Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What about those who have never heard? [updated 19/01/07]

I passionately believe in sharing the gospel with those that do not know Jesus. I also passionately believe in the love of God for all people. So what happens to those that just never get to hear the gospel?

Scott McKnight puts it like this:

I think the glaring question is this: Is it consistent with the grace of the God of the Bible to think one must hear the gospel in order to respond? Or, is it more consistent to think God’s grace would somehow reach each person? Here’s a big one: How does one’s view here impact one’s understanding both of evangelism and missions? Is there a softening going on among evangelicals or is there a more consistent understanding of God’s redemptive work in the world?

The view questioned above is normally called exclusivism. Although this position has the support of the bulk of the New Testament, it does seem just a tad bit narrow for many Christians. Would God condemn to hell the tribal leader who would have accepted Christ had not the missionary died before reaching him?

Consider accessibilism (apparently coined by William Lane Craig), the belief that God’s redemptive work includes some who do not know and who have not heard about Jesus Christ, but that the religions of the world are not designed by God as “instruments” of redemption. This is apparently the view of Richard Baxter; Gerald McDermott thinks there are inklings of such a position in Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley affirms it, as did Lesslie Newbigin, Norman Anderson, and Alister McGrath.

Blogger Robert E Mason tells the following story:

A Baptist missionary was witnessing to a Buddhist priest about his faith in Christ. The missionary noticed a tear rolling down the priest’s cheek. Sensing that the time was ripe to invite a commitment to Christ, the missionary asked if the priest was ready to ask Jesus to come into his life. The priest responded, "I know this Jesus; he lives in my heart, but until today I did not know his name."

Accessibilists believe in the uniqueness of Jesus as Saviour but they do not believe that God has confined his application of the saving benefits of Christ’s work to those who are members of the covenant community, now the church. In distinction from some Inclusivists, this position does not claim that the work and grace of Jesus is mediated by other religions.

To find out more about a. you can read Who Can be Saved, a book by Terrance L. Tiessen.

You can follow the full discussion on McKnight's blog.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hotting up the marriage bed

Too many Christians believe in a watered down theology of sexuality. Mark Driscoll says it well:

Sadly, too often the message of the Christian church to men and women is be a virgin until you get married and do not commit adultery when you are married. While this is true, it is also incomplete. What is sometimes lacking is full, free, and frank teaching from such books as the Song of Songs about the sexual liberties that can be enjoyed by married couples.

Personally I cannot remember ever hearing a sermon (in church) on Christian sex. Strange, because a lack of wisdom, teaching and discussion in this area can lead to sexual sin which causes immense damage to relationships, families, children, churches, and communities. People often ask probing questions about the theology and life of their leaders and teachers, in order to ensure they are under proper "covering". But I think a more appropriate question would be to inquire of their sex life.

Thankfully Internet ministries such as Marriage Bed and XXXChurch (see links on right) are tackling this area head on, for the glory of God. However its about time this frank discussion filtered down to off-net communities as well.

Please use this thread to comment on the issue in general. All perspectives welcome!

Watering down the gospel

These days its all too common for people to talk about the love of God. The gospel has become "God loves you and died for you", or sometimes just, "God loves you". But is that the gospel? Did Jesus incarnate, die, rise again, and ascend to heaven just to ensure he got his message through that God loved the world? Is the atonement just that God loves us?

Clearly not. Surely every good jew must have known already that Yahweh loved his covenant people dearly, as a husband loves his bride.

On other hand, proclaiming that God hates you, is mad at you because you a filthy sinner, and you will burn in hell unless you believe in Jesus, is not in any shape or form the gospel either.

Yet each extreme contains fragments of truth.

The New Testament makes clear that the death and ressurection of Jesus Christ is central to the gospel. But what is the gospel? Comments please!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New NET Bible

From the NET Bible website:

The NET Bible - Reader's Edition is now available. With its larger print size and lighter weight, this is a perfect Bible for personal devotional time, public teaching environments and gift (ministry) needs.

Resurgence vs Emergent

Gary Shavey, from Resurgence recently attended the You Say You Want a Revolution Conference, hosted by Off the Map. Check out his blog to get the low-down on the good, the bad, and the ugly.