I remember several years ago while talking to a Roman Catholic about doctrine. Though she had just left the convent and would no longer be in process to become a nun, she was a devout Roman Catholic as far as I could tell. She left the convent and married a friend of mine. We were all having dinner and I don’t quite remember what exactly we were talking about, but I can tell you how the conversation ended. After a few minutes of dialogue, in her frustration, she finally said, “We’re Catholic, we don’t use the Bible!”
Today, I fear the same could be said about many Evangelical Protestants. In this age of post-modern thought it’s hard to tell what anyone believes because all beliefs seem to be accepted unless you disagree with that position. If that’s not confusing enough we have Evangelical apologists and scholars endorsing a book of one who apostatized to Rome. Even during the US presidential primaries this year it took some explaining to get the point across that Mormonism is not Christianity. In a sense, the Gospel of grace has been turned on its head. The belief today might be framed with the attitude that God should be thankful that we are gracious enough to accept Him on our terms. In other words, truth becomes what is most comfortable to individually believe, to which God’s word is subjected. Each person then becomes their own magisterium.
In a similar way in which Rome added it’s own dogmas to Scripture, evangelicals may subtract from Scripture by subjectively choosing personal dogmas. Evangelicals should have the courage to be protestant and proclaim the truth of the Gospel. There is so much that could be said about protestantism, however, I will briefly touch on this issue of the Gospel.
The Gospel, or good news, differentiates Christianity from all other religions and is found no where but Christianity. Why do we need this good news? We need it because there is bad news and we don’t even realize it. That bad news is that left to our natural selves we are enemies of God and under His judgment. Once we understand the bad news the good news makes sense! This good news which was recovered during the Protestant Reformation is that our right standing with God, our very salvation, is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone.
What’s missing so often today is the bad news that we are sinners who need to repent and turn to Christ and His Gospel. People don’t usually like bad news so they’re often not told just how bad off they are. It’s uncomfortable! It’s easier to market to people and attract them to a church service where there is no context for the Gospel because there is no bad news. The service may be more like a self-help seminar where the focus becomes us. It becomes for our glory and comfort, justified by the “good” we do. Focus on self is our default position. How often have you heard that he/she is a ‘good’ person? We say this because we are comparing people to other people. This attitude has crept into the church and it’s easier to accept than the Gospel which is why it’s subverting it!
Funny, this attitude is another reason we need the Gospel. All of us. Yes, the Gospel is for Christians and non-Christians. This is a place where even the theologically conservative Christians miss the boat. Repenting of sin and believing the Gospel is only the beginning of the Christian life not the end. Becoming a Christian is not like getting a diploma that says “Christian Graduate” so we can put it on our spiritual resume and forget about it. We must continue with the same desire the Apostle Paul had which is to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. This is a life long process and the most important aspect of the Christian life.
We need to recover the Gospel in our churches. Protestant courage does not fear offending man, it fears offending God. Said positively, protestant courage offends man by pleasing God with the Gospel He gave in Scripture. Even God’s word tells us the Gospel is going to be offensive, not comfortable. A call to recover the doctrine of faith alone is also in order. We don’t look to our “decision,” “good deeds” or the time we “sincerely prayed a prayer.” We look to Christ alone and the death He died, that we should have died, for the punishment of sins He took, that we should have taken, to His resurrection to new life that He freely gave us! So when we stand before God the Father the only answer as to why we should be allowed into Heaven is, “Because of what Your Son, Jesus Christ, has done for me.”
Protestant courage, the Gospel is worth it!
p.s. Challies list of Reformation Day posts.
Two Book Picks for Reformation Day