Saturday, February 12, 2005
More Great Discussion on the 'Simple Gospel'
As best as I can tell, the discussion is now centering on three essential topics, one very hotly debated, one simmering but likely to boil, and one mildly discussed -- all of it with grace and brotherhood. The hot topic is the presentation of sin/confession/repentance... in a simple gospel. The topic waiting to boil is baptism. The mildly discussed topic is the role of the Holy Spirit. I'll touch on each of them in the reverse order from how I just presented them.
Holy Spirit -- I am grateful this topic is being only mildly discussed. In my own personal life, no topic has sparked more controversy, resulted in more harsh words, or severed more relationships than this one. I have been told by people I care about deeply that my faith is not genuine because I have not experienced a separate, accompanied by utterance in tongues, "baptism by the Holy Spirit." I have less problem with this standard representation of Pentecostal theology than I do with the fact that people would have the temerity to question my faith on such a basis.
I am more of the Elijah at Horeb, still small voice school of Holy Spirit indwelling. That is not to say that I do not believe in the more enthusiastic and energetic manifestations of the Spirit, they are simply not the way the Holy Spirit has chosen to manifest Himself to me.
Moreover, I think that such glorious manifestations are playing with fire. I can personally attest to people who discovered the glories of the Holy Spirit while yet very immature in their faith. In some cases it literally resulted in their death -- they so believed that "the Spirit would manifest a healing in them," that they died waiting. I cry as I write it. It is best that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit be both at the end of the 'Simple Gospel' and that it not be hotly debated. In my experience that can only lead to heartache.
Baptism -- I am not sure that I really want to dip my toe into this one at this time, best to leave it to Adrian and Jollyblogger to debate as they say they will. Baptism is important, it is vitally important. It is part of God's direction, make that command, to us via Peter. As I said yesterday, I am not sure the form or placement of baptism is all that important. Every time I am embroiled in a discussion of the matter I come away feeling everybody has a point and I am never fully convinced. I am certain though that it has to be done. Who knows, when Adrian and Jollyblogger conduct their promised great debate on the matter, one of them may convince me?
Sin -- I have a feeling this topic may reverberate through the blogosphere forever. I can think of no more vital discussion in the church today. This topic has occupied me for some time now. As I read it, Adrian has been dealing with this issue in posts on penal substitution' or as I was taught to refer to it, "propitiation."
Some years back, a friend of mine wanted to start something he called a 'blogzine.' For a while I wrote 'weekly columns' for it. As I refer to it now, it was a place I wrote long ago, far away and never read. I wrote on this topic somewhat extensively in that ill-read space. The post discusses the need to appropriate God's forgiveness and reflects on some day-to-day applications of the concept. In this post, I discuss how intimacy with God demands self-examination, which invariably leads to all sorts of uncomfortable discoveries about oneself. In this particular column, I discuss how I believe that failure to conduct such self-examination will result in a lack of Christian maturity and how I think that is affecting the church today. (There -- now you have your reading assignment for the week -- SORRY!)
Adrian describes the phenomena we are discussing in one of his Penal Subsitution posts this way:
Jettisoning tried and tested truths in the search for original things to say-that's a good definition of neo-liberalism in my book.
Amen! I think that is why this discussion has taken off so. Neo-liberalism is gaining wider and wider acceptance in the American church, I think because it makes it easier to fill the pews in a self-image-obsessed, it's-a-sin-to-spank-your-kids age.
I will forever be grateful that Adrian raised this discussion, and I will forever participate in it. I think it is the great discussion of our time.