Monday, March 02, 2009

Hell, Relevance, and Cheap Grace ???

Phil Johnson has a hard-hitting, and might I say, quite "relevant" (he'll chafe at his name being used in the same sentence with that word) post over at PYROMANIACS. Moreover, the follow-up COMMENTS are interesting, and Johnson himself leaves a follow-up post.

Part of his article said . . .

Under pretexts such as "contextualization," "missional living," and "relevance" an unbridled willingness to accommodate Divine truth to human preferences is now going on virtually unchecked in the modern and postmodern evangelical movement. Multitudes of Christians today think it is their prerogative to mold and shape everything—worship, music, and even the Word of God itself—to the tastes and fashions of the world.

In 2002 I clipped an article from the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The article, titled "Hold the Fire and Brimstone" observed that the doctrine of hell has all but disappeared from the pulpits of evangelical churches. Here's what the article said:

In churches across America, hell is being frozen out as clergy find themselves increasingly hesitant to sermonize on [the subject] . . .. Hell's fall from fashion indicates how key portions of Christian theology have been influenced by a secular society that stresses individualism over authority and the human psyche over moral absolutes. The rise of psychology, the philosophy of existentialism and the consumer culture have all dumped buckets of water on hell.

The Times asked some pastors why the doctrine of eternal damnation has fallen from the radar in evangelical churches. One pastor said churches nowadays don't mention hell because "it isn't sexy enough anymore." The article also quotes Bruce Shelley, senior professor of church history at the Denver Theological Seminary. In his view, evangelicals' silence about hell is because "it's just too negative. . . . Churches are under enormous pressure to be consumer-oriented. Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding."

That kind of thinking is all too typical. Until Christians recover their convictions and their passion; until we realize that the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation; until we quit tinkering with the message to try to accommodate it to the tastes and preferences of every subculture; and until we give up these foolish efforts to make the gospel "appealing" and concern ourselves with proclaiming it accurately and making it clear, the church's impact on the world will continue to diminish and the world's influence will continue to define what the church looks like.

Johnson has some excellent points and the posts are well-worth reading and thinking about, you can read both of them here >>.

My reason for including it here is to remind all that being "missional" and in seeking to be cultural creators and cultivators does not mean we have to sacrifice or stay away from the hard truths of the Bible. As a matter of fact, I think if we intentionally neglect them, we are not really being missional, relevant, or culturally influential at all. We instead, are guilty of what my friend Dietrich Bonheoffer said, of promoting "CHEAP GRACE." And real grace is hard, and cost everything.

"When Christ calls a man, He calls him to die" (Bonheoffer, "The Cost of DIscipleship").

3 John 8
Bill H

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