Paul's Passing Thoughts

“The ‘Gospel’ Coalition” Series, Part 5: Poke, Poke, Michael Horton?!!

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 23, 2011

This series of posts are about The Gospel Coalition and their upcoming national conference in Chicago. Most of my material is coming from their website: thesonshipcoalition.org. Just about everywhere you poke the website is post material. After answering a good question by a reader this morning, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, if Michael Horton was speaking at the TGC [hereafter TSC], my reply would make a relevant post. Funny how Horton believes the same thing as those other guys but they never hangout together,” I said to myself. Later in the day, I was poking around the website and discovered that the White Horse Inn radio program hosted by Horton is having a live presentation at the TSC conference! That was easy.

The reader used a quote from Horton’s other venture, Modern Reformation. Horton thinks we need a modern reformation because most evangelicals are going to hell because, like JC Ryle, BB Warfield, RC Sproul, and many others, we believe that we exercise our own efforts in janctification (that’s the hybrid word for justification and sanctification which they all teach is the same thing, pronounced: jay-n’ku-fi-cation).

So first, the question:

“So, help me understand. I pulled the following quote from an article published in Modern Reformation [MR], posted here, http://www.ouruf.org/d/cvt_sanctification.pdf. Why are you so against this way of thinking about the Christian life. If I am not motivated to obey the commands of scripture by the fact that I am already justified, then what would you suggest should be my motivation?

[The Horton quote]: ‘I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.’”

And my answer:

Great question. One: Modern Reformation presents “gratitude” as the primary motivation for obedience to the exclusion of almost everything else. Second point under One: supposedly, our gratitude is increased by pondering / contemplating / meditating on the “gospel” or works of Christ which results in obedience that is qualified as acceptable before God because it is accompanied by joy, and a willing spirit. This is exactly what John Piper believes also; the moral character of obedience is ALWAYS determined by joy. Both of these points are indicative of Quietist, contemplative spirituality that Matt mentioned in the comment section of the other post.

Two: “I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son.” This is true, but MR believes that any attempt on our part to apply that righteousness horizontally is to take away from Christ’ righteousness that has been granted to us. This error is very subtle and is clothed in truth. We are not only righteous positionally, but we are also enabled to be righteous practically. It is up to us to “put on” the righteousness we have been given and to “put off” the remnant of sin left in our mortal bodies (Eph 4:20-24). This process will be EXPERIENCED IN A MYRIAD OF WAYS and will use a wide range of spiritual weapons granted to us, NOT JUST an endeavoring to be thankful for what Christ has done for us. In fact, making use of our complete arsenal is what will lead to deeper gratitude, not the limitation thereof. Paul said to put on the “full armor of God.”

But now let me hasten to reference what I said above (“MR believes that any attempt on our part to apply that righteousness horizontally is to take away from Christ’ righteousness that has been granted to us.”): On page 62 of “Christless Christianity” M. Horton says that spiritual growth only takes place when we, like unbelievers as well, “encounter the gospel afresh.” In other words, contemplation on the gospel is the only thing that produces spiritual growth.

Furthermore, this eliminates the use of  Scripture for instruction because the Spirit only works “through the gospel.” This is known as the “Christocentric” or Gospel-centric hermeneutic. Also, on pages 189-191 of the same book, Horton propagates the idea that corporate worship is strictly a contemplative affair and that we are a valley of dead bones coming to receive life through the corporate presentation of the gospel and sacraments. Of course, this is a blatant contradiction of Hebrews 10:23-25. In addition, on pages 117-119, Horton says that any attempt on our part to be a testimony with our good works (as Christians) is an attempt to “be the gospel” rather than presenting the gospel. In other words, our own efforts in evangelism is an attempt t to replace the works of Christ with our works. Of course, this is a blatant contradiction to Matthew 5:16 and 1Peter 3:1,2.

Three: “Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God.” No, not for justification, but we need to dependently perform in sanctification in order to “PLEASE God” (2Cor 5:9). Note 2Cor 5:9 carefully–for crying out loud, it will even be our goal in heaven to please Him–except we will be unhindered by the flesh, but it will be no less us obeying Him than now, just more, and too perfection. Christ will not be obeying for us in heaven while we please Him there because we will be “like Him.” Neither does He obey for us now, though no doubt, we need to depend on His strength and knowledge to do so, but we are definitely WORKING with God (1Cor 3:9 1Thess 3:2). But Horton believes that justification and sanctification are the same thing. Therefore, any effort to be “accepted”(a salvation concept) by Him in sanctification (a misnomer) equals an effort to be justified by Him as well. This is very subtle and deceptive. However, he states plainly on page 62 in “Christless Christianity” that any effort to grow spiritually apart from contemplation on the gospel will result “in the LOSS of BOTH.” Both what? Answer: both justification and sanctification; ie, your lost!

Four: The Bible designates several other motivations for obedience other than gratitude. Let’s start with MR’s use of guilt because they / Horton know that our society has been conditioned to view guilt as an ill motivation or bad thing. “My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.” This statement insinuates that the sum of sanctification is either / or. Not so. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “Keep a clear conscience before God” (1Tim 1:5, 1:19, 3:9, 4:2, 2Tim 1:3). Clearly, one of the goals in sanctification is the consideration and motivation to KEEP a clear conscience. Secondly, under Four, fear of discipline is used to motivate (Acts 5:10-16 1Thess 4:6 1Tim 5:20). Thirdly, the awesome motivation to discipline self to prevent the Lord’s discipline. What a wonderful motivation / promise from our Lord! (1Cor 11:27-32). Fourthly, we are motivated by being promised blessings IN (a preposition) the DOING, (James 1:25) not IN CONTEMPLATION.

Fifthly, God motivates us to good works via REWARDS. Really, hundreds of verses could be cited to make this point, but I will mention Matthew 6:6. Also note that contemplation is not the cure for hypocritical prayer in the context of Jesus’ counsel here, but the practice of private prayer. I will stop here as the biblical points that could be cited on this are endless, but let me say that I am very concerned with contemplation replacing biblical instruction in regard to helping Christians with serious life problems, and being complete before the Lord, lacking nothing (2Timothy 3:16).

Five: MR fails to recognize the all important biblical concept of self-sacrifice. Often, our faith will drag ourselves kicking and screaming into obedience in order to please God; and the belief that blessings will be our reward, though delayed for the time-being. Joy does not always walk with obedience at every moment. In fact, faith often does not care about self at all, but rather takes pleasure in the fact that God is pleased regardless of how we feel at the time. Here, beating our bodies into subjection and self-death is the motivation / goal. Do we always seek to please God because we are mindful of his sacrifice? Or is it our love for Him that is many faceted with gratitude included?

Six: Gratitude alone does not bring us near to God; “adding” to our faith does (2Peter 1:5-11).

Bottom line: The MR quote above is fraught with deception. Contemplative spirituality is a roadway to destruction.

paul

“The ‘Gospel’ Coalition” Series, Part 2: The 2011 Sonship Coalition

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 21, 2011

I started working on a project the other day. Some readers have requested that I put together a directory / list of leaders and organizations that promote Gospel Sanctification. Why? Because GS is covert and very subtle, and lay people, especially those in the process of searching for another church, don’t have two years to figure out whether the doctrine is being promoted or not. Why don’t they just ask? Because in most cases leaders who propagate GS / Sonship think they have a right to withhold information “until the people are ready for the totality of this hard truth recently rediscovered.”

So, while working on the list of organizations, I went (for the first time) to The Gospel Coalition website. My discoveries made my heart sink. TGC is an information / network organization bringing together churches “of like mind.” The network is a well-oiled, slick machine that appears to be spreading this doctrine like the mother of all Bubonic plagues.

Indicative of the doctrine’s covert character is the fact that all the information posted on the website appears to represent a deeply heartfelt endeavor to spread an orthodox revival  throughout Christianity. All of the communication is the usual gospel-speak Christians are accustomed to, but one has to know the doctrine and read carefully to see the nuanced message that is presented. For instance, few Christians would disagree with the following: “We have committed ourselves to invigorating churches with new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” Most Christians will immediately focus on the familiar “through faith alone in Christ alone” part of this sentence, but those familiar with GS will immediately connect this justification statement with “invigorating churches.” Hence, we see the veiled propagation of sanctification by justification.

Moreover, and more to the point of this post, the despicable covertness of this movement can be seen in the replacement of “Sonship” with “Gospel.” GS / Sonship proponents clearly avoid labels, which are useful in categorizing truth. Among the many speakers at the yet future TGC 2011 conference in Chicago are the who’s who of Sonship Theology.

Two of the speakers, Tim Keller and David Powlison, are no-brainers—it is common knowledge that both of these men were mentored by Dr. Jack Miller, the father of Sonship Theology. Of more interest and worthy of notation is another speaker, Darrin Patrick, who is the vice president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and the founding pastor of the Journey Church in St. Louis. He is considered to be an expert on church planting and speaks regularly at pastor’s conferences and training events for church planters. He is also the author of Church Planter: the man the message and the mission. The book is barley less than a treatise on Sonship sanctification by justification. On  page 169 he writes the following:

“We’ll close this chapter and section with the words of the late Jack Miller: ’The more that you know that you are stained to the bone with selfish impulses, the more that you see how you hold out against the will of the Lord, the more you go to Christ as a thirsty sinner who finds deeper cleansing, more life and greater joy through the Spirit.’”

In this quotation by Miller, we see the essence of the Sonship doctrine; specifically, that we grow spiritually via the same way we were saved, by focusing on our hopeless enslavement to sin (on page 167, Patrick propagates the Sonship element of the total depravity of the saints by stating that Christians are “completely sinful.”), and the continual confession thereof. Just prior to quoting Miller on the same page, Patrick says the following: “The way to deal with sin and idolatry is to repent of them and believe the gospel….In Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul praises the church for how they ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.’ May this be said of us and our churches as we repent and believe the gospel.”

Christians are not sanctified by practicing our initial salvation experience (“repent and believe the gospel”). Notice also how the apostle Paul spoke of what the Thessalonians did as being in the past tense, but Patrick says the same thing needs to be true of us as if Paul had said, “you turn [present tense] from idols to serve the living God.” On page 162, Patrick regurgitates Miller’s theory regarding idols of the heart as articulated in “Repentance and the 20th Century Man.” He also noted a book by David Powlison that, like 20th Century Man, classifies different types of idols (“Idols of the Heart in Vanity Fair). Apparently, Miller devised twenty-one different types, or classifications of idols.

Another speaker scheduled to speak at the 2011 TGC conference, Mark Driscoll, wrote the forward to the aforementioned book. In the forward, he commends Patrick for being “gospel centered,” ie., the same gospel that saves us also sanctifies us.

I know of a particular situation regarding a longstanding struggle between some elders and a parishioner who was confused by their teachings. The tension went on for about two years and included several meetings, emails, and confrontations. The elders insisted that what they were teaching was orthodox and not identifiable with any particular movement—this while the ink on “Biblical Sonship” by Jay Adams had barley dried. The elders were afraid that the “Sonship” nomenclature would let the cat out of the bag before the rest of the congregation was “ready for the whole truth.” Though the parishioner never identified the doctrine as Sonship, he put together a model of plenary justification and left that particular church. It was unlikely that the parishioner would have been able to articulate the doctrine to the rest of the congregation in a way that would have made the doctrine understandable, but nevertheless, the elders attempted to muzzle the parishioner and the end results were tragic.

This is indicative of the same covert wickedness of the so-called “Gospel Coalition.” They don’t teach the true gospel; their gospel is the half-gospel of Jesus as savior only, and not Lord as well. That’s very important because He said that He is both. It is a gospel that reduces our sanctification repertoire to two elements: belief and repentance. It is not the gospel; it is Jack Miller Sonship theology. And  I am of the opinion that they need help in regard to telling the truth about what they teach. Lord willing, I will be of much help to them.

paul

An Open Letter to Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 12, 2011

Dr. Mohler,

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Paul Dohse and I am a member of a Southern Baptist church in the Dayton, Ohio area. I also have the privilege of serving there as director of men’s ministry.

The purpose of this letter is the following: to request that you withdraw your association with Together for the Gospel (T4G) because the organization promotes a particular false doctrine. This letter will be posted on my blog as an open letter because several such letters to individuals and organizations have been ignored. In addition, it will make the continuance of my grievance to others within the Convention expedient as I am a layman with many other responsibilities.

I have no problem with Calvinism, but I cannot express in words how disappointed I am with you and others for turning a blind eye to grievous error from any individual who claims to be a Calvinist. Apparently, Calvinist nomenclature is a license to teach anything that one sees fit. As I continue to research this doctrine (not Calvinism) that is sweeping through Southern Baptist circles, at times it seems surreal that this ridiculous doctrine is being propagated in broad daylight, while you and others lend it your credibility. Because you are President over the “Flagship Seminary” of the SBC, I also fear that you have embraced this doctrine personally.

When I was a student at the WA Criswell Institute of Biblical Studies in the early eighties, we were taught to be leery of any doctrine that had a short history. Such is the case with the “gospel-driven life,” or Gospel Sanctification as some call it. In fact, my research indicates that this whole movement, as we know it today, was conceived by a professor of practical theology (Dr. Jack Miller) at Westminster Seminary, probably around 1980, and dubbed “Sonship Theology.” Yet, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, DA Carson, Tim Keller, and many others promote the idea that this doctrine has been the true gospel from the beginning, and God is using the “New Calvinism” movement to reveal the “unadjusted gospel” in our day.

Many teaching this doctrine today were mentored by Jack Miller; such as, Tim Keller and David Powlison. Jack Miller is the one who coined the phrase, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.” In any case, Gospel Sanctification and Sonship are identical. Dr. Jay E. Adams wrote a book to protest the doctrine in 1999. I would like to use quotes from that book as a way to describe the basics of the doctrine:

“This teaching that appeals to Christians who are failing to live as they ought maintains that most of the church has been sadly in error by viewing the gospel merely as the way in which one is saved from the penalty of sin; instead, it ought to be viewed also as the fundamental dynamic for living the Christian life.”

“It claims that a person can change this sad state of affairs by continuing to preach the gospel to himself and by repenting and believing over and over again. It teaches that not only justification, but also sanctification, is by faith [alone] in the good news.”

“The problem with Sonship is that it misidentifies the source of sanctification (or the fruitful life of the children of God) as justification. Justification, though a wonderful fact, a ground of assurance, and something never to forget, cannot produce a holy life through strong motive for it.”

“Certainly, all of us may frequently look back to the time when we became sons and rejoice in the fact, but there is no directive to do so for growth, or even an example of this practice, in the New Testament….The true reminder of the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins is the one that he left for us to observe-the Lord’s supper (‘Do this in remembrance of Me’).”

Adams also said the following in another publication: “Aberrations of the faith found in such movements as Sonship should be pointed out and rejected. These movements – both large and small – constantly plague the church” (Jay E. Adams, “Hope for the New Millenium,” Timeless Texts, Woodruff, SC, 2000, p.44).

A cursory observation of statements made at the 2010 T4G conference would easily identify Gospel Sanctification (the supposed “unadjusted gospel”) with Sonship Theology. Furthermore, many should be wary of the “unadjusted” gospel’s unorthodox phraseology: repentance is now “deep repentance”; obedience is now “new obedience”; church discipline is now “redemptive church discipline”; and progressive sanctification is really “progressive justification.”

There is a controversy concerning the influx of Calvinism into the SBC, and rightfully so because the soundness of a doctrine is often determined by where it ends up, and in this case, “New Calvinism.” New Calvinist seem to be in a contest to see who can devise the newest / profound angle on this doctrine. Recently, Tim Keller suggested that a sound profession of faith must include “repentance from good works.” Constantly insinuated by others aforementioned, but specifically stated by Paul David Tripp, is the idea of the total depravity of the saints. He plainly states in How People Change that Christians remain spiritually dead. And, ”When you are dead, you can’t do anything.” John Piper has stated that he went on his recent sabbatical to eliminate several different “species of idols” that he discovered in his heart, and mentioned Tim Keller and Paul Tripp as being knowledgeable about these things. In How People Change, Tripp states that these idols of the heart can be discovered by asking ourselves “x-ray questions.”

Dr. Mohler, is this what Southern Baptist believe? That we grow spiritually by reciting the gospel to ourselves everyday? That every verse in the Bible is about justification? That Christians are totally depraved? That we should go idol hunting in our hearts using x-ray questions? That sanctification is by faith alone? And not previously mentioned: that colaboring with God in sanctification is a false gospel because “any separation of justification and sanctification is an abomination”? Like Tullian Tchividjian, should we endeavor to be accused of teaching antinomianism for the purpose of accreditation regarding the “true gospel”? Should we practice redemptive church discipline which often results in the excommunication of Christians for non-attendance and not tithing?

I tell you the truth Dr. Mohler, at times I wake up in the morning and wonder if this is all a dream. After all, you are, according to some, the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” So, obviously, it’s difficult for me to believe all of this is going on. I know some say that the SBC is on life support, but Dr. Kevorkian in the form of New Calvinism is not the answer. I am asking you to stand for the truth, or publicly state that you believe this doctrine without hiding behind the word, “gospel.”

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse

Is Gospel-Driven Sanctification Really “Sonship” Theology?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 29, 2011

Two weeks ago, sitting in my office with my feet propped on a bookcase and chatting with Susan, I happened to be looking up at my Jay Adams shelf. Since it had been too long since I’d read any of his material (at least two weeks), I put my feet down on the floor and began perusing what I haven’t lent to other people; and thinking, “Hmmm, wonder what this is: ‘Biblical Sonship.’”

I always read the preface. So you have the cover, cover page, copyright, contents, and preface. I was reading the first page of the preface, and in the third paragraph, when I read the following: “It claims that a person can change this sad state of affairs by continuing to preach the gospel to himself and by repenting and believing over and over again. It teaches that not only justification, but also sanctification, is by faith in the good news.”

Barely a hundred words into the book, and I was stunned. That is the exact same thesis as gospel sanctification, a movement I have been researching for three years. The movement (gospel sanctification, or “gospel-driven sanctification”) is huge and its propagators are the who’s who of the evangelical world that they are supposedly trying to save: DA Carson, Michael Horton, Paul David Tripp, David Powlison, Tim Keller, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Devers, Francis Chan, Jerry Bridges, and many, many others. The theology is also propagated by several missionary alliances and church planting organizations like the Antioch School in Ames, Iowa.

As Jay Adams notes in his book, the Sonship movement was started by Jack Miller, a former professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary who is now deceased. According to other sources, Jack Miller’s epiphany concerning Sonship occurred while he was on an extended trip in Spain with his family. An article I read by Geoff Thomas in Banner of Truth was written in 2003, and he mentions the trip to Spain as being about twenty years prior; so figure 1980, or around that time, for the birth of Sonship theology.

In all of my studies concerning gospel sanctification, I had never heard of Jack Miller or Sonship theology, but it became clear from the Jay Adams book that the two theologies are the same thing with the usual peripheral aberrations from the basic form; and the basic form being, but not confined to, progressive justification, sanctification by faith alone, substitutionary monergistic sanctification, and the total depravity of the saints. There is absolutely no doubt – this theology turns orthodoxy completely upside down while the intestinal fortitude of the rest of the evangelical community wanes. Apparently, big names like Jerry Bridges and others are like GM, they’re just too big to fail. As one brother wrote to me: “How dare you criticize DA Carson, one the greatest theological minds of our day!” Furthermore, as Dr. Peter Masters has noted, it is interesting that doctrine doesn’t matter if you are “gospel-driven” in your beliefs. For example, Charismatic and emergent church leaders are readily excepted into the new Calvinism clan if they are “gospel-centered.”

But what came first? Sonship, or gospel sanctification? Did gospel-driven sanctification come from Sonship? Is Jack Miller the father of new Calvinism? It’s looking that way. Historical precedent for gospel sanctification (GS) cannot be found before (approx.)1980. It is the brainchild of Dr. David Powlison, professor at CCEF, the biblical counseling wing of Westminster Seminary. GS came out of his “Dynamics of Biblical Change” curriculum developed and taught by him at Westminster. Two of his former students articulated the doctrine in the book “How People Change.” This is made clear by Powlison in the forward he wrote for the same book. Shortly prior to the book’s release, the doctrine’s theories were tested in local churches via a pilot program. In the reformed church I attended that was part of the pilot program, the curriculum was taught in a Sunday school class with a limited number of participants.

“How People Change” articulates a theology that is virtually identical to Sonship theology. And, it just so happens that David Powlison himself claims that Jack Miller is his “mentor.” He recently stated this as fact while teaching a seminar at John Piper’s church, and in the midst of fustigating Jay Adams for criticizing Jack Miller for telling people to “preach the gospel to themselves everyday” *see endnote.  I thought this phrase was originally coined by Jerry Bridges, but Jerry Bridges attributes the phrase to Jack Miller in the preface of “The Disciplines of Grace.” Tim Keller, a looming figure in the new Calvinism / gospel-driven / gospel sanctification movement, was teaching GS under the “Sonship” nomenclature as late as 2006. On the Puritan Board, a faint cry for help was uttered by a person saying the following: “ The Sonship theology of Tim Keller has taken a hold of the church I attend. Am I the only one, or does anyone else have a problem with this?”

Furthermore, my research would strongly suggest that the development of other contemporary theologies like New Covenant Theology, (many attribute its conception to Westminster Seminary sometime during the 80’s or 90’s), heart theology (definitely conceived at Westminster during the 90’s), redemptive-historical hermeneutics, and Christian hedonism (latter conceived by John Piper in the 80’s) were primarily driven by the need to validate Sonship / GS doctrine. Sonship needs the NCT perspective on the law, the supposed practical application of finding idols in the heart via heart theology, the perspective of how Sonship is experienced through Christian hedonism, and more than anything else, an interpretive redemptive prism supplied by the redemptive-historical hermeneutic.

But why has gospel sanctification enjoyed freedom from ridicule not afforded to Sonship? They are, for all practical purposes, the same exact thing and encompass many of the same teachers. Probably because gospel sanctification has the word “gospel” in it. In this age of hyper-grace, people will shy away from any appearance of being against “the gospel.” I have to believe that the movement has traded the Sonship label, with its share of bullet holes, for the “gospel-driven” label. Sonship has been besieged by two works, the book by Jay Adams and a lengthy article by Van Dixhoorn, a former student at Westminster. Sonship has also been pelted with its share of the “antinomian” accusation, and rightfully so. In my second addition of “Another Gospel,” I write the following on page 78:

“….if the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us, and Christ said that we are sanctified by the word; and certainly He did say that as recorded in John 17:17, then every word in the Bible must be about justification, or what God has done and not anything we could possibly do, being a gospel affair. Furthermore, if we are sanctified by the gospel which is God’s work alone, we may have no more role in spiritual growth than we did in the gospel that saved us. The Scriptures are clear; no person is justified by works of the law. Is that not the gospel? Therefore, when the antinomians speak of obedience, it should be apparent that they are not speaking of our obedience, even though they allow us to assume otherwise.”

At least one book, a lengthy pamphlet, and several articles defend Sonship against Adams and Van Dixhoorn, but the theological arguments are woefully lame. Nevertheless, my point is that gospel sanctification, though the same thing, is enjoying widespread acceptance throughout the church without controversy while unifying camps that are theologically suspect to say the least.

It is what it is; while mad theological scientist concoct all sorts of new potions in the lab and send their minions out to commit first-degree doctrinal felonies in broad daylight, while many who profess to love the real gospel say nothing. I pray that will change, while thanking God for those who love the truth more than the acceptance and praises of men.

Endnote:

Powlison failed to mention that the criticism came in the form of a book that is an apology against Sonship theology. Failure to mention that put Adams in an anti-gospel light as well as depriving him of the ability to contextualize the criticism.  As an aside, Powlison, in the same seminar, criticized “idol hunting”; but yet, he is the inventor of “X-ray questions”(which he also mentioned in positive terms without the “X-ray” terminology, but rather something like “reorienting questions”) which are designed to identify heart idols (see page 163 of “How People Change”). His mentor, Jack Miller, developed a complex system of idol hunting that included twenty different categories of heart idols (Jack Miller, “Repentance and the 20th Century Man”CLC 1998). This kind of disingenuous double-speak is commonplace within the movement.

Key to understanding Lame Evangelism is Matthew 28:18-20

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 19, 2011

Last week, my evangelist son-in-law stated it again in his going back to PR presentation: Christians could seem to care less about evangelism. Others would say there is no “seem[ingly]” about it; in fact, we don’t. I believe the key to understanding this reality (and the fix) is in one of the most noted evangelism verses in the Bible, Matthew 28:18-20;

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

Let’s look at this text in order. First, Christians these days are focused on “our identity in Christ.” This comes from postmodern concepts which stress the supposed importance of “knowing our identity.” Only problem is, in attempting to do that, we must first define who we think Christ is. Well, in the Holy Spirit’s evangelism verse, He speaks of Christ’s identity, not ours: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And this must be a very important element because He immediately follows this statement with: “Therefore.” Christ has been given ALL authority in HEAVEN and EARTH. He is the absolute potentate of the universe and most certainly the absolute dictator-elect of planet Earth. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. That means He has authority, He is an authoritative God.

However, in our church culture, He is anything but that. He is our intimate, lovable boyfriend. As the number one contemporary Christian song of our time states it- it can’t be about authority, it has to be “more like falling in love.” And have you heard? John Piper says Christ is “the happy God” and primarily sees the world through “the lens of His happiness.”Also, it really doesn’t matter what our King says, no, but rather, “it’s who He is as a PERSON.” The thesis of one of the most popular Christian books of our time (“Crazy Love” by Francis Chan) propagates the idea that a real relationship with Christ is intrinsically tied to discovering who He is as a real person while being free from concern about anything Christ would command. You know, the kind of things Lord’s do; commandments and stuff like that. So obviously, when we are presenting Christ to the world, personal and cultural preferences may take precedent over anything in Scripture that may be perceived as our King’s mandate(s). Christ as Savior and happy boyfriend – Lord is optional.

This is the premise of all of my points here: The Holy Spirit empowers evangelism. My first point is; He won’t empower people who don’t even know who Christ is and how to act like it. Christ said that evangelism must be according to His AUTHORITY. No authority, no evangelism.

Secondly, our church culture cannot get it into their heads that Christ doesn’t want to save people, He wants to “make disciples.” To say that the gospel“ has suffocated discipleship is an extreme understatement. Christ is looking for able followers / worshipers, not mere converts. The fact that Christians do not know how to take “the mind of Christ”(1Cor 2:16) and apply it to their lives is evident by the fact that they go to “experts” for their problems. Fact of the matter is, most Christians will tune into Oprah Winfrey for answers to life’s tough questions before they will go to their pastor, and for good reason, the pastor doesn’t have the answers and everybody knows it. If you want to know how many stones David picked up out of the brook (and the name of the brook) to slay Goliath, you go to your pastor. If you need answers to life’s difficult questions, you go to a spawn of Sigmund Freud. The word is out, Dr. Phil can save a marriage before most pastors will even get over the initial shock (or disdain) that their parishioner would even ask them how to do such a thing.

Furthermore, the world knows something that the church doesn’t know. Most people change via problems; and what they discover about those problems that come into their lives. “Oprah” is the most popular TV show of all human history, and its theme is life, and the problems thereof. It’s a how to show. Get over it; God is a problem centered counselor. (Adam, Cain, Job, etc., etc., etc., etc.,). Hence, a church I used to go to had twelve converts in one year through their biblical counseling program (back when they knew how). Keep in mind: evangelism is problem centered counseling that the whole world needs. Their lost – that’s a problem, and your the counselor (or should be) that has God’s solution to the problem.

In the Old Testament, two lepers who were thrown out of Jerusalem went back to the besieged city to inform them that they had discovered life-saving provisions. That’s what you do when you have information that can save people’s lives; you go and tell. Christians today have no motivation to tell because they really don’t see where the deeper knowledge of God makes a difference in their own lives. Get ’em saved and then send them to Oprah? Christians will find better things to do while pretending that being a Christian is really different.

That was the problem with the first gospel wave from about 1950 to 1980. “Bag ’em and tag ’em, then send ’em to Oprah. The second gospel wave (1980 to present) says: “The same gospel that saved you, also disciples (sanctifies) you.” Hence, we are all leaving church with the gospel coming out of our ears! The mantra of the second gospel wave says: “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Other spiritual brainiacs claim: “We never leave the gospel and supposedly move on to deeper / other things.” But this is in direct contradiction to Hebrews 6:1 which states: “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation….” In fact, throughout the Scriptures, the gospel is spoken of being a “foundation” that we build on (1Cor 3:10-15 for example). The “gospel” is killing evangelism because immature Christians make lousy evangelist. In fact, the Holy Spirit will not use them.

Thirdly, Christ is not looking for lousy worshipers. He is looking for disciples who learn “all that I have commanded” (ie., about ALL areas of life). Consider the popular “worship” song, “It’s All About You” [Christ]. The following was suggested to me: “That’s an awesome worship song because worship is all about Christ.” My response: “NO it isn’t! Worship is not all about Christ. Again, Christ must, for lack of a better term, be “allowed” to TELL US who He is and what He wants! Christ said we must worship “in spirit and in truth.” Worship is far more than raising our hands in church and using a song to focus on the “person” of Christ. Worship is how we talk to our wife. Worship is what kind of job we do at work. The better the disciple, the better the worship, because the definition of a disciple is “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.” God is looking for true worshipers, and true worship is according to truth (John 4:23).

If God is not looking for lousy worshipers, neither is the Holy Spirit. A church that has a heavy focus on discipleship will find much cooperation and empowerment from the Spirit.

paul

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