It may have been a great idea to start out. But last week, someone’s1 idea to ask for various definitions of “not the Gospel” in a Twitter hashtag may have brought in more questionable points than helpful reminders.
I contributed two of these myself, but thought to qualify the second one.
Poor Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, and all He needs is for you to let Him in! #notthegospel
7:59 PM Jul 19th
“There’s a God-shaped hole in your heart that only He can fill.” #notthegospel (Well, not that slogan alone, anyway! Let’s not overcorrect.)
7:58 AM Jul 21st
Yes, such statements are not by themselves the Gospel. But still, someone could teach the whole Gospel and include such statements as these.
That’s a minor objection some could raise, and rightly so. But other Tweeters, it seemed, used the hashtag simply to offer silliness, or worse, imply that something was only heresy — or even that someone specific was only promoting Gospel-less heresy.
I think slamming all CMM — I don’t know how else to read that one — was a bit too far.
As of Wednesday morning this whole thing was still going. It will likely fade soon. Yet the fact will remain true that overzealous Christians defending the Gospel so much that they offend those who also believe and even promote the same message.
Soon after, the aforementioned Pyromaniacs blogger posted a mostly-open-for-discussion post about Calvinists that don’t seem to behave according to the doctrine of grace they profess to believe.2 Unfortunately there are a few filthy-acting Calvinists out there who seem to commit the exact same error they decry in evangelicals and emergents: pick a problem, find the doctrinal hammer, and see every problem (whether it matches or not) as the problem that must be nailed with the same solution.
Yet true “Calvinism,” i.e. Reformed theology, sees God and His glory as the ultimate goal, and all problems — sin, suffering, free-willie emphasis, etc. — as means to that end. So such people who act as though Fixing Problems is the means aren’t practicing what they preach.
I give that disclaimer almost as a warning mostly to myself, because while going through some of these “not the gospel” Tweets, it could seem like I’m committing the same error in reverse.
In our haste to uphold the real Gospel, let’s not overcorrect and bash rightful Gospel derivatives — such as “we must live out the Gospel” or even “there’s a God-shaped hole” and so on. Not everyone who says such things is a corrupt compromiser. And even if they are, that’s no cause to throw out unqualified, un-nuanced (even on soundbyte-heavy Twitter) slams of certain people who arguably not only believe but promote, sing about and preach the true Gospel.
True — though Jesus more than implied it could be some people’s calling (Matthew 19: 16-30).
No, but nothing is wrong with it either. I hope this isn’t another Reformed-people-oppose-fiction-not-aloud-but-in-practice thing. We need more Reformed authors honoring God in story.
Doing something, or giving something, or living a Christ-honoring life, may not be the only thing we need do to preach the Gospel, but it’s part of it. Scripture evidence backs this up: we must use words and deeds to preach the Gospel. This same is true against Tweeters’ proclamations that “lifestyle evangelism” is “not the Gospel.”
I’m not picking on ReformedFundy; two of his Tweets were simply the first I noticed here.
But can’t God change hearts and bring repentance and faith even to those who wrongly overemphasize Man’s Free Will and You Must Make a Decision. Even if I said even something as extremely free-willie as “God only needs your repentance and your faith, which you come up with on your own to meet him halfway,” does that make me a heretic? Am I guilty of not preaching the Gospel at all? I may not be right, but the Gospel could still be there.
These, like many other similar Tweets, are addressed to those who overdo the whole “pray this prayer” response to the Gospel call, as if the words themselves are magical or that repeating them guarantees you were sincere. However, how many non-Reformeds, outside “the loop,” know this? Saying this apart from context (Charles Finney, etc.) will just be confusing. Some will assume that the statement connotes you must do something apart from simple repentance and faith in Christ to save us. That assumption would be wrong. But let’s communicate this better.
This I can amen — but I’d add that God Himself, in Christ, fulfilled for repentant sinners His own condition of punishment. So in a sense, God’s love is both conditional, and unconditional.
Amen. No further response necessary.
A little vague? If he’s addressing Desiring God’s definition of Christian hedonism, I’d reply again that valuing Christ for His own glory, and seeking ultimate satisfaction in Him, is part of the Gospel. Still, someone who wrongly practices only a duty-driven life can still be saved.
Again, for those conditioned to react against perceived adding to the simplicity of the Gospel, this could come across as saying “faith is not enough to be saved.” In certain circles, people know it means that you don’t just sit back after you’re saved and not work out your own salvation — though knowing it is God Who works in us (Philippians 2: 12-13). But others may not get the inside reference. So though it’s true that “Let go and let God” is fraught with wrong meanings, so would be condemning the statement without offering more clarification.
Yet another true rebuttal — that could still sound like adding works to the “simple” repentance and faith Christ gives His people for them be saved. Yes, converts should come as they are, but they should know Christ doesn’t expect them to stay that way. He gives us new hearts and minds (Romans 12: 1-2) and we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:10).
(Picks up and comforts the crying babies who were just thrown out along with the bathwater.)
Folks: Peter said that God expects holiness, and Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Knowing that apart from Him we cannot fulfill His expectations is essential to understanding the Gospel.
I’m sure of what he means. But what do people hear? Maybe we can be more careful.
Um … I’ve mentioned others not getting references. This is one I fail to get myself.
That’s a better one, especially because some who say this audaciously claim it’s “full gospel.”
Booo. A bit too far? Saying this is not “not the Gospel.” If this is all we say, sure, that could be a problem. But it is not worth implying those who say this are believing a false Gospel.
Um, if you have, believe and strive to live according to right theology, using it as a means to love God and learn more about Him — then yes, theology is how we know the Gospel. Can we not imply that only few people are theologians, instead of all of us, or that theology is only dry?
Apart from Christ, anything is not the Gospel, and that includes both socialism and capitalism. Duh. But capitalism is at least closer to Biblical truth. (Example: the New Earth will feature privately owned property — Isaiah 65: 21-22.) Capitalism and socialism are not equal ills.
Now there we go. That seems much more helpful in clarifying true meanings.
Of course, it’s difficult to address every nuance or possibility of misunderstanding. Yet if I can do it — at least, I hope I did — in the second of my two Tweets about this, can’t we all?
Meanwhile, as others began pointing out, many of the “not the Gospel” ideas coming under fire may not themselves be the Gospel. Giving out novels, lifestyle evangelism, redeeming the culture, changing the world or living a purpose-driven life alone can’t save us. Most Christians know this, at least in theory. But the Gospel does bear fruits. And it could include those things.
And as Frank Turk himself later noted:
- I believe it was Pyromaniac Frank Turk. ↩
- Filthy Calvinists, and the people who love to hate them, Frank Turk, Pyromaniacs.Blogspot.com, July 21, 2010. ↩