During a recent visit, Christian journalist, Collin Hansen, was dismayed over the abysmal conditions of a once-faithful and historic church. In fact, this church was once led by none other than Jonathan Edwards himself.
So, Hansen applied this living parable:
Future generations may wonder how Bethlehem Baptist Church of all places could lose its missionary zeal. They may look back on a theological downgrade at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. If the Lord tarries, they might mock a ministry called The Gospel Coalition that lost the gospel. If it happened to Edwards, Luther, and Wesley, it can happen to us.Read his entire article, Rise and Fall of an Evangelical Empire.
We should take every precaution to guard our confessions and plead with the Holy Spirit to give our descendants the new birth. Even these efforts, however, guarantee nothing. The history of redemption is littered with the rise and fall of evangelical empires. Only God remains the same, and only God deserves our worship.
Respectfully, I would add that Hansen overlooked an important element... the writing is always on the wall. Take Northampton, for example. Let's not forget that in 1750 this congregation actually fired Pastor Edwards. So, how can we feign surprise that the church continued to slide from orthodoxy? Edwards himself warned them at that time in "A Farewell Sermon," from Acts 20. (It is one of our favorite Edwards' sermons).
It is no less true today. Let's just take, for example, The Gospel Coalition. Hansen muses about a future when the TGC might tragically mock its own name by losing the Gospel itself. Again, we would add that the writing is already on the wall. On this immediate point, see these previous posts: we can invest to guarantee anything. If one thing is certain, neither you nor I can keep it all together. It happened to Paul (see 2 Tim 4:9-16), Luther, Calvin, Edwards, et al. Be assured, it will happen to The Gospel Coalition and other contemporary "empires." It will happen to us... the writing is always on the wall.
Our glorious God only guarantees the preservation of His name and His glory. So, when we celebrate any movement, give thanks for any institution, or even cherish our own local church, we must end where our Lord Himself taught us to begin:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
"Only God remains the same, and only God deserves our worship." Amen, brother.
N.B., for a helpful analysis and application of Jonathan Edwards' termination, please see Mark Dever, "How Jonathan Edwards Got Fired and Why It's Important for Us Today," which was subsequently published as a chapter in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things.