Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Breaking The Evangelical Cycle
Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.Look, morality is no substitute for salvation by grace, but grace without transformation is just as bad!
Carson seeks to preserve a distinction that exists, but is a minor one, and he does so, I think, at the peril of the church. I look at the American religious landscape and I see a church that largely clings to grace, yet looks not at its result - a church in a cycle of evangelism building evangelists, and yet each succeeding generation of evangelist has less to offer because they have neglected all the ramifications of their message save for the one that says "spread the word."
So carefully preserving this distinction has lead,I believe, to a body of Christ that is a deformed thing - a mouth that has indeed told the rest of the body that it is not necessary.
Look, argue the word "gospel" all you want - It's Christianity I am worried about.
Which brings me to the real problem I have with concentrating so on "the gospel" as Carson defines it. It results on doing evangelism in a bait-and-switch fashion. We "sell" grace - only later does the buyer find out about this whole "obedience thing." The result looks like we took the "fishers of men" metaphor a bit too seriously - we do evangelism on a catch-and-release basis.
I have been in arguments where it was contended that the brief introduction to "the gospel," even if they "fell away" would bear fruit later. Perhaps. But Jesus used 12 men to change the world. Just 12. But there was no catch and release with those 12.
What would happen if we approached things that way? Do I just have to keep speculating?