Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reverend Wright and Other Gospels

With all the furor surrounding the Reverend Wright over the past few weeks, I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing about it. But this raises a more important issue for the American church - whether black or white. Rev. Wright certainly isn't the only pastor out there leading his flock astray, but he's the most visible and extreme case we've seen in a while. One of my pet peeves as an evangelical in America today is the evidence that many pastors of all denominations seem to be turning deaf to Paul's warning to church leaders in Galatia - from chapter 1:

6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
I suppose it's no surprise, at least not to this Calvinist, that the church continues to deal with the same issues that have hindered it's mission and purpose for thousands of years. Until Christ returns, we will continue to operate under the curse of The Fall. But that is all the more reason to pay close attention to the warnings and instructions provided by those who received the Gospel directly from Christ. Paul's credentials, as listed in the verses following v.9, cannot be disputed. The Gospel message he brought to the Galatians, and to us through his writings, is the only message any biblical pastor should seek to convey.

Paul was speaking specifically to the immediate problem of certain church members imposing Jewish ceremonial law as additional requirements for justification before God, but the same principal of preaching, as the NIV says, "a gospel other than the one we [the apostles] preached to you" applies to the issues we face today. I would find it difficult not to classify Rev. Wright's brand of Liberation Theology as anything but "other than" the Gospel of Christ. But there are many other, more subtle versions of this dangerous trend. The Prosperity Gospel of Osteen and Co. comes most readily to mind, along with the rise of Red Letter Christians and the Social Gospel of those who would turn Christ's teachings and example into mere lessons for morality.

Don't get me wrong, many of the teachings associated with these movements are valuable, and even biblically based in my opinion. However, they should never constitute the sole message, or even the driving principle behind any pastor's teachings. That role should be filled only by the one true Gospel message brought to us in the Scriptures, and briefly described here in the Westminster Confession:
Ch. VII, Part V. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for those whom the Father has given unto Him.

The only true Gospel is that Good News of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, and the resulting justification we receive as believers. According to Paul, only through the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ does God call men and women to faith in Him. The American church is paying for its long held aversion to doctrine, but if the sad state of preaching in many of our churches today doesn't produce a return to strong doctrinal standards, then I don't know what will.

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