Posted by: jondpayne | July 31, 2008

A Diluted Gospel?

Just finished reading David Wells’ new book “The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World.”  It is a fantastic piece of work and worthy of serious attention.  In it Wells argues that the great need of the evangelical church today is to move away from the trivial, programmatic, (a)theological, therapeutic, and man-centered approach to ministry to one that humbly and unapologetically sets forth the means of grace (Word, sacraments, & prayer).  When God’s people worship and minister on God’s terms, through His ordained means, then God is exalted, Christ and His work of redemption are central, the believer’s faith is nourished, and the lost are converted.  The pragmatic innovations of today’s evangelical church (sadly, with many confessional churches following suit) have served to eclipse the gospel and weaken her witness to the unbelieving world.  What our dying, secular, postmodern culture needs is not more of what it already has.  What it needs is a crucified and risen Savior, communicated faithfully through the Word and sacraments.  Wells states:

“If we mute the biblical gospel by our misunderstanding, or by our practice in the church, we destroy the possibility of spiritual authenticity in the church. In theory, most evangelicals assent to all of this. In practice, many evangelicals – especially those of a marketing and emergent kind – are walking away from the hard edges of these truths in an effort to make the gospel easy to swallow, quick to sell, and generationally appealing. They are very well aware of a deep cultural hunger for spirituality in the West, and they are trolling in these waters. The problem, however, is that this spirituality is highly privatized, highly individualistic, self-centered, and hostile to doctrine because it is always hostile to Christian truth. Evangelicals gain nothing by merely attracting to their churches postmoderns who are yearning for what is spiritual if, in catering to this, the gospel is diluted, made easy, and the edges get rounded off. The degree to which evangelicals are doing this is the degree to which they are invalidating themselves and prostituting the church.” (Wells, Courage to Be Protestant, 237)

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  1. Thanks! This was a great article and a blessing to read. Your quote gets right to the heart of the matter: “In practice, many evangelicals – especially those of a marketing and emergent kind – are walking away from the hard edges of these truths in an effort to make the gospel easy to swallow, quick to sell, and generationally appealing.”

    In my words, these evangelicals are wrapping tthe Gospel with all kinds of beautiful paper and bows and glitter and then spraying perfume on it. They don’t intend necessarily to hide the Gospel, but that is what they are doing in fact. They wrongly think that the wrappings will make everyone love the gift of the Gospel.

    Well, as long as the wrappings are the focus of attention, they may lure, and even keep for a while, many in their church. But, should the Gospel be so hidden?

    Evangelicals must come to understand that the Gospel will repel the many non-Elect and that is OK. To that many, the Gospel is an aroma from death to death. They can’t run away fast enough from it when they truly perceive it.

    Certainly, at least for the sake of the Elect, there should be no wrappings to hide or obscure the smell of the Gospel. But, even for the non-Elect, they should not be deceived, and it can be harmful to the true Church to by the wrappings deceptively keep them in the congregation.

    Let the Gospel stand for itself unwrapped. Let God build His church.

    “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life And who is adequate for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

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