05 July 2005

A London Journal—Day Five

A report of the goings-on at the Metropolitan Tabernacle

Pyromaniac in London
...and did you know that Louisiana is the pelican state?
The School of Theology is underway. It began this afternoon with three messages—one each from Jack Seaton, James Grier, and Chris Hand.

Jack Seaton's message was on the nature of true faith. He illustrated faith's submission with the example of Mary's surrender to the Lord's will. Jim Grier followed that with his first message in a four-part series on union with Christ, and since he began by talking about Christ's incarnation, the segue from Jack Seaton on Mary to Jim Grier on the incarnate Christ flowed so naturally that it almost seemed as if it had been orchestrated.

Chris Hand began with the first of a two-part critique of The Purpose-Driven Life. He was gracious and measured, but thorough, very pointed, and straightforward. The complete series will be a good introduction to some of the basic problems with the whole "Purpose-Driven" philosophy. Chris does a superb job of distilling a wide variety of information plus documentation into a format that never seems tedious or dry. If you are one of those who has trouble understanding why Rick Warren even has critics, you ought to give this series a listen.

After an extended break for meal time, the schedule called for me to speak twice in a double session tonight. In the first hour, I introduced the series I plan to do this week—which will be a four-part defense of the biblical principles of substitutionary atonement, imputed righteousness, and justification by faith. Then in the second hour, I spoke on justification by faith from 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Here's a thumbnail sketch of my introduction: I began by describing an eerily prophetic article titled "Evangelical Megashift" by Robert Brow that appeared in Christianity Today in 1990. It's no secret that I have little sympathy with the ideas of Mr. Brow. He is a Canadian author and theologian who thinks biblical truth has been given to us in various "models" from which we can pick and choose what we like, rather than propositions which we either believe or don't. (Brow can hardly write three sentences without using the word model. His website, called "The Robert Brow 'Model Theology' Webpage" is prominently listed in my bookmarks under "Really Bad Theology.")

You might think I disagree with Mr. Brow about everything. Not so. He was absolutely right in that 1990 CT article when he predicted that a theological megashift would soon rock the evangelical world. Most, if not all, of his 1990 predictions came true to the letter. He predicted, for example, that the coming generation of evangelicals would abandon or severely modify the ideas of substitutionary atonement, original sin, hell, and the wrath of God. That is exactly what is happening today. The Open Theists have taken all those ideas further than anyone, but various "new-model" ideas—many of the very same ideas Robert Brow was promoting back in 1990—are currently being touted by several well-known evangelical authors loosely aligned with the so-called "emerging church" (such as Brian McLaren, John Eldredge, Steve Chalke, Dave Tomlinson, and many others) who do not necessarily identify with "Open Theism."

The common thread in all these ideas is that they seek to tone down and tame the biblical concept of God—by eliminating the law-court imagery of God as a judge; by redefining his wrath; by questioning the reality of hell; and in general by trying to eliminate any need for the fear of the Lord. This inevitably culminates in an attack on the principles of original sin, imputation, and the idea of the atonement as a penal substitution.

Do away with original sin, imputation, or penal substitution and you undermine the foundations of a proper understanding of justification by faith, the principle of imputed righteousness, and ultimately the gospel itself. These are perilous times. People have itching ears. It's a time when Christians need to be sober, vigilant, and ready to give an answer.


Jeremy Weaver said...

Do they sell Brow's 'Model Theology' kit at Wal-Mart? I put some cars and planes together when I was a kid, but eventually the novelty wore off. But with a 'Model Theology' kit, I could build my own doctrines, Bible, maybe even my own God!

Tim Challies said...

"He is a Canadian author and theologian"

You just had to toss the "Canadian" in there, didn't you? Is that the best way you know of to immediately discredit a person? :)

Phil Johnson said...

It was the vilest pejorative I could think of. :-)

anoninva said...

For the latest on Rick Warren and the contempletive movement, Purpose Driven Catholics, and Rick's new age connections, check out www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newsletterjuly.htm

Lighthouse Trails has been researching and reporting on Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven life for several months at least. They have received an email from Rick Warren refuting much of what they have written and also wondering why they didn't use Matthew 18 steps. On the right column of the newsletter are links where you can read Rick's email to them and subsequent dialogue as well. This is much more than just critique of the PDL book, as important as that is. There is much more to Rick Warren and his connections, etc. than was apparent even a short time ago.

anoninva said...

Sorry the website got cut off. Here's the rest of it:


John Haller said...

Would love to listen to the School of Theology lectures. Are they available someplace?

Sola Fide said...

If I recall correctly, from the metropolitantabernacle.org site's info or the mailings (you get this stuff by subscribing to Sword & Trowel -- plus some wonderful books!), they will be available for order on CD/DVD after the end of the conference.

John Schroeder said...

I think you are onto something here. I have included it in this post about troubles in the church.

AuthenticTruth said...

Yes, it is true, people certainly have itching ears today. We need to vigilant in standing for the truth regardless of what people want. One thing you may want to note; Brian McLaren is not so “loosely aligned with the ‘emerging church’” anymore – Emergent is now a structured movement with McLaren being the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Emergent.

Terry Lange said...

The bigger questions is, Phil, have you been able to find someplace decent to eat??

Frank Martens said...

I get a kick out of the fact that you edit at least one image in your posts to say "PyroManiac"

Matt Brown said...

James Grier ... I was able to hear several messages from him during my time at Cedarville College (now, C. University). A friend of mine and I both agreed we could almost believe that Grier could say anything on any topic, and we would take it as the gospel truth.