A Concern about Semi-Pelagianism

So over the last year I’ve read David Platt’s Radical, Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, Hugh Halter’s The Tangible Kingdom, Marty Duren’s The Generous Soul, and a few others like them.  I’ve enjoyed all of them, but “a shadow and a threat has been growing in my mind.”

Below are a few concerns I have. 

I honestly don’t think we in the west have a good understanding of poverty and wealth.  We as Christians need to be generous, and be giving, but the answer to the worlds pressing needs of hunger, medical care, and poverty isn’t in our giving.   Wealth is created in places where the rule of law is upheld, property rights are secured, where people are encouraged to be entrepreneurs, and where there is sufficient social capital to encourage risk-taking.  Could it be possible that God in His sovereignty moved Christianity westward for the purpose of:  1. Blessing us (as in the promised blessings of the covenant with Abraham and his seed – ie Christians)?  2. Having a logical faith born out of western thought (Greek and Roman logic) as opposed to the mystical faith of the near and far east?  3. Building His Church in a free market system that would allow His people to more readily fulfill the Great Commission and bless others?

Should we in our attempts to alleviate the poverty of our world teach the world the principles of capitalism, liberty, and push for a republican or democratic form of government rather than simply building water wells that can easily be confiscated by warlords who will use such things as means of manipulation and control or am I way off base here?

I honestly think that there is a tendency within man due to our fallen nature to look for a works based salvation through things like missions, giving and Mercy Ministries, etc…

     “Being involved in mercy ministries may help to commend the gospel, which is why Jesus taught, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Displaying God’s compassion and kindness by our actions is a good and appropriate thing for Christians to do. But such actions are not evangelism. They commend the gospel, but they share it with no one. To be evangelism, the gospel must be clearly communicated, whether in written or oral form.  When our eyes fall from God to humanity, social ills replace sin, horizontal problems replace the fundamental vertical problem between us and God, winning elections eclipses winning souls.” (Mark Dever, excerpted from The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.  Emphasis mine)

Could it be possible that:  1. Many think that by simply giving, going on mission trips, going to church, serving in a church setting, giving to the poor, building water wells in Africa, etc… that they are meriting their salvation, or at the very least, favor with God (ie. Mother Teresa complex).  2. Many practice what they call “friendship evangelism” because they are fearful of proclaiming the Gospel?  That in their minds, befriending another is the equivalent of the sharing the Gospel even though the Gospel is never proclaimed?  3. Many within our churches are not even Christians themselves and by calls to these good and necessary works that we are misleading them?

I honestly think that there are many within our churches who don’t understand what the Gospel is, and what the Great Commission is.  So… what is a disciple?  1. A disciple is someone committed to another person and his teaching. Christians are called to be disciples, and we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ: that is, people who follow Him, who are committed to Him and to His will as revealed in Scripture.  2. How do we make disciples?

It is a command to reproduce, to multiply and grow the Church with people who follow Jesus, who are committed to Him and to His will as revealed in Scripture.  We do it by baptizing them

Baptism is the New Testament sign of admission into the church. We read in Acts that new converts were added to the number of believers, and that the church grew.  This should remind us that the making of disciples is the responsibility of the church. It is not primarily that of extra-ecclesiastical teams or evangelistic organizations. Since it is our duty, we need to ask, “What are we doing to realize the goal of adding new converts to this church?” The Lord Jesus has given us our marching orders: are we obeying him?  Secondly, it reminds us that being committed to Jesus means being committed to his visible church. The baptism mentioned here is not “spiritual” (no church can administer that), but the physical ordinance. Membership in the local church is the evidence that you have really become a disciple of Jesus, for he calls us into fellowship not only with himself, but also with sinners like ourselves in a local church

We do it by teaching them to obey all His commands.  This implies a life-long commitment, again, in a setting that allows us to teach them (ie. The Church)

I honestly think that much of what we’ve been reading and studying (these concepts of being missional and generous) isn’t wrong, but it’s a reaction to what is seen as wrong within large, white, wealthy, orthodox (ie. SBC, Presbyterian, and Reformed/semi-reformed) churches.

Do we see this emphasis on the predominantly black and Hispanic churches?  Do we see it in the charismatic/Pentecostal churches?  Do we see it in circles outside of the large, white, wealthy, orthodox churches?

Is this a repackaging of Liberal Theology?

“…the emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that old liberalism accommodated modernity and the new liberalism accommodates postmodernity.” (Mark Driscoll)

Is it the “Moral Majority” but with a different focus (Instead of focusing on elections and politics it focuses on the social ills)?  And if so will the results be similar? (A generation that is relational rather than politically active, but still not sharing the Gospel message and saving souls)

So in conclusion; I have to ask myself – Did Christ come to us primarily as a Savior who delivers us from God’s just wrath, or did He come primarily as a moral example of how we ought to live, how we ought to treat one another, and how we should form communities?  God is not pleased with us based on what we do.  Joining in crusades against social ills, poverty, corporate greed, global warming, racism, etc… does not win the pleasure of God.  He is and can only be pleased with us, when we are found in His Son – Jesus Christ, our Lord.

“Many church leaders trumpet their belief that the gospel is more about ethics than the work of Christ on our behalf. They appeal to bettering the world around us as a task that is opposed to and more pressing than seeing our own rebellion and poverty, which prove our need for reconciliation to God through the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This unbiblical bifurcation of orthopraxy and orthodoxy, and foundational preference for the former, is just plain contrary to the Christian gospel.” (John Hendryx, excerpted from The Emergent Church and the Gospel)

  1. Right living doesn’t equal right doctrine.  In reality it is the reverse
  2. Ethics are not what separates Christianity from all other world religions, they all offer ethical programs that are similar to ours
  3. Thus we must be careful that we are not confusing our good works as the Gospel, and we must be careful that we are not teaching the Church’s members that good works are the Gospel and equal to evangelism. 
  4. We must be sure that we are fully explaining to them that these works and acts of generosity and ministry are merely a means of opening doors so that we can evangelize and fulfill the Great Commission
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