Friday, March 18, 2011

Gospel and Law

I've been reading some more emergent church books lately.  I enjoy Donald Miller, Rob Bell, and to some extent, Brian McLaren.  Their books make me uncomfortable though and cause me to search my faith.  Have I built my spiritual house on bedrock or is part of the wonder of God that is He is ultimately unknowable?

The emergent pastors seem to purport that what we believe about God is not really important.  What is important is that we follow Jesus into a new way of living in love and community.  They stress Jesus' call to kingdom living and sacrificial love for our brothers.

Which all sounds great. 

Except is is not the Good News.

It is not the Gospel.

When I stand before a holy God after I die,  I cannot trust in my adherence to Jesus' way of kingdom living.  My works cannot reconcile me to a perfect, just God.  That is Law.  And I cannot fulfill it.  I am inadequate to pay the monstrous debt I owe.

The apostles and early martyrs did not die because the Romans feared their lifestyle of community.  They died because they bore witness to the real Good News - that Jesus Christ, the incarnate God-made-flesh, had died for our sins and risen again in victory. 

I am so thankful for the real Gospel.  That my salvation does not rest in my works, but instead I have been ransomed back through the shed blood of Christ.  Indeed, works will follow as the Spirit of God restores my soul and conforms me to the image of His Son.  Works are evidence of true salvation.  But they are not the work of salvation itself. 

I am thankful for the solid rock of Christ.  That I don't have to build my house on the shifting sands of emergent theology that pretends to be about grace, but is really just regurgitated law.  And I can choose not to be enslaved again to law, but rejoice in the freedom His blood purchased for me.


wordstolivebymommy said...

I love reading your blog :)
Grace. And Love. And sacrifice. And justice. All these things are part of the beautiful sacrifice of Christ's blood on the cross.

Kimberly Geswein said...

Amen, Tamara.

sophiaofthrace said...

I think the "emergent church" needs to get back to the original Church!

Erin said...

bravo, tamara! well said :-)

B and K said...

I think your response is a little too simplified. I appreciate the Emergent Church's emphasis on community. the American church that I grew up in was very interested in my 'individual salvation' and often in church we didn't really interact with others - 'go to church, and then go home.' I do agree that some of the Emergent Church authors go a little too far, but I feel it is just one of those pendulum swings. There is a lot of great truth to what they are presenting. Such as, salvation isn't just a one-time event, it continues to grow and develop (i.e. sanctification). That process happens not in isolation, but as a group. And the Church is God's institution for changing the world/community around us. I think those are all good reminders. PS I really don't think any of them are arguing for salvation by far as I understand them.

Tamara said...

I agree that we still need more community, Kylie (or Brian?). That our Western Christianity is a pale substitute for what could be.

But what can I trust in if all roads lead to Heaven? If ultimate redemption and reconciliation of me (a wretched sinner) with my Father (a holy God) wasn't worked out in whole upon the Cross, then where is it worked out?

The emergent Church philosophy is a return to the Law because it lacks whole-hearted trust in the finished work of Christ. If we are just trying to become good like Jesus, we might as well try to be good like Ghandi or the Dalai Lama. But Christ alone has the power to reconcile us to a holy God.

I don't believe in one-time, pray-this-prayer-and-you're-in salvation either. Jesus invited us to take up our crosses and follow Him. I believe the working out of our salvation is an ongoing process and our "believing and confessing" should be ongoing as well.

I think some circles of evangelicals have done great damage with the sinner's prayer, making it a spiritual inoculation of sorts. "Get your God card punched and you're in!" God has called us to radical salvation and devotion. And we have sold a cheap substitute.

Erin said...

great post Tamara! I've been listening to podcasts from and you are talking about similar things. :)

B and K said...

Tamara, this is Brian btw.

I totally agree with you. I guess the emergent church stuff I've read hasn't said, 'Jesus blood is not enough for salvation.' Is that what you are saying that you have read? If so, I'd say that author is not Christian at all - which would make them totally irrelevant.

May I ask, what books said this?

Anna C said...

just catching up on blogs... Donald Miller is pretty opposed to be lumped in with the emergent church crowd. He's never identified himself as such and blogged about how that is frustrating to him.

Tamara said...

I haven't heard any outright declarations of the inadequacy of the blood of Christ. I have picked up a theme though, consistent in several authors' works, that minimizes the acceptance of/belief in Christ's finished work on the cross and instead emphasizes Christ's call to social justice and kingdom living.

While I strongly agree that we are to live differently and Christ has come to turn the world upside down by radical living, I think the work of the cross cannot be underplayed. We are utterly depraved beings totally dependent on the cross to reconcile us to our holy Creator.

Any wind of theology that stresses a way of living over the work of the cross is a return to Law IMO. If we are being told that Christ's work was more than just the cross, if it is playing nice and being good, then we are returning to Law and works.

I can't point to a specific passage, but the impression I get from Bell and McLaren is a "come with us while we try to live like Jesus" call, while forgetting the part where we are vile sinners in need of a Savior. The seem to stress Christ's redemption of our behaviors/attitudes over our salvation and reconciliation with our Father.

I guess I wouldn't lump Donald Miller as far over on the emergent spectrum as many others. I do enjoy his works, though they use a lot of emergent church imagery (journey, community, experience) that you do not find in more traditional orthodox writings. I haven't found much in his stuff that I don't agree with, however.