell has cast aside any doctrine that teaches that God is wrathful toward sinners at all. Justin Taylor, from The Gospel Coalition, has written on his blog here. There is also an interesting response to Bell's introductory video by Denny Burk here. I particularly liked Denny Burk's example as follows:

Bell: But how could that God [so wrathful that we must be saved from Him] ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?

Answer: You are asking how can God be good if He sentences sinners to eternal damnation, but I think you have the question backwards. The real question is how can God be good if He doesn't send sinners to judgment. In other words, how can God be good while forgiving sinners? This is the question Paul wrestled with in Romans 3, and he concluded that God set forth His son Jesus as a propitiation for sin. That means that all of the wrath and anguish that would have taken us an eternity in hell to endure, God poured out on His Son in the moment of the cross. God is good because He settles our sin debt in the cross of Christ, our substitute. This is good news because God clears away guilt through the cross and offers eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus. Anyone who believes in Jesus in this way can have forgiveness and eternal life. This is more than good news; it's the best of news.

Bell: This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it has an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies, and they say, "Why would I ever want to be a part of that?"

Answer: Sin will always appear as a trifle to those whose view of God is small. If you were to discover a little boy pulling the legs off of a grasshopper, you would think it strange and perhaps a little bizarre. If the same little boy were pulling the legs off of a frog, that would be a bit more disturbing. If it were a bird, you would probably scold him and inform his parents. If it were a puppy, that would be too shocking to tolerate. You would intervene. If it were a baby, it would be so reprehensible and tragic that you would risk your own life to protect the baby. What's the difference in each of these scenarios? The sin is the same (pulling the limbs off). The only difference is the one sinned against (from a grasshopper to a baby). The more noble and valuable the creature, the more heinous and reprehensible the sin. And so it is with God.

If God were a grasshopper, then to sin against Him wouldn't be such a big deal and eternal punishment wouldn't be necessary. But God isn't a grasshopper, He's the most precious, valuable, beautiful being in the universe. His glory and worth are infinite and eternal. Thus to sin against an infinitely glorious being is an infinitely heinous offense that is worthy of an infinitely heinous punishment.

We don't take sin seriously because we don't take God seriously. We have so imbibed on the banality of our God-belittling spirit of the age that our sins hardly trouble us at all. Our sin seems small because we regard God as small. And thus the penalty of hell - eternal conscious suffering under the wrath of God - always seems like an overreaction on God's part. If we knew God better, we wouldn't think like that.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell

D.A. Carson wrote this 25 years ago:

"God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them - an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is to repent and trust in Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17)."

-D.A. Carson, "The Biblical Gospel" in For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present, and Future, ed. Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon