Ok, I promised myself I would not try to blog any of the presentations at the Together For the Gospel 2010 Conference today and instead just focus on listening. BUT…. Al Mohler’s presentation tonight was so full of good information, and I took so many notes, and I thought, “I want to write this down, and there’s just too much information I want to share with people, and it won’t fit on just a facebook status update, and….” So…. here we go…
Tonight’s presentation by Dr. Al Mohler focused on recognizing some of the different ways that the Gospel, Biblical Christianity, gets off track. Just like an airplane can get off track, on a wrong trajectory, and end up crashing, the Gospel message, a person, or a church can also get off trajectory, subtly at first, but eventually with disastrous results. Here is his taxonomy of the different trajectories toward an adjusted, altered, and eventually wrecked Gospel. Everything in “quotes” are exact or nearly exact quotes from Mohler, the rest is my summation and paraphrase of his points.
Liberal theology, neo-orthodoxy, and the like, where in the name of logic and rationalism the Gospel is stripped of anything supernatural. It is “demythologized” so that it can be believed by “modern” man. The result is that “theological liberals want to rescue Christianity, but they instead end up burying it.”
In contrast to modernists that want to establish that Biblical theology is false, post modernists reject objective truth altogether, so that Biblical truth is neither true nor false, but simply has subjective value. “Truth” is considered to be of value simply in its metanarrative meaning. While Biblical theology’s cognitive doctrine is concerned with objective truth, and liberal theology is concerned with existential emotion and experience, post-moderns see doctrine as merely a cultural linguistic system to hold meaning, which can twist and shift into anything they want it to be.
These philosophers are repulsed by Biblical concepts such as hell, depravity, & atonement, so they appeal that there is a “higher morality” than the so-called primitive systems of Christianity. C. S. Lewis referred to this as “chronological snobbery.” (that just because something is ancient that it is inferior) In essence, these philosophers demand that God conform to their own notion of fairness. However, as Dr. Mohler points out, “People want God to be fair, but “Perfect” is infinitely superior to fair, & Perfect cannot be interrogated by fair.” (meaning that our imperfect limited concept of fairness as fallen finite humans cannot judge the fairness of an infinite perfect being)
Where we only find ourselves as sick, but not sinful, and the Bible is self-help, but not a source of external rescue from hopeless depravity.
Ever since Genesis 3 when Adam & Eve tried to make coverings of fig leaves, we have always tried to fix things our way instead of beginning with God’s way. The pragmatists battle cry is “Let’s solve it! Let’s get results!” Truth ends up not being a foundation but only a tool to obtain the desired result. Managerial expertise and methods can produce apparent and quickly gratifying results, but “It produces crowds, but not churches, results, but not regenerations.”
When we lean toward teachings and experiences that have positive emotional reward, but lean away from anything that has emotional cost. This leads to feel-good theology that avoids anything in Christianity that isn’t palatable. (I would add one of my favorite word pictures: no one wants the pain of lancing the boil, but you can’t get real healing without going through that pain.)
Dr. Mohler: “It’s only “Your Best Life Now” if you’re an unbeliever.” John MacArthur in Q&A was even more direct: “It’s the single greatest lie in the church today, it’s the most marketable, it’s Satanic, it’s a Ponzi scheme, it’s preying on the poor.” “If Jesus were here, he would make a whip and go straight to the offices of TBN.”
Embraces only the “good & beautiful” and rejects anything that offends like depravity or atonement, ignoring the fact that our fallen natures cannot be trusted to make accurate assessments of what is truly beautiful about the Gospel.
Dr. Mohler ended by highlighting two factors in doctrinal drift:
Doctrinal Fatigue— having to go against the cultural tide and repeatedly defend Biblical theology over and over can lead to just tiring of it. But fatigue is disastrous to the metal of a bridge, the pilot of a plane, or the pastor of a church.
Embarrassment– of the scandal of the Gospel, so that you progressively let go of doctrines that are uncomfortable to unbelievers. But “The Holy Spirit alone can make the Gospel credible.”
The best safeguard to doctrinal drift? Expository preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible, because you are forced to avoid the temptation to pick and choose easy or safe topics and texts. All you have to do is “open your mouth and let the words come out”– preaching the simple direct meaning of the texts themselves.