The Evangelical Identity, Part 4

I would assert that there is a new liberalism that has invaded the traditional, historic, orthodox Christian faith. Like its predecessor a century go, it wants to be considered Christian even while denying or redefining the very essentials of that faith. And that cannot be allowed to happen.

There is no question that the split between theological liberals and conservatives in the early 1900’s led to some excess. We’re all familiar with those who have taken separation – and the basis for it – to excessive extremes. But the church I am part of – and I suspect the churches that many are a part of – were birthed out of a desire to remain faithful to orthodoxy and have done so without being, well, nutty. So it can be done. How it can be done, I’m not sure. But I look back eight years ago and see that men from diverse backgrounds drew their lines in the sand and God prospered the movement. Like the true Church, without a visible hierarchy, evangelicalism was able to be self-policing.

There are no doubt those who want to keep the evangelical pool very broad. It is evident that those who have denied belief in the essentials of the Christian faith, either explicitly or by redefinition, still consider themselves to be evangelicals. But they are not. Those men and women who fought the influx of liberalism in their denominations, churches and schools would not consider that departures from what the church has commonly regarded as orthodoxy should be tolerated. So why should I?

How judgmental! And how can one obscure pastor with a Bible college education dare to decide who is and is not evangelical? What give me the “right” to do that? Who do I think I am?

I am a shepherd charged with guarding my sheep. So I’ll do that in my own little corner. And my prayer is that there will be many, many, many more pastors who will recognize the problem and be willing to say, “This is an error. It is outside of the bounds of historic, orthodox Christian faith.” Brother pastors, we must do this, for the sake of the Gospel.

I began writing this because of some negative remarks I read about the Together for the Gospel Statement. Personally, I applaud it. I hope that it is a rallying point for those who want to be faithful to the Scriptures and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I like what Ligon Duncan wrote shortly after the conference had concluded:

What do we want to see come out of this extraordinary international gathering of (predominantly young) pastors and churchmen?

We want to see a strong coalition of Bible-saturated, truth-driven, God-entranced, prayer-soaked, aggressively evangelistic, Christ-treasuring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, sovereign grace-loving, missions-advancing, hell-robbing, strong-thinking, real-need-exposing, soul-winning, mind-engaging, vagueness-rejecting, wartime-life-style-pursuing, risk-taking, justice-advancing, Scripture-expounding, cross-cherishing, homosexuality-opposing, abortion-denouncing, racism-resisting, heaven-desiring, imputation-of-an-alien righteousness-proclaiming, justification-by-faith-alone-apart-from-doing preaching, error-exposing, complementarian, joyful, humble, courageous, happy pastors working together for the Gospel. (thanks to John Piper for much of this language)

And we want to see them leading a strong coalition of evangelical churches who, while they hold as faithfully and biblically as they know how to certain doctrinal distinctives not shared by all other biblical evangelical churches, band together for the Gospel on a robustly doctrinal, historic, orthodox, reformational, world-opposing-while-at-the-same-time-world-loving, Bible-preaching, Scriptural-theology-inculcating, real-conversion-prizing, deep biblical evangelism-practicing, New Testament church-membership-implementing, church-discipline-applying, healthy and growing Disciple-making, biblically led basis – for the display of God’s glory in the churches.

6 comments:

Bumble said...

Hi Peter,

Have you read the "Blood, Ink, Pencil" article from Keith Drury at http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/faith.meltdown.story.htm ?

Sometimes I am afraid that splitting the line to preserve orthodoxy might just be overblown.

There were theological wars over the term "inerrancy" and "infallible" in the past. And now someone shift "authoritative" into the equation. Most of the time they were just different set of words. Even the meaning of "orthodoxy" changed with times. (At one times, orthodoxy were just the Apostle creed, and the term "trinity" wasn't formulated yet. Today, the orthodoxy battle include pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib).

In the mean time, the people in the flock face the same headache and the same heartache just like the secular people. Family broken, sins creep in, materialism rampants, not counting the normal hardship of life, sickness and death.

We are shepherds, but is our primary charge really guarding the sheep? No. I would argue that the primary charge were feeding the sheep (John 21, Ezekiel 34, 1 Peter 5). We are shepherds, but there are also a great Shepherd who would move His flock on a greater cosmic scale.

And so even I didn't focus much on getting every details right for our people, now that the great Shepherd allows for The Da Vinci Code wolfe to appear in our teritory, and then we got to hammer out orthodoxy issues like "How did we regard the Bible - wrote by man - to be the inspired Word of God?" And even afterward, the people in my congregation may not even heard of "inerrancy" or "infallibility" or even "authoritative". But they may know that the Bible is trustworthy, that they ought to read it, study it, and apply it into their daily life.

How can we remain faithful to orthodoxy? My guess is by modeling it in lives.

Peter Bogert said...

Bumble:

I think part of feeding the flock IS protecting them. This was clearly in the mind of Paul in Acts 20, and the admonitions to Timothy and Titus clearly showed that he was responsible not only to feed them so that they grew, but feed them so that they were not led astray.

I know that some extreme fundamentalist groups might include eschatological timetables in discussions of orthodoxy, but that is hardly the norm. And my point was not that we need to cut it that precisely. What I tried to say is that there are many people who want to be considered as evangelical who deny the very truths that form the heart of the Christian faith.

Peter

Bumble said...

Thanks, Peter.

I think we are also living in the age of dilution as well. Now when people talk about being "evangelical" and some would think that they are support George W Bush, or that they attend the mega-churches.

In my perception, the disctintiveness lead to evangelical as followed:

1) In the first cut, they must believe in one true God as revealed to the Hebrews. In this sense, they share the same monotheism heritage as Judaism and Islam.

2) Next, they must believe in the full humanity and deity of Jesus. In this sense, they share the same Christ as Roman Catholic, the Greek Orthodox, and even the Anglican.

3) Then, they must believe in the the sufficiency of faith and grace. In this sense, evangelicals share the same root with all other protestant group since the reformation.

4) Finaly, evangelical emerged out of the battle with the mainline churches over the views on Scripture.

Perhaps you are disatisfied at stage 4: "There are no doubt those who want to keep the evangelical pool very broad." But should there be enough room for every one to be at stage 4 by consider every confession so far from the Apostle Creed down to the Lausanne Covenant as orthodoxy?

I am not sure if we need to get critical with our brother over orthodoxy because it will be refined over time. God used even the heretics to shape His church. Paraphrasing the word of Gamaliel, "If these things are from God, no one can stop it, and if not, it would die eventually."

Peter Bogert said...

Bumble:

We probably are closer than it might appear in the way we think. I would say that if a person denies that salvation is through personal faith in Christ, denies the resurrection, denies the necessity of a substitutionary atonement, denies the integrity of Scripture, etc. - those things disqualify him from being an evangelical (using that term in the broad sense of the word).

Bumble said...

Yes, I think we are very close - it helps to dialogue...

I love ya, old man!

Peter Bogert said...

Old man??? Hey, I'm young enough to be your father!!! :-)