Archive for the 1 Category

In defense of a friend

Posted in 1 on May 9, 2009 by jaymallow

I posted this on Facebook a year ago defending/protecting a friend of mine.  This is updated for those newly “stung” by another friend.

“The true art of communication is to say exactly what you mean.  No more, no less.”  I don’t know where I heard that quote but I’m going to attempt to emulate it.  Since the “Facebook Incident” I’ve been asked weather I agreed with Robyn’s comments.  Since I’ve gotten some surprised responses when I’ve said that there was a lot that I did agree with I thought I’d explain. (And maybe take some heat off Robyn a little bit)

In any family, organization, church, or movement there develops a “language” used by its members.  We communicate using terms that imply a greater meaning without expressly stating that implication. ( For example, “Better than I deserve.”)  This is true also of Evangelicalism, and by extent Sovereign Grace churches.  When we normally refer to the Cross, or the Gospel being “Jesus died for my sins.”  We rarely intend that the Cross is the totality of what Jesus accomplished, or that the Gospel is only that our sin’s are forgiven.  Yet like most people who have their own “language” we forget that what we say doesn’t expressly state what we mean to imply.

Let me take a scriptural example and at the same time reply to some argument’s that may be given against what Robyn has written.  Paul in 1 Cor. 2:2 states, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Christ, and Him Crucified.”  Note that Paul doesn’t say in this verse, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Christ crucified.”  Paul makes a clear delineation between Jesus’ personhood (both past and present), and his work. Here’s what I believe Robyn is struggling with, and what at times I struggle with, is that in our language we don’t make this delineation. (Although we may intend to infer it)  And I would also argue that it is because we too often do not make this distinction that we infer that Paul doesn’t either.

The thing is that what we don’t emphasize in our language tends to not be personally applied.  Some would say that this is a semantic argument.  That it’s just about the words we say and how we say them.  But that would be entirely my point.  Words have meaning. And what we say and how we say them affect how people view God and how they relate to God.  Do we see God primarily as Judge and ourselves primarily as sinners? (Saved yes but…)  Is our relationship to God/Jesus merely utilitarian?  As someone or something that does something, that in some way should make us feel better about ourselves?  Is the Christian life just about identifying sin and confessing it?

At this point let me be clear, I don’t see this emphasis as a Sovereign Grace Leadership fault.  Nor even a twenty first century debate/struggle.  Instead let me pose some questions. (And really think about this) Why is it that the cross is the symbol of the Christian faith? Why is it that, in almost ALL of our historical artwork and iconography, the crucifixion is emphasized, and the resurrection rarely depicted?

 

Now that you’ve thought about it I’ll give you an answer and it’s not necessarily Biblical.  The three main sacraments of the Roman Catholic faith are Communion, the Priesthood and Confession.  All of which, benefit from a “Cross preeminent” theology.  (It could be argued that the resurrection is exceedingly downplayed in Catholicism) 

I only say this to provoke thought, and encourage reticence to those who would dismiss Robyn’s statements outright.

Now to where I would differ from Robyn- I have seen over the past few years among “Evangelical leadership” a movement toward a more holistic gospel.  Notably David Powlison’s rebuke to the leadership conference a few years ago, “We have made the Cross the answer to everything, it isn’t”,  (I have personal experience and friends that would back me up that this was the case at the time)  but more importantly, both C.J.’s and John Piper’s messages at New Attitude last year.  I would strongly encourage anyone who has been involved in this “episode” to listen to both those messages, (Piper: Defending Your Faith, and C. J.: God as Father) with fresh ears.  Also I would say that in my opinion the pastor’s of Sovereign Grace Pasadena are teaching and emphasizing the new life and the resurrection.  You know how it is when you get a new car or cell phone and all of a sudden it seems you see it everywhere?  The same thing happens when God applies a challenge to our own personal perspective of Him.  All of a sudden we tend to see that truth and it’s seemingly apparent absence more because it’s personal and new.  All of us, leadership, pastors and each individually are growing in our understanding of what is the objective truth of the gospel and how it applies in the believer’s personal life. Our encouragement in this especially to each other should be, “…not to think of himself more highly than he ought but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith God has assigned.”