Gospel Coalition or Assertions?

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David Fitch has asked if we agree or disagree with his views on the work of The Gospel Coalition (TGC).  His views are expressed at Christianity Today’s Out of Ur blog post: Gospel Coalition or Expedition? How effective will The Gospel Coalition be in post-Christendom?

One of the problems with Fitch’s approach can be seen in his introduction. 

Here are five statements that encapsulate what I think TGC is implying in their work so far. [Emphasis mine]

He is building his response to his personal implications he gathered rather than what TGC has actually put forth.   TGC has spelled out their positions, understanding of the Gospel, ministry vision, etc. in their foundation documents.  Let’s look Fitch’s issues.

Pure Doctrinal Foundations

… impulse in the TGC… just get our doctrine right (…version of Reformed orthodoxy) …then mission and church renewal will follow.

Is this merely an impulse in TGC or an actual position?  TGC is not about just getting doctrine right in the sense of mere intellectual knowing.  Getting doctrine right is beyond mere assent it is biblical and motivating.  My question is – If we don’t get our doctrine right then what will follow?  If we aren’t driven by doctrine, our beliefs, then what drives us?  If Fitch is arguing against TGC doctrine is he then arguing for his own doctrinal positions?  If this is so, then he is defeated by his own argument.  If not, then he is essentially agruing for nothing.  Or, no doctrine.

…this is not 16th-century Europe…not the 1920’s North America, where the majority mainline Protestant population, under the influence of modernist liberalism… In post-Christendom territory there are very few Christians of any kind left who have any doctrine to be renewed.

Correct, we are not in those time eras.  We are, however, dealing with liberalism today. The Roman Catholic church is still very influential today through there social and political actions.  I would argue that not only do we need doctrinal renewal.  We need explicit, indepth doctrinal teaching.

The Reformation

The Reformation gave birth to the solas, especially sola scriptura (Scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone), which in their time called people to renewed purity and personal commitment to the gospel… We must be sober about the doctrinal problems of the Reformation that elevate the individual and isolate Scripture (as an authority and conceptual document) away from the church and a way of life.

It was not sola scriptura and sola fide that promoted individualism and an isolated understanding of Scripture.  It was the misapplication of said doctrines.  In the USA, it would be the comingling of misapplication with the American Way that has caused many of the problems we have today.  This is the very thing TGC is seeking to combat.  A proper understanding and application of sola scriptura and sola fide takes us away from indivualism.  Sinful men will continue to abuse and misuse truths until the Lord returns.  It happened all throughout history even when God was literally speaking directly to His prophets.  The abuse and misuse of sound doctrine is no reason to abadone it.  All the much more reason for doctrinal renewal.

Female Pastors

I characterize the view of women in ministry in the TGC as 1) based in an inerrancy view of the text, which 2) latches on to texts as if they were isolated units of universal teaching on women, which then 3) leaves them blind to the New Testament’s overall elevation of women into ministerial authority in the church.

Fitch’s view of women in ministry seem to be based on 1) an errant and cultural conformity of the text, which 2) latches on to the text questioning the existence of any universal teaching, which then 3) leaves him blind in even being able to define women’s roles of ministry in the church.

Notice, Fitch’s statements are really just a pitch for his doctrinal position.  This is fine, but he shouldn’t act as if TGC should change their stance to comfort his when position cannot do likewise.

But I believe that the New Testament calls women into full participation in the new authority of the Kingdom unleashed in the church (this means I affirm the full ordination of women).

This is not merely a Protestant position.  Fitch is defining his view of women and “full participation” in a way that must include ordination.  There is no reason we cannot have full participation without ordination.  Just because he doesn’t hold the same position as TGC (or Roman Catholic and conservative Protestants) doesn’t mean this will cause a downfall for TGC’s vision.

I believe TGC will be impotent to engage the culture of post Christendom if it cannot give witness to the new “politics of Jesus” in its gender politics.

Is Fitch implying we must forgo our doctrinal beliefs just to be more culturally relevant?  Haven’t American evangelicals been involved enough in politics to the detriment of the Gospel?  Do we need more?  Maybe I don’t quite understand what Fitch means by “politics of Jesus”.  Besides, in this age of accept everyone and everything should TGC’s position on this be just fine?

The New Perspective

John Piper and Don Carson have energetically sought to dismantle the “new perspective” on Paul…it is a mistake to see the new perspective as the enemy. ..we will forever be hindered from socially embodying the gospel…worse, emerging Christians will continue to make the error of separating social justice from the redemption of the individual in Christ.

I agree with Fitch that the emerging folks do err in separating social justice from redemption.  This is one of the things TGC is seeking to answer with a proper understanding of justification and the Gospel.  The New Perspective also takes us back to one of Fitch’s earlier statements about the 16th century and Roman Catholicism.  The New Perspective might actually open the door for Protestants to move to the Roman church so even here it is a problem.  Again, these things are actually reasons to support TGC with its quest for renewal.

Megachurches

Because of their tendencies to individualize the gospel, the reading of Scripture, and salvation and to separate doctrine from “way of life,” TGC does not see the problem of the megachurch for the future.

I’m not necessarily a “fan” of megachurches.  They too have their problems.  This doesn’t mean though that they will be less healthy than a church of 50.  Also, is it the megachurch or the American cultural influences and improper undertanding of the Gospel that leads to individualism?

…gospel must take root in a social communal embodiment, where the gospel can be seen, heard, understood, and experienced by those completely foreign to our faith in Christ.

Agreed.

This kind of communal embodiment is nigh impossible in mega sized organizations (although I’ve seen it at least once).

Yes, this can be very tough in large groups.  I agree.  It doesn’t mean that this problem is limited to the megas though.  Yet, more reasons to promote TGC.

…solid preaching and culturally relative apologetics will gather post-Christendom into its churches. I fear TGC then becomes a force for coalescing mega-size churches that preach to the already initiated.

OK, if post-Christendom gathers in these megachurches wouldn’t this tell us that TGC’s vision is working?  Also, if these churches are growing via post-Christendom wouldn’t this mean folks are “already initiated” or else the churches wouldn’t be growing?  In the very least if post-Christendom regularly attend megachurches aren’t they being initiated?  As I understand it, primarly to worship God not to build around what does or does not attract post-Christendom.  TGC calls for much more than preaching and apologetics.  It calls for living out the Gospel in all areas, not just Sunday morning, but all areas of our lives.  It seems to be a good biblical solution to me.

The bottomline is TGC’s vision, if followed, will cause many renewed Christian lives for the Gospel.  Its motivation is for whole-life Gospel living.  If TGC’s vision fails it’s not for lack of its biblical roots.  It’s for lack of sinful men not living the Gospel.

Agree?  Disagree?  What did I miss?

For what it’s worth…

Mark

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tagged as , in apologetics,Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark|HereIBlog July 2, 2009 at 1:18 am

Thanks for the good comment. Especially..

We must “guard the gospel” in order to have a gospel to take to the world and to have a gospel for the church to gather around!

2 Douglas K. Adu-Boahen July 3, 2009 at 6:21 am

To be honest, I find Mr Fitch’s brushing aside of doctrinal reformation somewhat amusing. What will you proclaim exactly to the converted once they are converted? Doesn’t Scripture tell us to TEACH all nations? Mr Fitch puts us in the unevitable position of asking: Teach what?

As a young person, I tire of contentless “evangelism” which produces entertained goats rather than fed sheep. Fitch seems to have imbibed the spirit of the age…and would like it if we did the same. I pass.
.-= Douglas K. Adu-Boahen´s last blog ..The Holy Ghost Toking Swearing Sailor! part 1 (Logan Paschke) =-.

3 Aaron July 3, 2009 at 7:53 am

Amen, Douglas. I really appreciate what you’ve said here, particularly about contentless “evangelism” producing entertained goats rather than fed sheep. A friend of mine from work and I were discussing this yesterday, and apparently in our town, there are maybe two churches that actually preach the Bible consistently and well. It’s a sad state of affairs and I definitely am right there with you.

Mark, thanks for your thorough and generous response to David Fitch’s questions about the Gospel Coalition. Your assessment is right on – if the Gospel Coalition fails, it’s because of the sin of men and women failing to live gospel-centered lives, not because the group’s doctrine is sketchy.
.-= Aaron´s last blog ..When Talking to Family… =-.

4 Mark|HereIBlog July 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Douglas and Aaron,

Thanks for the encouragement and additional thoughts. I don’t know why Mr. Fitch could have addressed specific things in TGC documents. TGC is not about itself. It’s about the Gospel in our lives.

5 Vince July 9, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Concerning Sola Scriptura, I had a pretty good discussion with a Catholic Defender that says the foundation of Sola Scriptura is not used by the Apostles and not an apostolic practice. Furthermore he criticize that non-catholics used to comment against the RCC for their teachings are not Biblical while one of the Protestant’s doctrinal foundation are not also Biblical.

But I think I answered him pretty well and just for the information of all. Here’s our discussion: http://thedisciplers.com/is-sola-scriptura-bible-alone-biblical/
.-= Vince´s last blog ..On Returning and Resting =-.

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