Ok, so my rant about Beth Moore was, well, imprecise. But there is one characteristic of Moore’s efforts that her critic missed, and it is one which is pervasive among many teachers. While in her case it dove-tailed very nicely with the word-faith approach, it expresses itself quite clearly in regular evangelical teaching. This is the propensity to make the Scripture into a metaphor for life instead of a direct teacher to life.
It does not take long for one to find a sermon or lesson that reduces the content to metaphor. Let’s mention a few of the common ones:
1. Goliath. What is the giant in your life?
2. Jericho. What are the walls that keep you from moving on?
3. Hagar. What is the compromise that you must chase out of your life?
4. Bathsheba. What is the wrong opportunity that you face today?
And they’re in the New Testament as well. A common is:
5. Pentecost. What is the experience that you need today?
Now, we’ve seen the liberals employ metaphor for the past two centuries. They have changed the ethical content of the Sermons on the Mount to some public language that has nothing to do with the demands of a holy God. They have also changed the church from a fellowship of believers responsible before God into a place of public service. But as much as I would enjoy jumping on liberalism, our internal issues seem to be not a lot different.
Right now I am struggling with the statements of Knud Jørgensen at Lausanne World Pulse as he expresses what looks like a near-universalism in his understanding of the Christian faith. (Part 1, Part 2).
So I am committed to believing that every part of the created world and every human being is already related to Jesus (cf. Paul’s speech on Areopagos where the presence of the altar for the unknown God implies that God is already there). Everything was made through the Logos, he is the life of all, and he is the light that gives light to every person. The presence and work of Jesus are not confined within the area where he is acknowledged.
In every human there is not only a moral consciousness (Romans 2:14-15), but also a religious consciousness. This does not imply that everything is light; both scripture and experience make it clear that there is also darkness, but the light shines in the darkness.
And this light may also shine in the lives of other human beings. My Christian confession does not force me to deny the reality of the work of God in the lives, thoughts, and prayers of men and women outside the Christian Church. Neither do I deny the dark side of religion. But this dark side does not prevent me from seeing the light of God in the lives of men and women who do not acknowledge him as Lord. Paul’s speech on Areopagos points to a continuity between our lives and the only God, at the same time as there is confrontation and a call to conversion. This “twofoldedness” means that I am challenged to think two thoughts at the same time.
This is problematic to me. While he does say that the Christian faith is distinct, he come so close to universalism here that I seriously wonder about his understanding of the Gospel. His sense of pluralism seems to override his sense of the need for personal redemption and its absolute supremacy even over rationalism. So this comment of his must be rejected:
Since the late nineteenth century, the following conviction has played a large role in missionary motivation: those who die without the saving gospel of Christ face an eternity apart from God.
I have struggled with this viewand reached the conclusion that it cannot be true. At least seventy-five percent of those who have lived and died throughout history have never heard the gospel. In spite of our best efforts today and in the future, there will be millions more who, through no fault of their own, will live and die without being presented with the good news.
John 3:16 talks about those who believe in him (that they will be saved)and about those who are confronted by him and do not believe. It hardly talks, however, about those who are not rejecting him or failing to believe in him because they have never heard about him.
But does not Romans 10 argue for the necessity of preaching the gospel for people to be saved? To be honest, I have preached several sermons along those lines. Today, I realise that the point Paul is making relates to the Jewish people and not necessarily to everybody else: God has sent messengers, the messengers have preached, and their message has been heard. Nevertheless, Israel has not believed, even though they have heard, Paul says (Romans 10:18). The point I (and many others) am making when using this text is not addressed in the text at all. The focus is on people who have heard the gospel, but have not believed.
But what then is the motivation for mission? Is not the primary motivation for mission the glory of God? I am not questioning the essential role of sending missionaries, but is it not so that God goes out ahead of his Churchand that he calls us to follow him?
What we do with the Word is critical. Even those who might otherwise be orthodox and prudent can run into serious problems.