Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Bridgers of Confusion County and Another Short Narrative

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 17, 2011

What’s going on? Christians are becoming confused, if not frustrated. Starting with me. I finally gave in and read a John Piper book some years ago because he was, and still is, all the rave in Reformed circles. The perplexity started on page 16 of “The Pleasures of God” where he writes the following: “The worth and excellency of God’s soul is to be measured by the object of his love.” Huh? But, he loves us! Man is the measure of God’s soul?! “Certainly, I am missing something,” I thought, so I read additional books written by him. I found them nebulous, ambiguous, subjective, non-applicable to real life, grandeurus, nonsensical, to name but a few descriptors. Adding to my perplexity was the fact that John MacArthur Jr. wrote a glowing forward in one of his books.

Then Steve Camp wrote an adorable piece projecting all kinds of frustration and confusion over Piper inviting Paul David Tripp to one of his conferences. Paul Tripp behaved badly at the conference by bragging about having a “S” word contest with his children. Many also found Piper’s relationship with “Mark the cussing pastor” confusing as well. Remember the sixties song, “Buttercup”? It was about a girl that just builds you up to let you down. Could we make that work? “Johnny-cup, (Johnny-cup baby), you build me up (build me up) just to let me down (let me down), and worst of all (worst of all), we even (we even) wrote a book of essays about you (about you) Johnny-cup (Johnny-cup) baby….”

Anyway, Johnny-cup, or the first Pope of New Calvinism, further dismayed many by inviting Rick Warren to his 2010 Desiring God conference. But it gets even worse. I was recently invited to “chime in” on the recent controversy surrounding Michael Horton posing with Rick Warren in a photo op. I clicked on the link and did some snooping around. Apparently, a discernment blogger by  the name of  Ingrid Schlueter posted on the controversy and drew heavy fire as a result, probably along the lines of what I get for criticizing guys who know how to measure the excellency of God’s soul. How dare me. In the process, I learned a new term: “Bridger.” Apparently, it refers to someone who builds bridges between Reformed purity and others like Warren. MacArthur has a huge problem with Warren, but he loves Piper, who loves Warren, and…., uh, anyway, it would appear that Schlueter  threw up her arms in disgust and canceled her discernment blog—not a good thing in our day because intestinal fortitude in regard to defending the truth is in short supply; we can make necessary adjustments later. Also, it would appear that her critics disingenuously presented her protest as her having a problem with Horton merely being photographed with Warren, but it was really much more than that. Furthermore, I perused one blog that seems to be one of her critics that also promotes Paul Washer—a GS hack. Is Ingrid another victim of the silent killer? So, here is part one of  my contribution (“chime”): she needs to dust herself off and remember that those who defend the truth will always be in the minority. We don’t need fewer defenders right now.

Now about the photograph. Horton is posing with Warren who MacArthur says preaches a false gospel, but Horton and MacArthur like each other and have done at least one conference together, and Horton has also been critical of him in the past although he also admires him for many reasons (Warren, not MacArthur), and…. anyway, here is why the photo is such a big deal: Horton is not only in a frame with Warren, the photo projects—bosom buddy; long lost friend; top dawg; thinkin’ of makin’ him leader of my posse (Horton, not Warren); etc. And get this, because it’s just too rich: even though Horton has accused Warren of being an Arminian in the past, there in the picture between them, is a bust of John Calvin! Ingrid, Ingrid, Ingrid; c’mon girl, you gotta learn to laugh about it sometimes. God allows satire.

This brings me to the second tone of my chime. What’s really going on here? Answer: first gospel wave, postmodernism, second gospel wave, or Gospel Sanctification / Sonship theology. In all of the aforementioned events that I cite, folks are just spearing the symptoms. As far back as 1992, I remember a young pastor saying, “My generation is comfortable with contradictions”(if something’s good, it’s “bad” etc.). Right, that’s postmodernism. John MacArthur, who associates with those who hold to postmodern-like thinking, wrote an excellent expose on postmodernism in “The Truth War.” I recommend the book, not his friends. Confused?

Starting in the fifties, a member of the largest denomination in the world, Billy Graham,  started the first gospel wave. Basically, all that mattered/matters is getting people saved. Even as a young Southern Baptist, just beginning to learn God’s word in 1983, I perceived the constant preaching of the gospel at church as antithetical to the Scriptures. A plenary gospel concern clearly replaced discipleship. This led to an all but total inability on the part of Christians to take the word of God and help people with real-life problems—which led to pastors (at least in SB circles) to farm-out counseling to schools of thought conceived by those who admitted that they hated God. When Dave Hunt shook Christianity with “The Seduction of Christianity,” decrying the integration of  Psychology and Christian truth, it addressed a symptom and offered no solution, except “stop it.”

The solution came via Dr. Jay E. Adams’ biblical counseling model. I think the fact that Jay Adams is known as “the father of biblical counseling,” and his ministry started with the book “Competent to Counsel” (1972?) should make my point here: 1972 is a long way from Pentecost which demands some sort of explanation as to why anybody would be called such a thing. An experience I had recently might help to answer that question. I was at a pastor’s conference about eight months ago and witnessed the following firsthand: pastors bragging that they “didn’t allow counseling to distract them from ‘the gahhhhsssfull’” The gospel? I was an elder in a church where twelve people were saved in one year through its counseling program that was based on the biblical model propagated by Adams. When you show people that God knows what He’s talking about, they will also tend to look to Him for salvation as well. Personally, the model had radically changed my own life prior to that.

Nevertheless, this first gospel wave primed the church to fill the void (caused by a limited repertoire of spiritual weapons) with not only psychology, but postmodernism, which rejects propositional truth. The “Christian” form of postmodernism holds to something like this:

“Even some professing Christians nowadays argue along these lines: ‘If truth is personal, it cannot be propositional. If truth is embodied in the person of Christ [my emphasis], then the form of a proposition can’t possibly express authentic truth. That is why most of Scripture is told to us in narrative form-as a story-not as a set of propositions(Page 14, “The Truth War” J. MacArthur, emphasis added).

The combination of the first wave and postmodern thought also primed the church for the second gospel wave, Gospel Sanctifcation / Sonship theology. The fist wave emphasized the gospel, or salvation, to the exclusion of sanctification. The second wave said: “Hey, not only is sanctification not important, it’s the same thing as justification” (gospel salvation). Hence, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” (Jack Miller / Jerry Bridges), and “The same gospel that saved you, also sanctifies you.” The second wave also borrowed the Christian Postmodern[ism] hermeneutic to make this approach plausable: “The Bible is about the person of Jesus Christ, it is His story, not a cognitive concept that we apply to life.” “The word of God is a person.” The GS/Sonship  hermeneutic serves the same purpose as Christian Postmodernism; it’s used to put ourselves into the “gospel narrative,” ie., the Bible. In fact, Michael Horton’s teachings are often flavored with this idea of “entering the gospel drama.” Once the prism from which we interpret the Bible is narrowed to the single theme of the gospel, from there, anything goes. Open your Bible and randomly put your finger anywhere; unless it happens to be a passage that is gospel specific, and if a gospel message must be forced upon that passage, twenty different people will yield twenty different interpretations of that text. But that’s ok, because all twenty interpretations are about the gospel! Follow? You can’t go wrong if your take is “gospel centered.” Final equation: objective ideas that can be drawn from the text are OUT—the “objective” gospel that yields subjective truth about the “personhood of Christ” as opposed to what he objectively commands are IN.

Therefore, regardless of the radical results yielded by the Adams model, his objective approach drew much intense fire from a church already deeply entrenched in schools of thought hostile to propositional truth and imperative-driven behavior. I firmly believe that this simple, contemporary historical perspective forms much of the confused landscape we see today. For sure, doctrine is secondary to Gospel Sanctification. That’s why Charismatics like CJ Mahaney, a GS proponent, are welcomed into the New Calvinist camp with open arms, with many scratching their heads regarding the new label: “Reformed Charsimatic.” As far as the rest mugging together in photo ops and conferences—particular truth held by others is just simply not that important—other things are, while the confused laity are still primarily looking for leaders to stand on particular truth and shun those who don’t.

But if the laity is waiting, they better not hold their breath while doing so. And really, is a whole bunch of this really about selling books? New ideas sell books. I am reading “The Story of the Church” by Charles M. Jacobs—an oldie, but goodie. He talks about how the first century church rejected academia all together, as Jesus did to a great degree. It’s obvious that the elite, religious academians  controlled the information when Jesus came onto the scene—this is a constant theme throughout the New Testament. According to Jacobs, until the second century, the educated elite were barred from eldership.  Sometimes, I wonder if the laity in this country will ever tire of being led around by the nose via the who’s who of the evangelical world. But at the very least, leaders should be held to biblical standards and boycotted when they don’t measure up. As Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”

And p.s.—Ingrid, pray about putting you blog back up.

paul

%d bloggers like this: