By Greg Gibson
Distinctives-Centered or Gospel-Centered?
Bob Gonzales wrote my unauthorized biography. Looks like we were both distinctives-centered instead of gospel-centered: “I also had a tendency to be hypercritical of Christians and churches that didn’t share all my beliefs and convictions вЂ“ while remaining to some degree blind to my own remaining sins and weaknesses (Matt 7:1-5). Instead of focusing primarily on the central truths of the gospel, I was overly preoccupied with beliefs and practices that distinguished me from all other Christians and exalted them to a place of unwarranted priority (Matt 23:23). (GG: Emphasis mine.) As a result, I so focused on minute orthodoxy that I lost sight of brotherly love (Rev 2:2-4) and humility (1 Cor 4:7).
Related to the tendency above, I esteemed my own ecclesiastical tradition so highly that at times I forced the teaching of Scripture into the mold of my tradition or failed to hear the teaching of Scripture because I too highly venerated my tradition. Instead of reading my tradition in the light of Scripture, I tended to read Scripture in the light of my tradition. As a result, I proudly thought myself superior to other Christians (Mark 9:38-40; 1 Cor 12:21) and that I had little if anything to learn from them вЂ“ only much to teach them. Worse, my veneration of human tradition sometimes invalidated the teaching and mandates of God’s own Word (Matt 15:1-9).” Confessions of a Recovering Legalist by Bob Gonzales
Why Some Covenant Theologians Are Sectarian
“Evangelicals: We can and we must distinguish between essentials and non-essentials better. Draw our circles too tightly, and we slip into fundamentalism. Draw our circles too wide, and we slip into liberalism.”
There are 2 kinds of Covenant Theologians. Those who base their fellowship on…
1. The simple gospel alone: In Acts, the apostles preached what we must believe to be saved. And in the epistles, the apostles confessed the simple gospel that unites all Christians. (1 Cor. 15:3-7; Phil. 2:6-11; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 6:1-2; and 1 Jn. 4:2).
2. The simple gospel + doctrinal distinctives (like Calvinism, the Covenant of Works, the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, or Sabbath-keeping). They reason (illogically) that denying any of those 4 doctrines undermines the gospel/justification. So they look at the majority of Christ’s Church with suspicion instead of love. And they fellowship with a few “sister churces” hours away, instead of dozens of gospel-centered churches nearby. Many of these brothers are divisive and sectarian, promoting men and a movement more than a Person.
However, Michael Patton suggests 4 tests to distinguish doctrinal essentials from non-essentials:
1. Historicity: When was it invented, and how many Christians believed it? (вЂњthat which was believed everywhere, always, by everyone.вЂќ)
2. Explicitly Historical: Did the Church confess it explicitly (not by implicit logic)?
3. Biblical Clarity (Perspicuity): Is the doctrine taught clearly in Scripture?
4. Explicitly Biblical: Does any Bible text teach it explicitly (not by implicit logic)?
Parts of the 5-points of Calvinism pass and fail each of the tests. But the other 3 alleged, gospel-related doctrines above (the Covenant of Works, the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, and Sabbath-keeping) fail ALL 4 tests. “Make every effor to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit” (Eph. 4:3-4). Evangelicals: We Can and Must Distinguish Between Essentials and Non-Essentials Better by C. Michael Patton
Did Anabaptist Leaders Teach Justification by Faith?
Several Anabaptist leaders, including Hubmaier, Philips, Sattler, and Simons, taught justification by faith. “Anabaptists seldom used ‘justification’ to describe their own views, for they approached the issues involved from a different angle. Like Protestants, they emphasized that God initiates the salvation process, and that individuals enter it through faith. Yet they often complained that Protestants, by emphasizing ‘faith alone’, minimized sanctification and encouraged sub-Christian behavior.”
Did Anabaptists Believe in Justification by Faith Alone? by Kent Brandenburg
Justification by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online
The Hope of the Christian Believer According to Menno Simons by Menno Simons
Menno Simons on … justification by faith by Menno Simons
Positive Thinking Church Files Bankruptcy
“Crystal Cathedral Ministries, an Orange County landmark and megachurch founded by television evangelist Robert H. Schuller, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday morning. The cathedral owes about about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors. The bankruptcy filing seeks court protection from its creditors.” Crystal Cathedral Megachurch Files for Bankruptcy by MSNBC
How to Fight Fear by Believing God’s Promises
“When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, ‘I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you’ (Psalm 32:8).” How to Battle Anxiety with the Promises of God
Pure Churches Protect Christ’s Reputation
11 reasons why churches should remove non-attending members. What is Gained by Removing Members from Church Rolls? by Doug Richey