Monday, February 21, 2011

Christianity's Glorious Hard Edges

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).

Over the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to be encouraged by and to encourage in the fundamentals of biblical Christianity, that is, the exclusivity of salvation and truth in Christ. In his new (and well-done) The Christian Faith, Michael Horton describes the stripes of philosophical opposition many have posed to the Gospel truths:
Ours is not the first age to have found the doctrine of everlasting punishment difficult to accept. In recent decades, contemporary views have been classified as (1) pluralist (all religions are paths to God), (2) inclusivist (salvation comes by Christ alone but not exclusively through explicit faith in Christ), and (3) particularist (also identified, usually by critics, as exclusivism or restrictivism, holding that salvation comes only through faith in Christ).
In "Catechesis, Preaching, and Vocation" (in Here We Stand!), Gene Veith remarks on how evangelicals have in recent years stumbled over the severity of Christ's exclusivity
Classical Protestantism has always taught that Jesus Christ died to save sinners, but many contemporary evangelicals are downplaying sin, salvation, and the atonement. The new gospel replaces salvation with therapy. Sin gives way to self-esteem; the doctrine of justification by faith is replaced with the doctrine of positive thinking. This new version of Christianity recasts the Bible from the Word of salvation into a step-by-step manual for happy living. The hard edges of historic Christianity - the Bible's stern moral demands, unpleasant doctrines such as hell, Christ as the one way to salvation- are minimized in an effort to reduce Christianity to a feel-good religion. The focus of the new theology is not God, but the self. Objective doctrines are replaced by subjective experiences; worshiping a holy God gives way to entertaining the congregation. Such notions may promote church growth [i.e., numerically], but they are not historic Christianity.
Over the next few days, I'd like to do a brief review of the "hard edges" of the Gospel. For it is in these severe and sobering truths that the foundation of our mission, our perseverance in faith, our endurance of suffering, and - most significantly - our joy in His glories are found. May we see Him restore those hard edges to the flabby church of our age!

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