23 June 2010

We were Enemies

by Frank Turk

So, where am I going with this little series? I lead off with Ray Ortlund’s exhortation to love people of other theological traditions. And then I got all specific on you last week by pointing out that some of the heroes of the faith are not really in your theological tradition – assuming, of course, that you’re a TeamPyro reader and of a roughly-reformed tradition (which may span from Presbyterianism to independent Congregationalist). We love Augustine for refuting Pelagius, for example, but we don’t talk much about the fact that his theology of the Eucharist is essentially the theology which yields what the WCF calls the “the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, … most abominably injurious to Christ's one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.”

We want our heroes to be just like us, and our perceived enemies to be completely unlike us, with nothing in common as if we are not all of Adam’s race, and as if the sin which cannot be forgiven is only possible in someone else’s ballywick.

That’s the elephant in the room, btw: the way we toss people out of our circle of church with complete regard for their faults and no regard for their merit in Christ.

Let’s face it: we say we believe this --
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die -- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. [Rom 5]
I mean: that’s straight up-the-middle Book of Romans. It’s the Reformed Home Court. This is the promise those who have faith and have repented, and if you’re really ready to go for the gusto, those who have been baptized for the sake of faith and repentance, ought to all share.

Paul says in this we ought to rejoice -- so all the smart remarks about the Apostle John and John the Baptist being a real gas at parties and whatnot ought to take its snark to Paul and see what he has to say about that.

But this is still the PyroManiacs blog, y’all. Phil has just spent a good bit of time telling us about the BioLogos affront to orthodoxy – am I jumping ship here to say that Phil’s wrong to shake a finger at people who are bent on dismantling the faith for the sake of elevating science, implying that at least some of them are not Christian at all? Dan has recently chastised those who leave church because of the dreaded “Reason X”, implying that these people are, by and large, not operating in good faith and probably not in faith at all. Am I parting company with my good and godly friend over his reproach of the unfaithful?

In a word? No.

See: for all the assurance we can derive from Rom 5, and all the exhortations of Paul to be unified under Christ and to let Christ be the basis for unity and fellowship – which, it seems to me, is Pastor Ortlund’s point – we also have James telling us this explicitly:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. [James 5]
One simple sentence, but I think we lose the force of it often. Here’s what I think we should read when we see this:

Some people – like you -- will from time to time wander away into sin.

This premise, btw, is how you tell serious people from hobbyists in the Christian life: the personal recognition that all Christians turn away from the truth from time to time. They all sin and fall short of the Glory of God. Including you personally, and including me personally.

That’s not a license to stay that way or not wage war on sin: but it is the license to treat others the way you have been graciously treated – which is with forgiveness and sacrificial love.

Because you get grace, you can give grace. You in fact ought to give grace. It’s a great place to start.

Wandering people who have turned away from the truth can be turned back.

This is the one thing I think we lose track of: that we mostly aren’t supposed to rebuke people in order to spin them off from the life of faith, the fellowship of the church, and the good graces of God. We are supposed to turn wandering people back from their lostness and toward Christ, toward the church, toward the only hope they have. They can be turned back.

When these people turn back, they turn from death to life.

And in fact the must turn back. If they don’t, they’re going to die not just in this life, but they will be under the judgment of the one who can destroy both body and soul in Hell. That’s the danger they are in.

Other people are the instruments of turning the wanderers back to Christ.

Not only can they be turned back, but they can be turned back by us. We can ourselves turn them back – but I suggest that we can’t do that when we only use whips and hand-grenades. We have to turn them back the way James himself would turn them back.

Like this:

James has the audacity to call both the wanderers and those who turn them back "My brothers".

Isn’t that crazy? Doesn’t that point us exactly to the same place Paul points us to – which is a refuge in Christ when we are confronting people who we believe are turned away from Christ and toward sin? James says that our approach to them, and our reproaches to them, ought to be as brothers and not as toward lawless men or people who are not in our own family.

You could do it, folks. If you are in Christ, you can do it. You can start by being with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day in the Lord’s house.


Anonymous said...

Good post, Frank. Sometimes I really don't know how to respond to the harsh attitudes of some who call themselves Christians. For example, someone who had invited me to be a Facebook friend a while back posted this as his status a few days ago:

"If a Pentecostal, Arminian, Charismatic, Enthusiasts, Revivalist or Baptist, please delete me."

I left a brief exhortation and complied with his request, but I'm still shaking my head.

Rob Bailey said...

How come no one wants to comment? James 4&5 (actually the whole letter) is such a great example of how to treat others. He constantly call them "brothers" yet also calls them "adulteresses." We can love and still hold people accountable.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Excellent hortatory piece! And I've just been itching to use the word "hortatory" lately and this was a doggone good piece to be able to use it on!

Rachael Starke said...

See, I agree that we can do it, in the sense that we're enabled by the Holy Spirit. And you argue well that we must do it, for the sake of people's souls. But it's for me sometimes a question of wanting to do it. I've had the same situation as barrywallace on Facebook - I friend a friend from college, discover they're devoting their Facebook page to relentless, vulgar and crass diatribes against Barack Obama, the Democrats and liberalism in general. All while having a perky little verse about God being our helper and refuge on her sidebar. i tried to engage her first publicly, then privately, even using my own past sins of the tongue and the damage it caused to beg her to reconsider for Jesus' sake.

She refused to listen, later alluded to me as dust that needed to be wiped from her sandals as she "pursued her calling." And was immediately commended for her boldness for the truth.

That's the nicer of the two stories. The other one is a now three-year saga that involves a family member - also a woman, FWIW.

That's what's hard about this kind of love. It really, really hurts.

bp said...

great post, Frank. I tend to do just the opposite..think of wanderers as unbelievers. Thanks for this.

mikeb said...

Nice one Frank. Much better than the last one, where I felt like you were trying to play "can't we all just get along". But now it's making sense.

FX Turk said...

In Christ, mikeb, why can't we?

What about this post says we shouldn't?

CR said...

Well, it is true, (now this is going to seriously rain on people's parade, but Frank brought it up) that Augustine believed what he did about the mass, and (everyone might want to put away their coffee) in baptismal regeneration, among other things.

It is equally true that Augustine fought the Pelagain heresy and had the church accepted the Pelagain heresy it would no doubt would have meant church's downfall.

What do we make of that. Baptismal regeneration is a complete and utter denial of the gospel and faith in Christ alone.

Here is the thing. You asked in the other thread if I'm willing to disavow Augustine. I will neither avow or disavow him. Augustine is physically dead and gone. I never interacted with him and probably will never interact with Graham.

But here's what Christians are to do for all time. We are to contend for the faith. We're to defend it against professing Christians, non-Christians or what have you.

What example do we have of this? The apostle Paul. Peter was beginning to go astray in the matter of the gospel. Paul did not just say, "I'm glad Peter is a Christian." Paul confronted him and rebuked and refuted him and won him back again to a true understanding of the gospel.

I can't imagine what would have happened to the Christian church were it not for Paul confronting Peter.

I'm glad that Augustine confronted the Pelagian heresy, but what a tragedy for those who heard and embraced Augustine's mass and baptismal regeneration. What a tragedy for the some of the things Graham to say.

When it comes to the gospel, I'm not talking about the nonessentials, but God's way of righteousness, we're not asked to just be "glad" but to contend and to rebuke and refute and to win back people to the true understanding of the gospel.

I never lived in Augustine's time so I couldn't do that for him. I'll probably never meet Graham - maybe you will or some other notables like MacArthur have or will. But we're to contend for the faith, Frank, not just be glad that for the people who profess Christianity and have a misunderstanding of the gospel.

FX Turk said...

I'm sorry you didn't read my post, CR.

Chad V. said...

I think CR read it, and I think he read it considering the context of the posts preceding it. In other words he did exactly what you say people need to do, read other things you've written on the same subject.

And Frank all that talk you make about Christ being the basis of Christian unity.... you're dead right about that. The problem is that you seem to be keen to accept into fellowship people who have no right to claim the name of Christ, those who deny the faith, those who preach other gospels, who distort and warp the gospel.

The scriptures warn that wolves will come from within the church (Acts 20:29). So Frank, I encourage you to listen to your brothers who are trying to warn you of the danger of extending the right hand of fellowship to those who destroy the faith.

Anonymous said...

I think the point, or at least the point I got was, love Christians.

Love them. Disagree, argue, whatever, but drink coffee with, play golf with, have over for dinner, share a hymnbook in church, and love them.

Sometimes, as Rachel pointed out, love is hard. And sometimes love isn't seen as love.

Love them anyways. Even while disagreeing.

I'll bet we can't love as we ought without contending for the faith and arguing with Presbies and Arminians over important stuff.
But neither can we love as we ought without ending the argument and playing ping pong.

I needed this. Thanks Frank.

Anonymous said...

And...be careful about rightly identifying what is destroying the faith, what is making hash of the faith, what is inconsistent with the faith, and what is an interesting but inconsequential disagreement with have within the faith.

FX Turk said...

Chad V. said:

The problem is that you seem to be keen to accept into fellowship people who have no right to claim the name of Christ, those who deny the faith, those who preach other gospels, who distort and warp the gospel.

Name one for whom I have done this.

FX Turk said...

My opinion, btw, is that this subject, and this approach, separates the discerning people from the people who think discernment means separation immediately and every time -- which is to say the mature from the not-yet-mature.

Name one actual heretic or unbeliever I have said we should treat as a brother in Christ.

Stuart Wood said...
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Jugulum said...

But Frank, "discern" means "separate", doesn't it? So if I'm separating from people, that must mean I'm being discerning...


David Kyle said...

But Frank this is hard to do! It requires that I get to know someone and taking note of God's working/not working in their lives before I write them off for not lining up with my denominational statement of faith.

...really hard.

David Kyle said...

That was pretty much tongue in cheek stuff... except for the 'really hard' part.

FX Turk said...

Oh brother ...

"discern" means:

1. to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend: They discerned a sail on the horizon.

2. to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate.

"ἀνακρίνω" means "to scrutinize; to estimate in value or excellence. "διάκρισις" means "a judgement or distinction".

In one sense, sure: it's "separating" in the sense that it tells there is a difference in value or perfection. But knowing something is wrong and demanding that the person in error be anathematized are really two different things.

One who wants to see difference should see that difference.

David Rudd said...

i don't mean to go off-topic, but as i consider this i'm reminded of a corrallary to James' words.

Sometimes, I am the brother who needs to be turned from his way.

Thus, I need to carefully consider the words of even my critics...

David Rudd said...

i'm also reminded that i can't spell.


Jugulum said...


My comment was tongue-in-cheek, because discernment is not just "separation".

It does draw on the idea of separation--as in sifting. But it's not just separating, but rightly separating; rightly distinguishing.

So part of the problem with faux-discernment is that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a failure of discernment.

Wrongful condemnation is as much a failure of discernment as wrongful acceptance & embrace.

And discernment also applies to distinguishing between "error" and "damnable error", as you're saying.

(Perhaps I should have added an </irony> tag. :) )

FX Turk said...

The < /irony > tag is broken in my browser, so my apologies. Plainly my discernment was busted.

Mike Anderson said...
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Solameanie said...

Very, very good word.

Chad V. said...


Picking from the history of not only your Pyro postings but also from your tweets which show up in side bar here at Pyro I'll name two off the top of my head.

Rick Warren

Billy Graham

David Rudd said...

Chad V.

You are saying that Graham and Warren are in the category described by you as

those who have no right to claim the name of Christ, those who deny the faith, those who preach other gospels, who distort and warp the gospel.

What if you have slightly ovestated yourself? What if these are men who have some serious theological faults, who have some very questionable teaching, who have spread some harmful ideas in the church; but who still have the right to claim the name of Christ?

What if these men, despite their "obvious fallenness" have indeed been regenerated by the Holy Spirit; but their level of sanctification has not yet reached a level of others?

Where then does that place you according to Mark 3:28-30?

I ask this only to suggest that it may be wise to temper your proclamations regarding the work of the Holy Spirit in others...

Chad V. said...
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Chad V. said...
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Chad V. said...


I call a heretic a heretic and I'm warned against blaspheming the Spirt! Wow!

Chad V. said...


I've given my answer but my lunch break is over and I have to go back to work so I wont be able to comment again for the rest of the day. I will be looking for your response later this evening after the events of the day are finished.

Mike said...

It's a good article. Knowing when to cut ties and burn bridges can be a really fine line. Sadly, I think we are a little to quick to do so in the modern context. We want so bad to throw that word heresy out there because it makes us feel like we're wearing our (self) righteously indignant, big-boy britches. We have to guard against it, but at the same time, we must not fail to shoot wolves. It's what shepherds do. MacArthur's book "The Jesus You Can't Ignore" is about the way Christ handled himself in these situations. If only sanctification were that complete in me!

It seems safer to err on the side of holiness and separation rather than to possibly let a wolf get away with some sheep. I don't know. For me, it's a fine line that I don't want to cross.

PS, I missed the post where you warned against people leaving a church because of "reason x". I'm assuming you proposed that there are good reasons for leaving a church. I'm considering leaving the one I'm in so I'm curious about what you had to say. Can you post a link back to it? Thanks.

Mike Anderson said...

I have a friend who believes that Christ has returned in A.D. 70 and that the resurrection has already taken place. He is a full/hyper preterist and claims to be reformed. Other brothers and I have repeatedly gone through the scriptures with him to no avail. What would you do in this situation?

Mike said...

@ Let Us Repent and Believe - The guy who introduced me to Reformed Theology/Doctrines of Grace is a SBC youth pastor, and has been a SBC calvinist pretty much from birth. He married a girl who was a staunchly arminian pastor's daughter. They had a lot of discussions about it, but resolved to continue to grow together in Christ and trust the Holy Spirit to change each other, and sure enough, she has now come around. (Funny how he stayed the same.) If I were you, I would do like he did. Resolve to pray and be patient with your friend, trusting God to bring both of you to the truth. (I dare assume that you don't think you have it all completely correct on your own.)

Don't be afraid to speak the truth, but as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:23 "avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife."

Mike Anderson said...

This issue is well beyond Arminianism vs. Calvinism. This man asserts that we are no longer to be looking for the return of our Master. If Christ has returned then this has far reaching ramifications for those who follow Christ.

Anonymous said...

Titus 1:7-16 (New International Version)
Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

I believe this scripture illustrates the balance Frank is speaking of...

The overseer must not be overbearing or quick tempered. He must be hospitable as well.

And then he has the discernment to either encourage others to sound dcotrine or silenece the Cretans.

It seems to me as though encouraging would do for the vast majority of instances.

FX Turk said...

Chad --

Because I knew that you literally had one post to choose from, and there are only two on that list which are on the current menu of matchless and heel-bound heretics, let me say that you're right on schedule.

I did ask for only one. Can I pick either one to prove you wrong, or would you rather pick the one which you think cannot be proven wrong?

FX Turk said...

re: Rudd's comment vis. Chad

I think it's right to call a heretic a heretic.

I think you can't prove that either one of these men is a heretic.

Let me give an example to set the stage: you can unequivocally call Joel Osteen a heretic. There is nothing about his message at any time which reflects the Gospel or the real fabric of Scripture. He writes speeches which are purely aimed at appeasing man's greed and need for self-aggrandisement. You cannot find one word about the deadly nature of sin, nor of the need for a savior, nor the life-(and after-life-)altering consequences of repentence and belief.

You cannot remotely say this about either man, and you cannot hang the Galatian error on either man.

In that, pick one so I can show you how wrong you are.

FX Turk said...

LURaB --

Someone who believes the second coming has already come needs to explain the rest of his escatology. There's really no way to line that belief up with the Gospel in any way -- it doesn;t even pass the Nicene sniff test.

If he has been given the truth, treat him like a lost person and exaplinthe Gospel to him. He doesn;t believe in the Christ of Christianity.

Jugulum said...

And in the interest of making discerning distinctions...

Frank's series is about principles: The principles of Christian unity. There's the need to distinguish between "error" and "damnable error", and the need to remember that everyone falls into error sometimes, in some ways. And there's the need to embrace our fellow Christians, as we seek to correct each other. (But that does not mean accepting people who reject the gospel.)

But "Is ____ a damnable heretic?" is a question about applying those principles to a particular case. It's about:
(1) What a particular person believes (a specific factual matter).
(2) Whether that's damnable heresy (a theological matter--about what the gospel is, and what constitutes rejection of the gospel.)

Along those lines: "Frank, I disagree with what you're saying in this series" is different from "Frank, I agree with what you're saying here, but you've failed to recognize that ____ really is a heretic."

As far as I can see, Chad understood the difference, and CR didn't. (Chad said, "And Frank all that talk you make about Christ being the basis of Christian unity.... you're dead right about that. The problem is that you seem to be keen to accept into fellowship people who have no right to claim the name of Christ" [bold added])

We can talk about the quality of Frank's discernment and about Warren & Graham's theology, but remember that it's not entirely on-topic. It may be relevant or interesting or important, but it's an issue distinct from the point of the series.

Chad V. said...
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mikeb said...

Frank said "In Christ, mikeb, why can't we?

What about this post says we shouldn't?"

We shouldn't every just try to get along at the sake of the Gospel or key doctrines of the Bible. By "get along" I mean agree with, endorse, and otherwise water a specific issue: ecumenism.

Mike Anderson said...


Chad V. said...

You're complaining that I went to your most recent posts on this subject since they are both fresh in my mind? Really? Seriously? Is that really a legitimate or mature complaint?

You're nitpicking that I gave you two names instead of one? Because when people say; "Name me one..." they usually offer that as a challenge to their opponent that they wont be able to name any at all. They don't usually mean that they want only one.

Pick which ever name you like. Graham's and Warren's heresies and adulteration of the Gospel are well known and documented.

FX Turk said...

Chad --

What I am saying is this, since it seems to have not been adequately explained in my reissuing the challenge:

1. You cannot find in any other post in the long history of my blogging, either here, or at Evangel, or at my home blog, any other instance where I have in any way called anyone a beloved brother in Christ who is, in fact, a "heretic".

2. The only place that the bait for such a thing has been laid is in the post which calls Graham and Warren "christians".

3. That post is recent, and it's the only place you might find that matter.

4. That is also intentional on my part.

5. And having said all that, I am going to prove, using your example, that your judgment is in error.

6. However, to do that, I am going to use one of the examples and not both.

7. I can choose one; I prefer you choose the one for one obvious reason: if I choose the one I would use, the "yeah buts" would dismiss my point as having picked the one who, frankly, was an easy mark.

All but #7 were previously stated. #7 is now offered as a clarifier.

If you don't want to choose one, I choose Rick Warren. Does that sound fair?

Chad V. said...


Believe it or not Frank, I don't comb the internet following everything you write and why I should be
criticized for addressing your most recent writing is beyond me.

I doesn't matter which one you choose. You won't get any, "yeah buts" from me.

If you choose Warren fine. Since the Galatians anathema extends to anyone who preaches a gospel other than the gospel preached by the apostles, even an angel from heaven, Warren falls under that anathema. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Warren cannot tell you wether you must believe in Christ to be saved. In his own words, he's not an authority on that subject. He says he believes it personally but he can't be dogmatic. That's not the gospel according to the scripture, not the gospel preached by the apostles. The scripture says that Christ is the only name under heaven whereby we must be saved. That is one of the most basic and simple truths of the gospel, without it you have no gospel.

Warren dares you to try Jesus for 60 days or your money back guaranteed See if he wont change your life. Again, not the gospel according to scripture, not the gospel preached by the apostles. Not even close.

Warren has a long and extremely public record of preaching filth like this. Warren's gospel is contrary to the gospel according to the scriptures.

If you can defend a man who says these kinds of things and calls it the gospel and urges people to believe this message then I have nothing left I can say to you about this. Such a man is exactly what Paul warned the church about when he said that "from among you will arise wolves."

Go ahead, make your defense. I've said all I will say on this subject. Now it's late and I'm going to bed.

one busy mom said...

Good post!

Jugulum said:

There's the need to distinguish between "error" and "damnable error"

That's where I fall short. Some errors are obviously damnable error, but others just leave me rather befuddled as to how serious they are - and hence what the correct response should be.

I'm waiting for someone to put together a nice spreadsheet where all questionable doctrines will be clearly relegated to one of 4 catagories: gray area (Bible isn't specific on it), error, serious error, and damnable error.


Just kiddin - I know that's what discernment is all about ........but boy would I ever like that spreadsheet!

Anonymous said...

Chad V.,

You admit that Warren believes this (the right thing) personally but won't be dogmatic about it. So his error isn't what he himself preaches as gospel or believes, but how much room he gives others on the heretic issue, no? So you're saying that the damnable error is how he judges others?

On a more general note, the logic that seems to pop up here often with those that disagree with Frank here is that "if they are wrong about any point under the "soteriology" heading, they're heretics." Is perfect understanding and profession of (reformed) soteriology at all its points the dividing line?

Secondly, another theme is the "danger" of not taking the hard line against heretics like Augustine, Graham, Warren, etc. For the folks that see this danger, do you also see any danger in making false positives for heretics? Any danger for treating a brother who deserves love like a demon?

Chad V. said...

getting free

I understand your concern and we must be careful to not exclude true bretheren.

Here's the thing, lack of dogmatism on Christ being the only way of salvation is in fact a denial of Christ being the only way of salvation. Christ IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE, and NO ONE comes to the Father accept by Him. That is not part of Warren's so-called gospel.

There is no room for error or doubt on that point. If one can't say that everyone must believe in Christ to be saved then such a person has no right to the name of Christ.

The anathema laid down in scripture is leveled against any one who preaches a gospel other than the apostolic gospel. The apostles were absolutely dogmatic on this point and so is the scripture. There is zero room for error on it.

I'm not squeamish about that. We can't afford to be. There's too much at stake.

Anonymous said...

Chad V.,

But I'm not hearing you argue that Warren believes or preaches something other than 'trust Christ alone.' You're saying that he's not convinced that people who understand "Christ alone" differently from him (and you) are outside the faith. The issue, then, is not with his gospel, but with his take on the anathema. Is error concerning modern application of Paul's anathema also damnable error in your mind?

That would seem to give the result that mercy triumphs over judgment (but only if we judge and condemn false Christians as such). Quite a paradigm shift.

Chad V. said...


Is " try Jesus for 60 days and see if he'll change your life or your money back guaranteed" the gospel? Is Jesus a free trial offer? Because the scripture says that any one hesitantly following Jesus or just trying him out for size is lost. Luke 9:62

Warren's gospel will damn peoples souls.

Anonymous said...

And Chad, the gospel announcements of the NT weren't even close to uniform. So Warren asked folks to give themselves to Christ for 60 days and then evaluate the difference. He deserves hellfire for this? One would think from your argument that the scripture that urges folks to "taste and see that the Lord is good" is bordering on the heretical. If not, what is the crucial, damning yet very subtle distinction?

But more importantly, let's remember some biblical context. Warren isn't doing what the "circumcision group" was doing in Galatia, namely, insisting on ritualistic (or some other) performance in addition to trusting Christ. Has Warren ever said, "You need to trust Christ and . . . to be saved?" No. If anything, the idea that invitations to trust Christ (or responses to him) have to be stated 'just so' to "work" are more worthy of the concern Paul has in Galatians.

In the end, we're announcing a Person whom God has made Lord of all. We tell his story, his deeds, his love and/or power. But ultimately we focus on urging folks to trust a person with everything, not just our justification, but everything, even though we all know our own trust is short of total in one area or another. That means that we all trust something other than "Christ alone" and encourage others to do so by our example. It doesn't make us all heretics; it makes us disciples who are still learning.

Anonymous said...


I think it's interesting that you cited the one verse we know that Paul himself messed up in applying to someone (and that Barnabas, the original inspiration for Frank's post, tried to correct!). According to Paul at one point he considered Mark as not being fit for service in the kingdom with himself and Barnabas. The argument was so intense that Barnabas and Paul stopped travelling together. But Barnabas was right, and Paul later acknowedged that Mark was very useful to him. The strict application of the verse wasn't correct, even by Paul, and Luke noted it. Like everything else, it needed to be put in the big-picture context of God's thematic willingness to forgive and restore, even when judgment had been promised.

God isn't eager to damn folks, looking for an excuse. If he was, He wouldn't need to rely on technicalities or foot faults or things like "try Jesus" because we all rebel against the central matters every day. We all act against (not just fall short of) the primary, central purpose and law for man from God: love. I'm sorry, but "try Jesus" may be in bad taste, it may even be a sin, but c'mon, damnable error? Is that your view of God? Die for Warren via crucifixion then damn him for asking folks to try Jesus for 60 days (in the confidence that none of those who do actually trust him will ever go back)?

Aaron said...


You wanted a spreadsheet. LOL, I found one.


Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad V. said...

gettingfree said;

"And Chad, the gospel announcements of the NT weren't even close to uniform."

I'm sorry that you think so. I hope you mean something other than what that sounds like. I really do.

Anonymous said...


Go thru the NT and read a large sample of passages that have "gospel" or "the message" or "proclaim" or the like attached to them. Those passages and the articulations of the good news they contain are not uniform; that's all I'm saying, and it seems inescapably true. The "gospel of the kingdom of God" for instance, as proclaimed by Jesus and the apostles, including Paul, is not the same articulation as the articulation, for instance, in I Cor. 15, or of Paul in other letters or speeches. Don't get me wrong, I don't think these conflict at all, but clearly the NT articulates the good news in more than one way (i.e., not uniform). Proclaiming the king and proclaiming the arrival of his reign (and, in either case, inviting folks to trust and follow the king) are consistent proclaimations, but they are not uniform. Proclaiming forgiveness in this king's name is consistent but not uniform to either of these. But these are all biblical; they all (and more besides) pop up in Acts, not just pre-crucifixion, either. As I said above, in the end, we're proclaiming the good news of/about Jesus, the Lord (which was one of Ortlund's points, I believe). There's a lot of good there to proclaim.

I don't see how this should shock or disturb anyone who is familiar with the NT. Paul in Galatians, therefore, is not saying that any articulation other than I Cor. 15 is anathema. He himself, not to mention Christ and the other apostles, used many other articulations of the good news. In Galatia, though, he is specifically challenging the faith-plus-circumcision "gospel" as no gospel at all. So your argument concerning Warren needs to go well beyond "it's a different articulation" for the condemnation in Galatians to be remotely applicable, because of the specific problem (context) in Galatia and the collective NT witness.

Chad V. said...


I'm glad to hear you say that because it sounded at first like you were promoting a sort of disunity.

You are right that different aspects of the gospel are preached at different times. I agree completely. Still, preaching Jesus as a trial offer is not the gospel.

one busy mom said...

Sir Aaron

YES! THANKYOU!!!! - I was busy all yesterday & just checked back here. That's exactly what I've been looking for & actually clarifies a lot!

I suspected I was labeling as "serious error" a couple things that weren't.....and guess what, I was! I was putting #'s 14,18, & 19way up into the essentials.

Thanks again!

Coram Deo said...

Excellent post, Frank.

Even though the posts on BioLogos have been taking in the big combox traffic, I think this little series of yours has contained a lot of spiritual meat. Like a fine cut that's been well aged, seasoned, and cooked to perfection; these courses you've been serving up are balanced, flavorful, and well done!

Okay, maybe medium well...

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! - Psalm 133:1

In Christ,

P.S. - I've read the responses over at your place. Thanks for taking the time. You're still my favorite "Crazy Uncle".

Jim Pemberton said...

Good article, Frank. It highlights how messy things can be in this fallen world. While boldly and clearly proclaiming and advocating the truth of the gospel, we are not to be agents of condemnation but of reconciliation.