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Friday, November 6, 2015

So Much For Always Reforming

R.C. Sproul (click here for a bio) has written an article with a question that should strike fear into the hearts of all conservative Christians. Is the Reformation over (click here for the article), he asks. What are the grounds for his concern? His grounds consist of the deemphasis on the Reformation's doctrine of justification. In short, this doctrine declares that we are saved through faith in Christ alone and that our works do nothing to secure our salvation. The existence of this deemphasis, according to Sproul, is shown by the attitudes more and more evangelicals are showing toward this doctrine.

To his credit, Sproul shows a deep concern for the heart of the Gospel. And while Sproul shows balance by contrasting the progress that has been in terms of how we disagree with one another since the 16th century and how a Church with whom he has many differences has positively contributed to the moral life of society, in the end, he shows why he doesn't fully understand why the deemphasis is occurring. How does he show this? It's very simple. He shows it by not reporting any dialog with those who are minimizing the significance of justification. Instead, he either covers old debate issues with old opponents such as the Roman Church, or he cites questions asked by a theological ally. In the end, one's personal salvation is what Sproul sees as not just the most important issue for all people, it is apparently the only issue. And Sproul shows it is the only issue at hand for him by not mentioning any current issue which has distracted people from listening to the Gospel.

The math of the issue at hand adds up this way: you start with a very individualized, personal Gospel + an examination of the issue that is predominantly from the past - adequate feedback from those who show a different emphasis on the Gospel = a number of possibilities. It can equal insularity. It can also equal self-absorption. How can we ever determine why others are not putting the same emphasis on the Gospel that we are unless we escape our theological shell and ask for their input?

Many of us religiously conservative Christians often expect not only rejection for preaching the Gospel, we are taught to expect persecution. And these expectations prevent us from either seeking or considering feedback from any secular audience. And it is that feedback that we need most. 

If I were to speculate why the Gospel is being deemphasized today by fellow evangelicals, one of the reasons could very well be our resistance to listen to those outside of our theological circles. And though these fellow evangelicals are in err when they lessen the imporance of the Gospel, they are correct by adding other concerns some of which could be coming from listening to their own audiences, to those outside their theological circles. When we do what Sproul seems to have done in the writing of this article is to say to the world: 'You need to listen to us, but we don't need to listen to you.'  Such an attitude requires a significant amount of arrogance--a trait that goes against the very nature of the Gospel.





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