Saturday, June 24, 2006

Why people refuse Jesus

Romans 9 opens with tear-stained words of unceasing anguish at the unbelief of many. Paul teaches us that people don't refuse Jesus because God's word fails, nor for absence of spirituality, or christian background, or good works...

...neither do they refuse because the church is some how irrelevant and not seeker-senstive enough. Rather it is embarrassment of sin, and the scandal of the cross that leads people to refuse Jesus. Presented with a true Biblical portrait of Jesus Christ it is madness to refuse him... to refuse our maker who is most glorious... and who will openly welcome us, forgiving our sin by way of his bloody death on a cross. I maintain that there is no good answer to the question: Why not become a Christian?

Doug Groothuis, reviewing David Wells, Above all Powers:
"....[some] churches target specific groups and tailor their services to fit specific preferences. The underlying assumption is that “the chief barrier to conversion is sociological and not theological” (p. 289). By catering to certain preferences, and avoiding dislikes, people will naturally come to Christ.

One problem with this perspective, Wells objects, is that it is Pelagian; it assumes that people are not embarrassed by their own sin and scandalized by the Cross of Christ. Rather, non-Christians avoid the gospel because churches fail to fit their cultural sensibilities. Wells writes, Seeker methodology rests upon the Pelagian view that human beings are not inherently sinful, despite creedal affirmations to the contrary, that in their disposition to God and his Word, postmoderns are neutral, that they can be seduced into making the purchase of faith even as they can into making any other kind of purchase” (299). The answer to this theological defection, Wells avers, is a return to revealed truth: “What distinguishes the Church from this [consumer satisfaction] industry is truth. It is truth about God and about ourselves that displaces the consumer from his or her current perch of sovereignty in the Church and places God in the place where he should be” (303).
This is a matter for anguished prayer and earnest evangelism.

6 comments:

  1. "....churches target specific groups and tailor their services to fit specific preferences. The underlying assumption is that “the chief barrier to conversion is sociological and not theological” (p. 289). By catering to certain preferences, and avoiding dislikes, people will naturally come to Christ."

    Don't you need the word 'some' in front of this quote to avoid DG being rather off target?

    Isn't this a divisive way to write about the body of Christ too?

    Is it really a Pelagian assumption to copy the approach of Jesus and go to where people are at, to their 'specific preferences'?

    If DG wrote that, then that is a naughty, and by virtue of being not carefully qualified enough, a divisive and unhelpful way to write about other parts of the bride of Christ. Of course the motive (tighter observence of real truth) isn't bad, but the means of communicating that is pretty lazy and odd.

    If that isn't what DG wrote, or the way that he wrote it, then perhaps you had better quote his qualification and not just his criticism.

    Logicum Bonum Ipso Fatso

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  2. LBIF? Tom?

    I link to the article - so you can read it.

    Point now qualified with [some] - my apologies.

    As the quote shows DG is commending Well's critique of some churches. I agree with Wells as Groothuis does. I don't think he's saying you shouldn't go to where people are at or communicate well to them... rather that the key to engaging unbelievers is not to become "seeker sensitive", and further, people don't refuse Christ because of cultural sensibilities - and I'm convinced that is true.

    Clear communication is vital - both in preaching and as a community, but the power of the gospel is not in the accessibility of the environment, is it?

    Sometimes people put forward such things as excuses but they're not valid excuses to use to reject Jesus.

    Sometimes feels like you're very critical of reformed church... and don't like anyone critiquing less reformed approaches. I would suggest that the intent of seeker-sensitivity is brilliant, but that it is theologically off-beam to think that it all depends on style...

    What say you?

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  3. I think i have to agree with Anon on this. SOME is definatly the important part of the quote.

    I think it depends not on how they aim to reech people in thier services but how they use the gospel to reech people. For example a church may aim to be seeker sensitive to its local area/youth/etc but if it puts its emphesis on holding out the gospel as they reach out surely that is right? and not 'pelagian'.

    Likewise if a church aims to be just a church and local meeting and does not have the gospel in any way and does not tell people of thier sin they can be overtely pelagian in thier theology and not thier service style.

    But yes i get the piont that churches can just concentrait so far on reaching out that they change thier gospel in order to make our message more appealing.

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  4. David Wells is talking about those whose gospel becomes sensitivity instead of the gospel itself.... a temptation for all of us, to back off from grace...

    ...of course there is no need for the hard teaching of the gospel to be badly communicated in language that can't be understood in an unfriendly and cold environment...

    we need to communicate in all we do with such clarity that the only reason someone can refuse to believe in Jesus (the real Biblical Jesus) is because they refuse to do so having heard about the glories of his grace.

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  5. Dear thebluefish,

    "it is theologically off-beam to think that it all depends on style..."

    I don't want to seem nit picky, but isn't that another flipping generalisation about seeker sensitive churches - that they often (or commonly do) - that seems a bit wild...

    LBIF

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  6. yeah, nit-picky. Can't we just take the general point that Wells makes, that we need to remember that style alone wont do... that we need style AND content..??

    I just thought it was an interesting observation... I didn't say I agreed with every word of it or that its a perfect argument.

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