Thursday, April 17, 2008

What are they preaching at your church?

Some great thoughts from that Anglican Evangelical Archbishop, Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia.

Let me share a quote from his column, which I am breaking down into four bullet points. Which one best reflects the preaching you hear at your church?

Not surprisingly the contemporary church uses three strategies to soften the offence caused by the cross.
  1. The first is to cloud the whole thing with mystery. We are permitted to say that Jesus died for us but we are not permitted to say what this means and how it relates to sin and wrath and judgement.
  2. Second is to offer some other explanation for the cross than what the Bible itself says. We are told that the cross occurred solely to demonstrate the solidarity of God with us in our suffering.
  3. Third, to ignore the cross altogether and find the centre of Jesus’ mission in the Incarnation or even worse in his present friendship with us, sung about in endless trivial songs.
  4. The wrath of God is as real as your sin. The only thing which can satisfy the wrath of God is a satisfaction paid for your sin provided by God himself. Jesus has done this by dying for you on the cross, saving you ‘from the wrath to come.’ Whether we like it or not, that is the heart of the gospel. Turn the wrath of God into something else, or ignore it, and you will not have Christianity, but some other religious look-alike. That is our choice.


Anonymous said...

I'd be willing to blend the first and last of these, saying that Jesus died for my real sin, and that there is no other name given under heaven whereby we may be saved--but how Jesus manages this salvation remains a real mystery to me. I simply don't understand. I do know I'm a sinner in desperate need of grace, and that Jesus' shed blood is the means by which that grace has come to me.

Thanks for posting this!


TLF+ said...

Thanks, Laocoon. I'm hoping Alice will weigh in, as she's an Orthodox Christian (big "O") and can add some thoughts on mystery (which makes Evangelicals antsy).

One of the things I liked is that Abp. Jensen is not writing typical "liberal v. conservative" stuff. The line about "endless trivial songs" is a clear swipe at some forms of "conservative" Christianity.

And some Jensen's social writings are hard to pigeon hole (which I find refreshing).

Anonymous said...

Assuming I did not misread, which I'm good at I cannot recall 1-2-3 being preached in the last parish nor at our new church plant. Brandon's Dean seems true to the Gospel although he has allowed-been-forced to use the watered liturgy of the BAS. Fortunatly my new pastor is Bishop Malcolm Harding. Last night's study was on the Body, a video series and we discussed false teachers. As someone entering priesthood, eventually, I have talked to +Malcolm about my fear of being 'corrupted' during my education and passing that on to an unsuspecting parish.

I enjoy the Sydney website, especially their April special on affluant congreations. We need more ++Jensens

Alice C. Linsley said...

By the Blood of Jesus we who are baptised into His death and resurrection are made alive to God for eternity. By His blood we are restored to the paradise which we were made to enjoy but lost through our disobedience.

I've heard many sermons and read many essays that hedge on the Cross. It is indeed the great stumbling block.

God's wrath is turned away by the Blood of Jesus, but the Cross accomplishes much more than turning away God's wrath. If that is the only point, you teach an imbalanced view of God. God has self-revealed as both righteous in judgment and winsome in love.

Alice C. Linsley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TLF+ said...

Thanks for these good comments. I like Alice's words: God has self-revealed as both righteous in judgment and winsome in love." I think that takes in Laocoon's "blend" by which the atoning death of Christ is confessed while the overwhelming mystery of God's action is revered.

And I would say that each of the four points contains a truth about the cross - but any one positioned as a stand-alone tilts toward heresy or at least obfuscation of the whole Bible's presentation of Christ. God's actions are holy mysteries, yet the Bible gives us clear insight into them. The cross does point us toward the sanctification of human suffering, but it is indisputably the atoning sacrifice for sin. The cross does show us the redeemer who "is a friend, and not a stranger", yet is like Job in taking us to God via suffering and loss.

prairiewords, I commit the sin of envy when I think on you having Bp. Harding as your pastor and mentor toward ordination! For those who don't know, Bp. Harding is a major spiritual renewal leader in Canada - he and his wife are prayerful, Godly leaders in the church and they are the ACC's loss and Global Anglicanism's gain.

Every blessing on your ministry, prairiewords, as you seek to preach "the message of the cross." With Bp. Harding's guidance, I'm sure that you will do so like Paul, "not with eloquent words, but in demonstration of power."

Anonymous said...

We do not want to hear it, do we? We would rather comfortable words spoken smoothly into our itching ears.

Only that we could see the heart of love and heart of wrath is the same heart, a heart of Holiness.

TLF+ said...

That's the root of it, peter. We want God on our own terms, ignoring revelations of his personality to make Him over in our own image.

David Handy+ said...

Back when the RSV translation of the NT first came out in 1946 there was a loud outcry of protest that the old KJV word "propitiation" (i.e., a sacrifice appeasing God's wrath) was replaced in the RSV by "expiation" (the removal of sin). I doubt either term means much to 99% of Christians today, although I think both are valid theologically. But the whole idea that God has a wrathful side at all is certainly offensive to many of our contemporaries.

We just had a reading earlier this week in the Daily Office from 1 Thess. 1, I think it's 1:10, about Jesus saving us "from the wrath of God to come." A very counter-cultural notion these days.

I'm reminded once again of the famous sarcastic summary of Liberal Protestant theology by the great Neo-Orthodox theologian Richard Niebuhr (of my seminary alma mater, Yale Div. School). Neibuhr mockingly summed up Liberalism this way. Liberal theology is about:

"how a God without wrath
brought men (sic) without sin
into a kingdom without judgment
through the ministration of a Christ without a cross."

He said that 70 years ago, and it's as true as ever. Maybe more so.