I don't guess that I get it! I hear so many of my peers in ministry speaking of the evils of modern missiological thinking. It is as if in their minds there exists this dichotomy between solid, conservative theology and a Scripture-centered, culturally relevant approach to missions. In fact, the battle lines are drawn so exactly that, should one dare to even step near the edge of the status quo, it is reasonable to expect ostracizing and marginalization. We live in a day in which minsters are more afraid of being labelled than they are impassioned with a white-hot fervor for the Gospel. What has happened to us?
Perhaps what we need is a New/Old perspective. In the early days of the church, a crisis arose among the leaders as to how to handle the "new" believers. Why? Because they weren't like the rest of the believers...they were gentiles...Greeks. They dressed different, they acted different, they even violated the known Jewish customs and laws. There was such an intense division between the Jews and Greeks that the issue of unity became a major underlying theme of most of the books of the New Testament. Some, who equated the teachings of men with that of Scripture, were imposing laws and customs upon those new believers to such a degree that the essence of the Gospel message was being lost. What had started as a doctrine of salvation by grace through faith had deteriorated into a doctrine of salvation, or at the very least, perseverance by works. It was in response to this false teaching that the Apostle Paul addressed his first letter, Galatians.
In this book, Paul explains very emphatically, and rather harshly I might add, that the essence of the Gospel is the work of Christ and not the work of man. The church would call a council at Jerusalem to address this very issue and it would be determined that, saving only a couple of instructions, the Greeks were not to be bound by the traditions of men or the laws of the Mosaic covenant. But they were, in fact, free!
What's Freedom got to do with it? Well, Scripture very clearly states that it was for that purpose that Christ set us free. However, freedom seems to scare us, that is, at least those of us who have held to our systematic theologies like Linus did his blanket. What about all the rules? What about the law? Well, ironically enough, Jesus fulfilled the law. Complete. Done. However, Paul knew that someone would seize upon this very point and take issue, so he asks this question, "What then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid." Never in Scripture are we told that we may do something contradictory to the very nature of God.
However, how soon we forget that we could never attain to Christ's holiness, that's why it was a gift. It is almost as if some would say, "Thank you Lord for saving me, I'll take it from here." As believers in Christ, we don't act differently in order to attain to holiness, but rather because we have been made holy by the only One Who is holy. And so we learn to live in the light of the new creation Christ has made us.
The issue is not forsaking the truth of Scripture in order to accomplish some desired result as if the end would somehow justify the means, that is as long as the end is salvation. Rather, it is a matter of throwing-off those man-made trappings that in effect shroud the very heart of the Gospel itself and lead the victim back into a life of legalistic bondage. That's not freedom!
Confessions of a one-time blanket holder. Such ideas terrified me for years. The last thing I ever wanted to be was a liberal. I thought that if you didn't use the King James when you preached and prayed then you might not get pardoned. (Like the alliteration? Anyway...) I thought that music had to be mm. 70-85 and performed with a twang in your voice. I thought that if you didn't have a quiet time 7 days a week you were in sin. In fact, while I am being somewhat fasiscious on these things, I was dreadfully terrified of not being the spiritual person Christ called me to be. And, consequently, I demanded that everyone I met live by the same standard that I myself could never attain. Talk about miserable!
That was the same predicament that Peter found himself in when he was eating with the Greeks and then saw those from Jerusalem coming, and so he withdrew from the Greeks. This was such a fierce violation of his Scriptural mandate that Paul addressed him to his face.
Back to the Future. That is exactly what is taking place across our state and even our convention. Those who are recognizing what it takes to reach a lost world with the Gospel are being ridiculed and condemned by those who cry "holiness, holiness", a standard that they themselves could never attain. And the cost? An entire generation of people lost and on its way to a Christless Hell because we are more concerned about foods offered to idols than the souls of men! God help us!
It is time that the church rethink its missiology and its theology to insure that they are both Scriptural. The world is at stake.