Sorry, You’re Missing the Point

Dramatic Irony in a Blog Post Title
Over at the band Gungor‘s blog, band leader Michael Gungor responds to the Rob Bell / Love Wins / Universal Love / No Hell controversy with the equivocating assertion that those of us who fight over it all are “Missing the Point“:

I’m sad that the people that claim to follow Jesus are so divided against each other. I’m sad that so much of Christianity has become about ideas and systems and theologies rather than about celebrating and moving towards the miracle, the event, the life-changing reality that is God. Jesus prayed for us in the garden that we would be one, and here we are fighting about what happens to us when we die. Our pastors get up in the pulpits and take sides and proclaim their biblical interpretation as the true revelation from God. And we are secure and safe in our little bubble of self-righteous knowledge. And it all just makes me sad.

So, according to Gungor, those of us who happen to care about little things like hell, eternity, and the gospel are just fighting to make ourselves feel better.

In fairness, Mr. Gungor does make some good points later. We ought to care about love and unity (as he says) – but not at the expense of the gospel. We ought to disagree in love, but he seems to think that disagreeing vehemently over important things is necessarily unloving – or maybe he just thinks there are no truths important enough to disagree over…

The “Be a Better Person” Bad News
… which brings us to the heart of his view:

All I know is I feel like on both sides of the argument, so many people have lost the point. I don’t think the point to any of this is to have concrete human ideas about God, the Bible, salvation, heaven, hell…etc as much as it is to live in a different kind of way in the world.

Here again is the clarion call of the emergent/seeker/liberal false gospel: “Just live differently than the world. Just be a better person than those around you. It doesn’t really matter what you believe.”

Isn’t that what this musician says? “I don’t think the point to any of this is to have concrete human ideas about God, the Bible, salvation, heaven, hell, etc.” According to Gungor, our understanding of God doesn’t matter, just so long as we are different than the world.

This bad news (no real gospel here) is all about us.

Luther and Erasmus
All of which reminds me of a discussion Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus had about 500 years ago. Against Luther, Erasmus wrote in On the Freedom of the Will, “I am so far from delighting in assertions [doctrinal truths] that I would readily take refuge in the opinions of the Skeptics,” except that he was bound by Scripture and church law, so he submitted himself to their authority whether or not he understood why.

Luther blew this argument to bits, responding in On the Bondage of the Will, “It is not the mark of a Christian mind to take no delight in assertions; on the contrary, a man must take delight in assertions or he will be no Christian.” And later, “The Holy Spirit goes to such lengths in asserting,” that, “the Holy Spirit is no Skeptic.”

Luther likens the Skeptic-Christian (if there could even be one, in his view) to a poet who doesn’t learn to write before he tries to rhyme, a general who fails to prepare for war, and a builder who fails to count up his money before he constructs a tower. He asks, “What is Christ’s verdict on him?” (See Luke 14:25-33.)

Dead Churches Come from Which Type of Theology?
In the end, Gungor offers his own woes – “Woe to our dead churches and shallow theology” – but its his own assessment that rings dead and shallow. If we can’t build a theology out of the Bible, Mr. Gungor, how will we every awake churches and deepen our understanding of God Himself? Will it be built on our knowledge of our own good works as we “live a different kind of way in the world”?

Or is it, as Luther said, that the Christian who is anathema (cursed) is the one “who is not certain and does not grasp what is prescribed for him”?

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About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

14 Responses to Sorry, You’re Missing the Point

  1. B Treece says:

    Michael responded over at his blog:
    Michael Gungor
    April 8th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks for the response Britt, I’m curious about something… How do you make sense of the parable of the sheep and the goats?

    I have never said that what you believe doesn’t matter or that our theology shouldn’t be built upon Scriptural truth… I am simply arguing that your theology doesn’t line up with Scripture..

  2. B Treece says:

    Michael,

    Thanks for reading and getting back to me. Good question about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25). That’s one of my favorite parables!

    The way Jesus tells the story shows that He’s evaluating faith (that works itself out), not works mainly:

    1. The two preceding parables (the ten virgins, then the talents) both deal with faith. The five faithful virgins await the bridegroom because they long for Him. The one servant who gets his master’s condemnation reveals that he failed to steward his talent well because he believed differently than the other two.

    2. In verse 34, the King says that the kingdom was “prepared” for the sheep who are “blessed by My Father.” In the Bible, this always points to God’s grace through faith (Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:3-12, John 14:1-4).

    3. Jesus calls the sheep “righteous” in verse 37, another phrase that points not to their own goodness (Romans 3:9-20) but to Christ’s righteousness imputed by faith (Romans 3-5).

    4. The sheep reveal in verse 37 that they didn’t even know they were helping Christ. They weren’t even trying to gain Jesus’ “brownie points.” They were walking by faith, not by sight. They believed Him and lived it out. They didn’t do works for works sake, but out of faith in Christ.

    Finally, Michael, I’d pose you this question: do you think that this parable explains the gospel, the good news of God – how hell-aimed sinners are rescued by Jesus’ precious blood? Is it meant to explain the gospel itself, or one of the (many) ways were are to live it out? How would you interpret it?

    Note the context: the Gospel of Matthew doesn’t conclude here. It heads straight for the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which are ours not by our good works but by faith in the Savior.

  3. Brian Gill says:

    I love the discussion. The parable in Matthew 25 really exemplifies the true nature of the believer. We know that faith without works is dead and it’s impossible to please God without faith. I love the fact that Christ is the one that separates the goats from the sheep. Too many people throwing the gospel around with no love or established relationships. Yes, this parable explains the gospel in short form. There is a coming kingdom, there is work to do, and judgement will be made by the King of Kings (not pastors, churches, theologians, denominations or man).

    • B Treece says:

      Brian,

      Thanks for coming by and helping us further the discussion onward from the Gungor blog.

      I would agree with most of your main points: Christ’s place as the sheep/goat Separator, true faith vs. the facade, and the importance of faith.

      But . . . this parable doesn’t “explain the gospel in short form.” It explains the application of the gospel. It explains what happens when we know the good news of Jesus crucified and risen for sinners, but it doesn’t tell us what that good news is in any way, shape, or form.

      Passages like 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Romans 3:9-26, the end of each of the Gospels, and many more tell us that the content of the good news is that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, paid the penalty His people deserved for their sin, and rose from the dead to save all who will believe. That is, strictly speaking, the only gospel message.

      We must be careful here. On the one hand, I know all too well the misuses of words like “gospel” and “conversion” by people who show no evidence of knowing such things. On the other, though, your words seem to lean to a kind of “kingdom-is-gospel” theology that obscures the fact of the cross (“I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”) in favor of things that we do. When that happens, we’ve (even unwittingly) ventured into legalism.

      But, yes, as you say, Jesus does the judging, and He does it according to whether people know Him or not. Remember, the sheep didn’t even know they were serving Jesus (v.37)! And the kingdom was prepared for them (v.34)! So they were set out, converted, sanctified, and kept until this judgment to show that through faith in Jesus their lives were different.

      I hope that helps us make some distinctions that can otherwise get muddied. Thanks again,

      Britt
      crossonmyback

      • Brian Gill says:

        Britt,

        The kingdom is the kingdom there is no kingdom-gospel theory. We will enjoy it only if we accept the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Yes, you are correct that Matthew 25 does not explain the gospel in that way. I understand clearly that without Jesus and his work on the cross there is no reason to talk about the kingdom and Christian character. But, between fellow believers this should be understood unless we outright deny that truth.

        Division and confusion come when we begin to stumble over principles, theories and benchmarks set by man and not God. When our personal preferences begin to complicate the simplicity of Christ’s message. Legalism comes from a self- righteous like need to prove holiness. Christ strives for us to just live Holy.

        Christ makes it a point in the parable and throughout the testament that our love for Him is best evidenced through the fruits of the spirit and the work we do for others. The sheep did not know they were going to get rewarded, but they exhibited good Christian character by doing what was right. None of these things can you begin to do without knowing Him as your Saviour!

      • B Treece says:

        Brian,

        Thanks again. I agree with your comments, except that we should assume the gospel with each other. Indeed, we can’t! It is maligned left and right these days, which is one major reason why I continue to write. Nevertheless, I appreciate you faithfully connecting this parable to the gospel.

        Britt
        crossonmyback

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  6. Chase says:

    I think it’s interesting that so many put so much stock in what Martin Luther says when he said that it was fine for women to get too tired if they have too many babies. If they get tired and die childbirth..let them die, he said..that’s what they’re there for. Sorry..just had to say. Used to respect Luther..but how can someone say something like this who Loves Him.

    Chase R

    • B Treece says:

      Chase,

      Thanks for dropping by, reading, and responding. Though what you’ve written qualifies as an ad hominem argument, I’ll briefly respond:

      1. You have to put Luther in his context. We all have blind spots, people who come after us and before us will see them more clearly because they’re outside of our time-frame. Luther lived in a very death-heavy age. His writings make it clear that he loved his own wife dearly, so I can only surmise from this quote that death probably seemed more like a fact of life to him than anything.

      2. A theologian’s faults don’t make his theology false; they make it clear that Someone outside of the theologian changed him. If you don’t like Luther, that’s ok with me; just say it. Look at what he taught (as I have with MLK Jr., among others) and prove that their teaching wasn’t biblical. That’s the best way to deal with theology.

      Thanks again,
      Britt
      crossonmyback

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