Contemporary Issues in the Christological Methods

christology

Millard Erickson emphasizes, in the history of the church, the most heated debate in Christology has been over the person and work of Jesus Christ. Erickson then presents several views pertaining to the “quest of historical Jesus,” and “Christology from above and below” illustrating how, “Some theologians have researched the life of Jesus based on their determination that Christ cannot be both human and God, while others either understood Christ from above, grounded in the church’s proclamation, or from below, basing their view of Christ on historical investigation.”[1] Against this framework of theologies, Erickson contends only, “A perspective utilizing faith to interpret the history of Jesus found through reason, may provide the most adequate Christological methodology.”[2] This is a crucial starting point in the debate, because an understanding of this principle is fundamental for Christians to comprehend. In addition, Christians must also grasp how and why a proper understanding of the person and work of Christ is rooted in the doctrine of humanity and sin.

The search for the historical Jesus attempts to uncover what Christ was actually like, but this liberal theological position attempts to view the Gospels as being unconsciously fabricated and Jesus as being a non-miraculous figure. Adolf von Harnack was a proponent of this view contending, “Jesus’s message was primarily not about Himself, but about the Father and the kingdom. [Harnack believed:] firstly, in the Kingdom of God and its coming; secondly, in God the Father and the infinite value of the human soul; thirdly, in the higher righteousness and the commandment of the love.”[3] The major distinction in this view came from Martin Kähler, who noted that the Jesus of history, the Jesus found in the Gospels had very little influence. Kähler further exhibits how, “[during Jesus’s earthly ministry, He] was able to win only a few disciples, and these to a rather shaky faith. [However,] the Christ of faith has exercised a very significant influence. This is the risen Christ, believed in and preached by the apostles. This historic Christ, rather than the historical Jesus, is the basis of our faith and life today.”[4] The search for the historical Jesus continues to this day, but as Erickson demonstrates, these endeavors have been marred by significant flaws and have been based on anti-supernatural presuppositions and unusual historical assumptions.[5]

As Erickson explains, “Christology from above was the basic strategy and orientation of the earliest centuries of the church… when there was no question as to the historical reliability of the whole of Scripture.”[6] Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and Emil Brunner were proponents of this view characterized by: “the basic understanding of Christ not being historical Jesus, but the kerygma, the church’s proclamation regarding Christ. [Additionally,] there is a marked preference for the writings of Paul and the fourth Gospel over the Synoptic Gospels. [Finally,] faith in Christ is not based on nor legitimized by rational proof.”[7] Erickson illuminates one accepts historical statements by being rationally persuaded, thus accepting proclamation by faith. Erickson then explains how, “Brunner emphasizes the Christ in the flesh, but does not ignore the Christ after the flesh. For although faith never arises out of the observation of facts, but out of the witness of the church and the Word of God, the fact that this Word has come ‘into flesh’ means that faith is in some way connected with observation.”[8] Essentially, this means the picture of Jesus must always be present in both the witness of the church and in Scripture. The major problem with this approach is subjectivity and the sustainability of belief. Erickson then poses a great question to demonstrate the weakness behind this approach: “Is commitment to the kerygmatic Christ based on what really is, or is it an unfounded faith?”[9]

Christology from below or “the new search for the historical Jesus” attempts to discover a Jesus who was a human being and much more, despite previous “Jesusologies,” which found Jesus to be a human being and little more. Wolfhart Pannenberg, in Jesus – God and Man, while noting some benefits to the Christology from above approach, offers three reasons why he could never employ this method: “The task of Christology is to offer rational support for belief in the divinity of Jesus, for this is what is disputed in the world today; Christology from above tends to neglect the significance of the distinctive historical features of Jesus of Nazareth; and Christology from above is possible only from the position of God Himself, and not for us.”[10] Pannenberg further illustrates, “If we rest our faith upon the kerygma alone, and not upon the historical facts of Jesus’s life as well, we may find ourselves believing not in Jesus, but in Luke, Matthew, Paul, or someone else.”[11] Upon this premise, Erickson explains, “If kerygma is solely what one’s faith is put in, the remainder of the New Testament witnesses do not give us unity, but diversity, and on occasion even antithesis, [so] we must penetrate beyond these varied witnesses to discern the one Jesus to whom they all refer.”[12] The major issue with Christology from below has to deal with establishing its historical contentions with objective certainty. Essentially, as Erickson points out, “The real point of Christology from below has been compromised when one begins to appeal to such concepts as the need to naturalize reason.”[13]

A final alternative approach is offered by Erickson, which attempts to unite Christology from above and Christology from below, so as to preserve the best elements of both while minimizing the problems of each. The goal is combine the kerygmatic Christ and the historical Jesus with faith and reason. Erickson’s approach recognizes, “Since the Jesus of history is approached through reason and the kerygmatic Christ is seized by faith, we are apparently dealing with a case of the classic faith-reason dichotomy. Whereas in the traditional form, faith and philosophical reason are involved, here it is faith and historical reason.”[14] This alternative model is not Christology from below, which ignores kerygma. Nor is it Christology from above, which fails to recognize the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, Erickson presents a model that displays the historical Jesus being the confirmation of the Christ of faith. This model allows, “Neither the Jesus of history alone, nor the Christ of faith alone, but the kerygmatic Christ as the key that unlocks the historical Jesus, and the facts of Jesus’s life as support for the message that He is the Son of God. [Thus,] faith in the Christ will lead us to an understanding of the Jesus of history.”[15] Erickson’s model addresses the weaknesses of the other model and synthesizes each of the model’s strengths to present this alternative approach, which passes all tests of logic and reason.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brunner, Emil. The Mediator. London, UK: Lutterworth, 1934.

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Kähler, Martin. The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Publishing, 1962.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Jesus – God and Man. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1968.

von Harnack, Adolf. What is Christianity? New York, NY: Harper & Bros., 1957.

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 603.

[2] Erickson, Christian Theology, 603.

[3] Adolf von Harnack, What is Christianity? (New York, NY: Harper & Bros., 1957), 33.

[4] Martin Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Publishing, 1962), 65-66.

[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 616.

[6] Ibid., 608.

[7] Emil Brunner, The Mediator (London, UK: Lutterworth, 1934), 158 & 172.

[8] Erickson, Christian Theology, 609.

[9] Ibid., 612.

[10] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1968), 35.

[11] Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man, 25.

[12] Erickson, Christian Theology, 610.

[13] Ibid., 613.

[14] Ibid., 613.

[15] Erickson, Christian Theology, 615.

Advertisement

Doctrine of Sin: Where Did it Come From & Why Does it Exist?

what-is-sin

Sin, in its very essence, is contradictory to the nature of God, creating separation in the intimacy between God and man; however, it is allowed and even used by God in the provision of man’s free will, but is ultimately conquered by God’s grace, in the ultimate redemptive plan, through Jesus Christ. However, several questions still remain: “Why did God allow sin to enter the world,” and “why does He continue to allow it, especially considering, ‘The wages of sin is death’” (Romans 6:23). The problem or doctrine of sin continues to be a highly debated topic amongst scholars, because to fully understand the grace of God; one must first comprehend the depth of despair rooted in sin and its origin. Furthermore, one must also comprehend the nature of God, in order to offer a proper apologetic response to theological questions like: “If God made everything in creation good, how did evil and sin enter the world? If God is good, why does He allow evil and sin to exist? Why, if humans are created in the image of God, is there an inherent propensity to sin? And what purpose could evil and sin serve in accomplishing the will of God?” Ultimately, the sovereignty of God is on trial when people question the mystery of how and why evil and sin entered the world, so one must know sin’s origin and purpose to defend the faith. The thesis of this paper will show God allows sin in order to establish the freedom of mankind to freely choose Him.

By examining the introduction of sin into the world, it will be established sin was first found in Satan because of his desire to seek something contrary to what God intended. While God is sovereign in and over all things, He did not create sin, so it will then be revealed how evil originated in the created and not the Creator. The rejection of God’s will leads to spiritual death and this was played out in the lives of Adam and Eve, leading to the fall of mankind and all future generations. Working from the Old Testament to the New Testament, it will be displayed, God was not surprised or caught off guard by anything that has happened or will happen. In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were continually offered at the Temple. These sacrifices showed the Israelites the seriousness of sin because: “Blood had to be shed before sins could be pardoned” (Leviticus 17:11). But the blood of animals could not fully remove sins (Hebrews 10:4). The sacrifices could only point to Jesus’ future sacrifice, which paid the final penalty for all sins. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, asserts the law failed only because “It was weakened by the flesh.” Douglas Moo illustrates, “In light of this criticism of the law in Romans, and the focus on liberation from sin and death in, ‘what the law could not do’ is not to condemn sin, but to break sin’s power—or, to put it positively, to secure eschatological life. It is God Himself who has done what the Law could not do, and He has done it through the sending of His own Son.”[1] When sin corrupted the world, God first provided the law as a means for sinners to know just how sinful they were and how far they had deviated from God’s standards. Before the law was given, sin existed (Romans 5:13). However, after the law was given, sin could be quantified and each act and could then be identified as an offense of a specific commandment found within law.

In the New Testament, God then provides a way for mankind to restore communion with the Father, which came through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, sin stands in the way of God’s best, and modern-day culture has become numb to its very presence, leading many to just do what feels good. However, the ripple effect of “original sin” still carries immense consequences. Lastly, it will be shown how Satan uses sin to isolate and condemn people, while God uses it to redeem and make His children whole. Sin has corrupted the world; so only by understanding how to counter Satan’s strategy will followers of Christ be able to use what the enemy meant for harm, for ultimate good (Genesis 50:15-21).

ORIGIN OF SIN

When most people think of sin’s origin, Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is often what is stated. However, while this was mankind’s first sin, it was actually Satan’s prideful fall from grace, which would set events in motion, ultimately leading to Adam and Even’s banishment from Eden and mankind’s separation from God. When the serpent in the garden tempted Eve, this created a death sentence for all future generations, because God had previously told both Adam and Eve, “For when you eat from it, you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). Millard Erickson explains, “One of sin’s obvious results is death and this death we have deserved has several different aspects: physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death.”[2] Paul, in Romans 5:12 says; “Yet while death entered the world through Adam’s sin, it spread to all humans because all sinned.” Here, Paul is alluding to physical death, while spiritual death relates to the separation created between God and man. Because sin is contrary to the very nature of God, it acts as a barrier and condemns man to face both condemnation and judgment. Erickson, then further illustrates the final component in death: “Eternal death is the extension and finalization of spiritual death. If one comes to physical death still spiritually dead, separated from God, that condition becomes permanent. As eternal life is both qualitatively different from our present life and unending, so eternal death is separation from God that is both qualitatively different from physical death and everlasting in context.”[3]

Pride was the root of Satan’s sin and he would be consumed by it, causing him to desire both God’s authority and dominion. Satan no longer wanted to serve and worship; he wanted to be worshipped like God. These same desires and schemes can be seen played out in Satan’s attempt to have Eve first question God’s command and then make her think by eating the fruit she would be like God. While the serpent deceived Eve, Adam made a choice, which led to mankind’s curse, estrangement from God, guilt, and shame (Genesis 3:1-7, 12-13). Because of the fall, John Frame explains sin is not only a disruption in the personal relationship with God, but that it is also disruptive in authority. “In God’s order, He is the ultimate authority. Adam is a subordinate authority, to whom Eve is to be submissive (Ephesians 5:22). Together, Adam and Eve are to have dominion over all the animals, but in the story of the fall, the woman submits to an animal, the man submits to his wife, and both claim to be judges of God’s behavior.”[4] Anything God stands for or has created, Satan attempts to pervert, counterfeit, or destroy. While the Bible does not fully explain the fall of Satan and his angels, both Isaiah 14:3-21 and Ezekiel 28:2-19 contrast the defeat and fall of the kings of Babylon and Tyre. The imagery used in both passages portrays the ramifications of pride. In Isaiah, John Oswalt illustrates how pride was:

Seen in the fact that it would prefer the world to be a desert in its own hands than a garden in the hands of someone else. In fact, the capacity to destroy and oppress becomes a source of pride. This is perversion at its plainest. But again the poet has turned the boast back upon the boaster. He who had exiled hundreds of thousands from their homes and would not let them return now is himself homeless, and in a much more profound sense. This man is a spiritual exile. His pride has driven him from the home, which the Father has given in trust to all his children. Because pride denies God it must deny us what God has given, ultimately life itself.[5]

The passage in Ezekiel similarly depicts the king proclaiming himself to be divine in nature, authority, and intelligence. As a result of these proclamations, Daniel Block shows:

The assault on the prince involves three actions, which, while directed at a human monarch, reflect the treatment that images of a deity in the temple would receive from an attacking army. If the king of Tyre would claim the status of a god, then let him put up with the treatment of a god at the hands of invaders. First, the nations will attack the source of the prince’s pride, the symbols of his wealth and glory. Second, the invaders will desecrate and profane the prince’s radiant splendor. Third, the strangers will send the prince down to the Pit and the prince will exchange his falsely secure position “in the heart of the seas” for the world of the dead. The one who dares to claim the status of deity and demands to live among the gods must join the dead in Sheol. For this man the way up led down.[6]

Some scholars have viewed this text as being related with the fall of humanity, while others have chosen to interpret the text strictly as being mythological, due to Mesopotamian influences in the text. Block maintains the imagery of these oracles point to Eden, the Garden of God and, “Like the king of Tyre, the first man (1) was created by God, (2) was divinely authorized to rule over the garden as king, (3) not being satisfied with the status sought or claimed divinity, and (4) was punished for this hubris by humiliation and death.”[7] William Harrison believes, while this passage may be addressed to the king of Tyre, it in no way describes any human king, or other man. Instead, Harrison asserts, “The great angel was originally the sum of wisdom and perfect in all his ways until he sinned. This sin resulted from the fact that his mind was set on his own beauty rather than on the glory of the Creator. The ensuing pride led him to determine to follow his own will rather than submit to God.”[8] Oliver Crisp further explains, “There is no single, agreed-upon definition of original sin in the Christian tradition – no hamartiological analogue to the person of Christ given in the canons of the Council of Chalcedon. Instead, there are various versions of doctrine that attend to a common set of theological themes, which differ about dogmatic shape of original sin.”[9]

NATURE OF SIN

Sin is caused by ignorance, error, inattention, and pride. It is then characterized by missing the mark, irreligion, transgression, rebellion, treachery, perversion, abomination, and lack of integrity.[10] These causes and characteristics of sin have detrimental results and consequences, which lead to guilt, wickedness, and evil. In Psalm 51, David becomes convicted of his sin with Bathsheba after his confrontation with the prophet Nathan making both this confession of sin and pleading for forgiveness a prime example of what all sinners should do. In v. 2, David laments, “Cleanse me from my sin.” David uses several different forms for the word sin and here חַטָּאת or ḥaṭṭāʾt is used, which literally means missing the mark deliberately and purposefully disobeying God’s Word. In v. 3, David calls upon the Lord to blot out his transgressions, wickedness and rebellion. Here, David uses ‏פֶּשַׁע or pešaʿ, which essentially means forgiveness for knowing what God’s Words says, but choosing to revolt or rebel against His commands. In v. 9, David asks God to, “Blot out all my iniquities.” In this verse, David chooses the word עָוֹן‎ or ʿāwon to signify the crooked thinking and living that results when one acts against God’s Word. In each of these examples, David assumes responsibility for his sins and he knew that only repentance and forgiveness would cleanse his perverted inner state.[11]

A similar model can be found in Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter five. In v. 12, Paul is dealing with the topic of sin coming into the world through one man: Adam, but through the obedience and sacrifice of Christ, all believers might know the righteousness of God. Paul uses the word hamartia or ἁμαρτία, which is synonymous with the Old Testament חַטָּאת or ḥaṭṭāʾt, meaning a purposeful missing of the mark and of God’s standards, His holiness, and His Word. In v. 14, parabaseōs or παράβασις is used to describe sinning as going beyond or over and disregarding or overstepping God’s Word. As humans, it is part of one’s fallen nature to test limits and boundaries of what is acceptable and allowed, but here the sin is to put one’s foot over the line to test what the consequences are and this is exactly what Adam and Eve did. In v. 19, parakoēs or παρακοή is used to define disobedience or the willful choice not to hear. Selective listening never fares well, especially when people hear what he or she wants to hear. In vv. 15, 17, and 18 paraptōma or παράπτωμα is used to describe the offense or trespass. Another deviation of this word means falling sideways or false stepping, which means instead of doing what is necessary or right, one chooses to go around. In this particular passage, Paul is addressing not only the problem of sin, but also the issue of continuing to sin. Before Paul could teach about the new life believers had in Christ, his listeners had to know the definition of sin.[12]

L. Thomas then demonstrates, “The biblical understanding of sin is not only an act of wrongdoing, but a state of alienation from God. [While] the origin of sin is indeed a mystery and is tied in with the problem of evil; the sin is personal and social, individual and collective. The effects of sin are also moral and spiritual bondage, guilt, death, and hell.”[13] The Bible has multiple words relative to sin, all of which convey its causes, its nature, and its consequences. As Robert Eagan illustrates, “Sin – that is, alienation from self-transcendence due to failure to be attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible – results in faulty apprehensions of value, and subsequent false judgments of value, and ultimately in poor decisions and wrong actions. This notion of sin takes into account the role of feelings in the apprehension and judgment of value.”[14] Crisp asserts, “Original sin is a real moral corruption or deformity of soul that affects all human beings with the exception of Christ.”[15] This view is rooted in the bedrock of Anglicanism, and Article 9, which states, “Original Sin is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit and in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”[16]

PURPOSE OF SIN

Temptation exists when something or someone attempts to influence another person to sin. Jesus Himself was tempted, so the act of being tempted is not sin, but acting on those thoughts is. God does not tempt His children, (James 1:13-15) but Satan does. In an attempt to corrupt the world, Satan wants everyone to live in total depravity, but as Frame demonstrates, “The corruption of sin remains until death, but it grows weaker and weaker, through the continual strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ. Scripture promises victory in Jesus, so the final word about the believer is not corruption, but overcoming. Paul said, ‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace’” (Romans 6:14).[17]

The doctrine of sin reveals man’s fallen nature and often can be difficult to identify. Frame shows, “Many people are unable to grasp the concept of sin as a inner force, an inherent condition, a controlling power. People today think more in terms of sins as wrongful acts. Sins are something external and concrete, logically separable from the person. On this basis, one who has not done anything wrong [generally conceived of as an external act] is considered good.”[18] In today’s society, sins are often ranked by a variety of manmade circumstances. In the judicial system, there are felonies and misdemeanors and each crime will carry with it a sentence or judgment. In a like manner, Christians often do the same thing with sin, but in God’s eyes all sin is still sin. While there can be some argument that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was considered an unpardonable sin, a proper understanding of the historical context and environment Jesus was speaking in reveals His authority came from the Spirit of the Father.

Joseph Haven provides two logically possible suppositions on the existence of sin in the world: “(1) That God cannot entirely prevent sin and (2) That for some reason, He does not choose to prevent it. Each of these propositions supposes what the other denies; and, as such, by the laws of contradiction, and of excluded middle, while they cannot both be true, one or the other must be true.”[19] It is the view of this writer that God chooses not to prevent sin based on four principles highlighted by Haven: (1) Because its existence is in itself desirable; (2) because, though not in itself desirable, it is still the necessary means of the greatest good; (3) because, thought not in itself tending to good, it may be overruled to that result; or (4) because, in general terms, its permission will involve less evil that its absolute prevention. The most valid response is the permission of sin serves the greater good and that God allow its presence, under specific restrictions. Haven then asserts, “It is not sin, but the purpose on the part of God not to do more than He is doing to prevent sin, that is for the best. [This view] puts the existence of sin, not in the light of a greater good, but only of a lesser evil.”[20] Harrison further demonstrates how, “The consequences of sin are so terrible that in permitting it the righteous and just God must see it as essential to the achievement of a purpose who benefits are of supreme importance to Himself.”[21] Upon this premise, Harrison claims sin entered the creation for three primary reasons: (1) God desired His creature to know Him and receive His blessings; (2) The freedom to choose exercised without any influence by God was the direct cause of sin; and (3) Sin and all of its consequences were necessary to show His love and holiness, and the inability of man and angel apart from God, not only to be redeemed, but so every creature would understand.[22]

EFFECTS OF SIN

Sin always leads to more sin, and ultimately suffering, but even in this state, God uses suffering, according to His good purposes to: transform and to save the sinner. Kenneth Himma, when dealing with the continuing-sin response, illustrates this premise claiming, “There is no wrong any person can do in this life that merits an infinite punishment and hence that punishment would be disproportionate to his or her worldly wrongdoing.”[23] [24] King David and his sin with Bathsheba is a prime example (Psalm 51 & 2 Samuel 11). To cover up the sin of adultery, David ultimately ends up committing murder by sending Uriah to the front lines to die at the hands of his enemies in battle. Himma then explains, “The most likely response by traditionalists is to deny that punishment in hell is disproportionate to the sum of one’s worldly sins and to embrace some form of the controversial thesis that sin against an infinite being is infinite.”[25] Mattias Gockel illustrates four claims which shows evil and suffering to be essentially two sides to the same coin: “(1) Evil is defined by events in which someone experiences ills, not by an act of the will or an evil intention; (2) One must distinguish carefully between suffering and various forms of evil; (3) Suffering is not always and in every case evil; and (4) From a Christian perspective, evil is something God has overcome through good.”[26] According to Friedrich Schleiermacher, “The existence of sin with and besides grace is ordered for us by God, since a consciousness of sin continues to exist besides a consciousness of grace.”[27] However, due to the consequences of sin and the effects of the fall, guilt, punishment, and corruption are the results. Erickson adds, “The impact of sin has several dimensions. There are effects on the sinner’s relationships with God and fellow humans, as well as oneself.”[28] Sins against God lead to guilt, punishment, and death; sins against oneself cause denial, strongholds, enslavement, and selfishness; and sins against community cause rejection, isolation, and inability to care about the needs of others. Octavio Esqueda demonstrates how, “Sin permeates our entire being and alienates us from ourselves, other people, our world, and most importantly from our Creator.”[29] The more people look to the world for answers; Esqueda explains the more culture continues to play a dominant role in determining what is right and wrong. Esqueda then explains sin’s primary role is to diminish God’s plan for His creation, leading to lives being corrupted, isolated, and prideful. These traits are detrimental because each is contrary to God’s nature. Esqueda explains because, “We are communal beings as our triune God is, our sinful pride makes us focus only on our self-interest and [this causes one to] neglect God and others. The more we pursue our own happiness by our own efforts and for our own benefits, the more lonely and isolated we become. This is the fallacy of sin!”[30]

Everyone is born into the world as sinners because of Adam’s sin. David Wilcox explains, “Adam’s sin is and was therefore indeed our sin – for Adam’s sin is embedded in those who make us human, and they can only make us after their image. Adam’s rebellion has come down to us generation after generation – culturally transmitted, and neurologically inevitable.”[31] Ian Boyd, when dealing with the issue of self-destroying sin, demonstrates how the problem of sin and evil is often contested when it affects the unwilling suffering of innocents. Boyd explains, “The problem of self-destroying sin can lead a Christian to doubt God’s power or God’s goodness toward the one who sins self-destructively. God appears to betray and be unable to save and redeem, which calls Christianity itself into question because of the central promise of redemption from sin.”[32] Despite this view, the justice and love of God work in conformity.

DEFEAT OF SIN

The law was ultimately incapable of providing life to those who adhered to it, as Dirk Venter explains, “All sin was collectively condemned by God in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and He bore that condemnation out in the destruction of His flesh. Those who partake of this reality through their participation or inclusion ‘in Christ’ by faith can boldly proclaim with Paul that ‘there is now no condemnation for me’” (Romans 8:1).[33] Thomas further explains the mission of Christ and how, “Christian faith teaches that sin cannot be overcome through human ingenuity or effort. The solution to the problem lies in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The penalty for sin is death, judgment, and hell, but the gospel is that God has chosen to pay this penalty Himself in the sacrificial life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ.”[34] The vicarious atonement Christ provided at Calvary made a way not only to restore fellowship with the Father, but also to provide payment in full for all past, present, and future sin. Only an infinite God could cover the multitude of sin found within mankind’s fallen nature.

In 1 Corinthians 15:55-56, Paul wrote, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Here, Gordon Fee shows, “The law not only makes sin observable as sin, but also, and more significantly, shows that one’s actions are finally over against God, and thus leads to condemnation. The law, which is good, functions as the agent of sin because it either leads to pride of achievement, or reveals the depth of one’s depravity and rebellion against God, becoming either death-dealing or life-giving.”[35] Ultimately, Jesus conquered and defeated sin, through his death, burial, and resurrection. The fashion in which He did it bears mention. 1 Peter 2:24 declares, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” Peter Davids illustrates, “Because of its use in Deuteronomy 21:22, the idea that the one so hung was cursed by God cannot be far from the author’s mind, but without explicitly mentioning this he points out that this death was vicarious, for it was “our sins” that he bore.”[36] This curse is reminiscent of the curse that fell upon mankind as the result of “original sin” in the Garden of Eden. In 1 John 2:2, Jesus is referred to as, “The atoning sacrifice or the propitiation for our sins.” These two translations represent an atonement made for sin and a sacrifice made to God. Howard Marshall explains Jesus was acting as our advocate before God, and, “Jesus is pleading the case of guilty sinners before a judge who is being petitioned to pardon their acknowledged guilt. He is not being asked to declare them innocent, i.e. to say that there is no evidence that they have sinned, but rather to grant them pardon for their acknowledged sins.”[37]

CONCLUSION

The existence of sin and the mystery of why a good God would allow its presence in a creation in which He declared as being good is a direct result of mankind’s free will. While sin did not originate with man, its effects and curse are still felt throughout time. As a result of the fall, sin has plagued humanity, leaving many to question God’s motives. While the problem of evil is a moral problem,[38] the problem of sin is the process of death at work in the lives of God’s children. C. S. Lewis suggests, God in His omniscience “Saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out… a deeper happiness and a fuller splendor than any world of automata would admit.”[39] Norman Geisler advances this theory by suggesting, “The ultimate goal of a perfect world with free creatures will have been achieved, but the way to get there requires that those who abuse their freedom be cast out.”[40] Lewis then adds, “The freedom of a creature must mean freedom to choose: and choice implies the existence of things to choose between.”[41] While free will makes it possible to choose wrong, Geisler emphasizes, “Forced love is rape; and God is not a divine rapist.”[42] God desires everyone to be saved, but He will never do anything to coerce one’s decision. Lewis put it best, “The door of hell is locked on the inside. [All who go there choose to] because there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”[43] When Christ died for all of humanity’s sins, Ravi Zacharias articulates how, “God’s justice demands that sin be punished, but His love compels Him to save sinners, [so] surely justice and mercy kissed on the cross at Calvary.”[44]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Boyd, Ian T. E. “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 487-507. (accessed May 10, 2017).

Block, Daniel I. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Crisp, Oliver D. “On Original Sin.” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 252–266. doi: 10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Davids, Peter H. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.

Durden, John. “The Doctrine of Sin.” Filmed [2015], Liberty University Website, THEO 525, Course Content, Week Seven Video Presentation. 12:48. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_351169_1&content_id=_16910176_1 (accessed May 11, 2017).

Egan, Robert. “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin.” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi: 10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Esqueda, Octavio Javier. “Sin and Christian Teaching.” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164-176. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. The Problem of Evil, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1995.

Gockel, Matthias. “‘Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97-105. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017).

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Harrison, William K. (William Kelly). “Origin of Sin.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 58-61. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017).

Haven, Joseph. “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose.” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 445-488. (accessed May 10, 2017).

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell.” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 61-78. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008447 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Lewis, C. S. The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics: The Problem of Pain. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.

Marshall, I. Howard. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978.

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Oswalt, John N. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. Der christliche Glaube, nach den Grundsätzen der Evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt. Zweite Auflage 1830/31 (Kritische Gesamtausgabe 1/13), ed. Rolf Schäfer (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2003), vol. 1     (§ 80).

The Church of England Website, “Article IX Of Original or Birth-sin.” https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/book-of-common-prayer/articles-of-religion.aspx#IX (accessed May 11, 2017).

Venter, Dirk J. “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh.” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA406163579&asid=6a1e0a7a5321bc7b9c4c11a1a02b29d6 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Wilcox, David L. “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA486164679&sid=summon&asid=e80c6aa2b9a2eae051ab74327ee96e56 (accessed May 10, 2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Douglas J. Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 477-478.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 557.

[3] Ibid., 560.

[4] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 852.

[5] John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 323.

[6] Daniel I. Block, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 98.

[7] Block, TNICOT, The Book of Ezekiel, 117.

[8] William K. Harrison, “Origin of Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 60. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017).

[9] Oliver D. Crisp, “On Original Sin,” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 256. doi: 10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[10] Erickson, Christian Theology, 517-529.

[11] John Durden, “The Doctrine of Sin,” Filmed [2015], Liberty University Website, THEO 525, Course Content, Week Seven Video Presentation, 12:48. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_351169_1&content_id=_16910176_1 (accessed May 11, 2017).

[12] Durden, “The Doctrine of Sin.”

[13] R. L. Thomas, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 1103-1104.

[14] Robert Egan, “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin,” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi: 10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[15] Crisp, “On Original Sin,” 258.

[16] The Church of England Website, “Article IX Of Original or Birth-sin,” https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/book-of-common-prayer/articles-of-religion.aspx#IX (accessed May 11, 2017).

[17] Frame, Systematic Theology, 870.

[18] Erickson, Christian Theology, 516.

[19] Joseph Haven, “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose,” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 472. (accessed May 10, 2017).

[20] Haven, “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose,” 481 & 483.

[21] Harrison, “Origin of Sin,” 60.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Kenneth Einar Himma, “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell,” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 69. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008447 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[24] See also William Wainwright, “Original Sin,” in Thomas V. Morris (ed.) Philosophy and the Christian Faith (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 34-35.

[25] Himma, “Eternally Incorrigible,” 77.

[26] Mattias Gockel, “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017)

[27] Friedrich Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube, nach den Grundsätzen der Evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt. Zweite Auflage 1830/31 (Kritische Gesamtausgabe 1/13), ed. Rolf Schäfer (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2003), vol. 1, p. 488 (§ 80).

[28] Erickson, Christian Theology, 548.

[29] Octavio Javier Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[30] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 166.

[31] David L. Wilcox, “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA486164679&sid=summon&asid=e80c6aa2b9a2eae051ab74327ee96e56 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[32] Ian T. E. Boyd, “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes,” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 489. (accessed May 10, 2017).

[33] Dirk J. Venter, “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh,” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA406163579&asid=6a1e0a7a5321bc7b9c4c11a1a02b29d6 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[34] Thomas, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1106.

[35] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 806.

[36] Peter H. Davids, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 112.

[37] I. Howard Marshall, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 118.

[38] Toby Betenson, “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed May 10, 2017).

[39] C. S. Lewis, The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics: The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), 561.

[40] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1995), 73.

[41] Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 562.

[42] Geisler and Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, 73.

[43] Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 120.

[44] Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 31.

 

Charles Spurgeon’s Ministry and Role in the “Down Grade” Controversy

Charles Spurgeon

Throughout the history of the church, God has called and equipped individuals to stand opposed to apostasy and indifference, which attempts to cause moral and doctrinal decay. During the late nineteenth century, such an occasion arose as many so-called English Baptist pastors became so infatuated with worldly pursuits that many churches stopped engaging in prayer meetings and some even went as far as hosting dramas in the house of God. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the man God called and equipped to shine the light of truth on the moral and doctrinal decay of the nineteenth century, which sought not only to “downgrade” the Baptist denomination, but also the life-saving gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon was a man of humble beginnings, but someone who the Lord used greatly to preserve and spread the Word of God. This paradigm is seen throughout Scripture, which always leads one to the conclusion that it could only have been God working through the individual to accomplish what had been done. By looking back to Spurgeon’s upbringing, influences, and calling to ministry, the aim of this paper will detail how Spurgeon developed his faith, which led to his strong convictions and captivating preaching style. In addition to the many contributions Spurgeon made to Baptists, this paper will also look at the climate of Darwinism and Liberalism and how these theories and philosophies impacted the church. Lastly, this paper will highlight the long-lasting impacts of the “Down Grade” controversy and the legacy Spurgeon has left behind. The commitment, exhibited by Spurgeon, to moral and doctrinal purity is just as relevant to the church today as it was during the nineteenth century. Just as there was a multiplicity of factors attempting to oppose or water down the message of the gospel, the climate of the present-day church is much the same, if not worse. It will take men and women with the zeal and commitment of Spurgeon to combat these forces, in an effort, to transform the world, instead of being conformed by it. There are some hills worth dying on and for Spurgeon this was evident in everything he practiced, preached, and his resolve in the “Down Grade” controversy.

HIS CALLING

Born into an Anglican household in Kelvedon, Essex, in 1834, Spurgeon would experience a life-changing conversion at a young age. God would use general revelation, in the form of a snowstorm to force Spurgeon to take shelter in Newtown, Colchester and it would be in a Methodist chapel that God illuminated the special revelation of His word, thus opening Spurgeon’s heart to the life-saving message of salvation. John Pitt further enlightens how, “Spurgeon’s conversion was as dramatic as any found in the history of Christian centuries and was entirely true to the evangelical tradition. Although only sixteen when the great transaction took place, young Spurgeon was under very deep conviction of sin – much like John Bunyan’s conversion experience, it was an emotional crisis of the most severe kind.”[1] Spurgeon believed salvation required a radical change and, “This change is a thorough and sweeping one, and operates upon the heart, and life of the convert… [And] the Bible is meant for mankind, and our text refers to any man, of any country, and any age.”[2] An early Scripture which captivated Spurgeon was Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Spurgeon and John Oswalt reveal how this passage illustrates, “There is a call to experience the same salvation that the Israelites have experienced. To be sure, that experience is predicated on a turning around and looking to the Lord in trust.”[3] As a show of trust in God’s plan, Spurgeon moved to Cambridge, England where he engaged in teaching Sunday school. Not knowing what the future held for Spurgeon, his first sermon actually occurred by filling in for a friend and it was given in a small cottage in Teversham. Shortly after, Spurgeon would become the pastor of a small Baptist church in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, which is where his first published gospel tract was produced in 1853. Early in his ministry, his preaching style and ability stood him apart from his contemporaries and by the age of nineteen, Spurgeon would become the pastor of London’s largest Baptist congregation, the New Park Street Chapel. Over the course of his life, it is estimated Spurgeon preached close to four thousand sermons and has close to fifty published works ranging from commentaries to sermons and devotionals. Spurgeon’s style of preaching attracted crowds of up to ten thousand people at the young age of twenty-two. Each week, he would write out his sermons and at the pulpit he would simply use an outline of the message, while stenographers transcribed the sermon, which would later be sold for a penny. To this day, these publications remain one of the most widely circulated and best selling publications.

CONTRIBUTION TO BAPTISTS

Spurgeon practiced what he preached and he taught believers how to find instruction everywhere and even how to gather lessons from unpleasant circumstances. Spurgeon illustrates, “Many are stung by nettles, but few are taught by them. Some men are hurt by briers, but Solomon was improved by them, so do not begin stinging yourself with nettles, grip them firmly, and then use them for your soul’s health. Trials and troubles, worries and turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if you will look upon them and receive instruction.”[4] During his ministry, Spurgeon came under fire when he challenged the Church of England on the matter of baptismal regeneration, but due to his resolve, he never backed down. Craig Skinner reveals, “Theologically, Spurgeon’s greatest facility was his ability to declare the paradox of God’s will working in conjunction with man’s… reaching into heights and depths of argument and illustration well beyond many of his contemporaries.”[5] He had an overly compassionate heart and believed firmly in the missional responsibility of the local church and Spurgeon was very good friends with James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. He was also very active in opposing slavery, which was a major issue facing America, which ultimately caused him to lose the support of the Southern Baptist Convention. Spurgeon believed:

Not so very long ago our nation tolerated slavery in our colonies. Philanthropists endeavored to destroy slavery; bat when was it utterly abolished? It was when Wilberforce roused the church of God, and when the church of God addressed herself to the conflict, then she tore the evil thing to pieces. I have been amused with what Wilberforce said the day after they passed the Act of Emancipation. He merrily said to a friend when it was all done, ‘Is there not something else we can abolish?’ That was said playfully, but it shows the spirit of the church of God. She lives in conflict and victory; her mission is to destroy everything that is bad in the land.[6]

Just because something was popular or just because the majority was of the opinion the action was justified did not mean it was so in God’s eye and the debate over slavery was such an instance. Gregory Wills illuminates how Spurgeon’s ecclesiology rested squarely on the experience of regeneration. Wills explains, “[Spurgeon’s] commitment to the centrality of regeneration (new birth) shaped his ecclesiology from local polity to evangelical union. [Additionally,] Spurgeon’s church polity included three commitments: regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism, and congregational church polity.”[7] These three pillars of the church were fundamental in Spurgeon’s organizational methods and he believed each of these was revealed in Scripture. Regeneration was where Spurgeon’s Baptist identity grew out from, but because of his stand for orthodoxy, he would eventually withdraw from the Baptist Union in 1887. This was in part due to the Baptist Union allowing modernist ministers in its membership, which Spurgeon believed weakened regeneration. Wills further demonstrates, “As modernism grew more popular, American Baptists based their ecclesiology increasingly on evangelical essentials, [so] when Spurgeon withdrew, the hailed him as a great Baptist Champion.”[8]

Spurgeon believed Christ established the church according to a pattern, which made the polity of the church a matter of revelation and not one of expediency. This led to a Tabernacle process, which examined the life, character, and testimony of applicants before membership was granted. Spurgeon also held to the notion that Christ required congregational church government or independency. This would allow a certain level of autonomy, thus allowing churches the capability of exercising all the functions of a church of Christ. Spurgeon also believed each church should be able to appoint a minister instead of the common ordination process. He also believed in the distinction between elders and deacons of the church. Elders, he believed, should counsel others and help those searching for the way to salvation and also care for the sick and needy. Deacons, then, should be responsible for the finances, logistics of the service, and the maintaining of church discipline. Pitts adds, “Spurgeon’s ministry was Christo-centric, [because] for him, every road led to Christ. However he dealt with a text – and he was a master of the art of homiletics – it was always full of the gospel; and no sermon ended without bringing the hearers face-to-face with the claims and challenge of the Lord of all Good Life.”[9] Interestingly, Spurgeon would not offer a traditional altar call at the conclusion of his services; instead, he would invite them to come back on Monday to visit him in his office. However, he would invite those down who had already made a commitment to following and serving the Lord.

DOWN GRADE CONTROVERSY

William Estep illuminates how, “Spurgeon lived in an age conditioned by an intellectual and a religious climate quite different from our own.”[10] With his tremendous fame and the high-demand for his sermons, he encountered some harsh criticism, especially in the climate and landscape of Darwinism and Liberalism. Spurgeon saw through the facade and recognized how these theories and philosophies were attempting to weaken the Baptist faith. These were hills worth dying on and Spurgeon believed, “Assuredly the New Theology can do no good towards God or man; it, has no adaption for it. If it were preached for a thousand years by all the most earnest men of the school, it would never renew a soul, nor overcome pride in a single human heart.”[11] Leon McBeth cites the “Down Grade” as being the most serious controversy faced by the English Baptists in the late nineteenth century. McBeth then reveals how, “The controversy broke out in London and swirled around two outstanding Baptist leaders, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Clifford. Historians reckon that the controversy ended with the death of Spurgeon in 1892, but its consequences have still continued.”[12] The controversy led to a split from the Union, resulting in Spurgeon’s church being the largest self-standing church. Against this backdrop, Dennis Swanson explains, “At the height of the Down-Grade Controversy Spurgeon and others created and signed a statement of faith stating the doctrines that distinguished them from those in the Baptist Union who were on the “down grade.” In 1891, The Sword and Trowel published the statement, which dealt with the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.”[13] Swanson then expounds how the “Down Grade” Controversy might have begun with the publication of two articles in Spurgeon’s widely distributed monthly journal, The Sword and Trowel, but were actually the product of Spurgeon’s close friend Robert Shindler. It was in this publication that Spurgeon, “Inserted a footnote on the first page of each of the “Down Grade” articles where he called for ‘earnest attention’ on the part of the readers, with the urgent warning that ‘we are going down hill at break-neck speed.’”[14] The first article addressed the issue of nonconformist churches falling prey to theological error and despite the churches being established as Calvinistic in faith, rarely would any last past two to three generations. Swanson then shows how, “The second article continued the discussion of theological “Down Grade” concentrating on the Baptist churches [pointing out] earlier church leaders, although themselves sound in doctrine, had not been sufficiently bold to confront error.”[15] Spurgeon and Shindler believed, “The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God’s Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching.”[16] On the last point of a departure from Calvinistic doctrine, Shindler and Spurgeon seem more concerned about adhering to core evangelical truths and biblical inspiration than adhering to Calvinism. It also seems clear that Spurgeon had no aim in reopening old wounds over the Calvinist-Arminian debates. In fact, Spurgeon actually wrote, “The present struggle is not a debate upon the question of Calvinism or Arminianism, but of the truth of God versus the inventions of men. All who believe the gospel should unite against that ‘modern thought’ which is its deadly enemy.”[17] During the entire controversy, Spurgeon is consistently seen striving for unity, but not at the expense of compromising the gospel message or core doctrinal beliefs. Even when he withdrew from the Union, it was done in an endeavor to maintain unity. The Union did not feel the same and issued a vote of censure against Spurgeon as a final blow in the controversy, leading many to revere him as a martyr to the faith.

Throughout the Down Grade controversy, Swanson explains how the charge was made that “Spurgeon was motivated by his desire to force conformity within the Union to his Calvinistic theology.”[18] At this point in the controversy, Spurgeon was surprised by the reaction his articles had received and in many ways by the lack of any reaction. Spurgeon grieved, “A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese.”[19] However, Spurgeon steadfastly refuted this charge, declaring: “Certain antagonists have tried to represent the ‘Down-Grade’ controversy as a revival of the old feud between Calvinists and Arminians. It is nothing of the kind. Many evangelical Arminians are as earnestly on our side as men can be.”[20] Even when other Separatist Baptists tried to convince him to start a new denomination, he declined saying, “There are denominations enough. A new denomination would not be any safer than the old – heretics could enter a new one as well as an old.”[21] Battling the moral and doctrinal decay within the denomination took a toll on Spurgeon, as Estep further explains how, “The Down Grade Controversy took a greater toll on Spurgeon’s life and ministry than any other similar experience, [yet] when the Baptist leaders asked for documentation [proving Spurgeon’s claims,] he promised to protect the anonymity of his informer, Samuel Harris Booth, Secretary of the Union.”[22] Sworn to confidentiality, Spurgeon was a man of his word and never named names. McBeth believes, “Spurgeon’s refusal to name those who had embraced heresy may have grown out of Spurgeon’s belief if he named them, it would have introduced personalities into the discussion. Further, he pointed out that the Baptist Union had no doctrinal standard except a belief in immersion. [Ultimately,] Spurgeon wanted the Union to adopt a doctrinal statement.” This would have ended the controversy, united the Union, and quite possible extended the life of Spurgeon who died in 1892 at the age of fifty-seven.

In the second article, Spurgeon gave specific examples of how tolerance had led to disaster, writing that the, “Tadpole of Darwinism was hatched in a pew of the old chapel in High Street, Shrewsbury, where Charles Darwin had received his religious training and was first introduced to skepticism by a pastor who was enthralled with Socinianism.”[23] Shindler and Spurgeon attributed the common denominator for those caught up in the “Down Grade” being:

The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God’s Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching. ‘To the law and to the testimony,’ is his appeal concerning every doctrine. He esteems that holy Book, concerning all things, to be right, and therefore he hates every false way. But let a man question, or entertain low views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and he is without chart to guide him, and without anchor to hold him.[24]

Swanson explains, “During the years of the Down Grade Controversy, Spurgeon repeatedly warned of six areas of “down grade” in evangelical doctrine:

(1) The denial of the verbal inspiration (that is, the inerrancy) of Scripture. (2) The denial of eternal punishment and the affirmation of universalism. (3) The denial of the Trinity, mainly in terms of the rejection of the personality of the Holy Spirit. (4) The movement toward Socinianism or the denial of the deity of Christ and original sin. (5) The denial of the creation account in Genesis in favor of evolution. (6) The unhealthy influence of higher criticism on biblical scholarship, particularly as it relates to the Old Testament.[25]

Spurgeon then summarized his position on the theological trends of his day, stating:

Look at the church of the present day; the advanced school, I mean. In its midst we see preachers who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. They talk of the Lord Jesus, but deny his Godhead, which is His power; they speak of the Holy Spirit, but deny His personality, wherein lies His very existence. They take away the substance and power from all the doctrines of revelation, though they pretend still to believe them. They talk of redemption, but they deny substitution, which is the essence of it; they extol the Scriptures, but deny their infallibility, wherein lies its value; they use the phrases of orthodoxy, and believe nothing in common with the orthodox.[26]

In the third article, the tone took on a sense of urgency, as Shindler continued firing volleys against those engaged in apostasy and Spurgeon warned how this new religion had turned the church into a playhouse, as many were being used for dramas and entertainment purposes. There was plenty of blame to go around; however, Spurgeon placed it firmly on the preachers and modernists, who he believed were destroying the church. MacArthur explains how the focus of the controversy changes because now Spurgeon was suggesting that true believers might have reason to sever ties with those who were propagating the new theology. “In [Spurgeon’s] estimation, the truth of the Word had been so seriously compromised that true Christians needed to consider the command of 2 Corinthians 6:17: ‘Come out of their midst and be separate; and do not touch what is unclean.’”[27] After this, Spurgeon had become utterly obsessed and consumed by the controversy, leading to a decline in his physical health, which the Union used to attack Spurgeon, claiming his rants were that of a desperate and sick man. These personal attacks only fueled Spurgeon’s tenacity, especially considering, an answer or response to the allegations had still not been given by the Union. Spurgeon, a master of illustrations equated what was going on to, “The house is being robbed, its very walls are being dug down, but the good people who are in bed are too fond of the warmth, and too much afraid of getting broken heads, to go downstairs and meet the burglars; they are even half vexed that a certain noisy fellow will spring his rattle, or cry, ‘Thieves!’”[28] The final compromise would revolve around the Union Council adopting a creed. The once popular “no creed but Christ” was no longer enough because as Spurgeon highlighted, “The objection to a creed is a very pleasant way of concealing objection to discipline, and a desire for latitudinarianism. What is wished for is a Union which will, like Noah’s Ark, afford shelter both for the clean and for the unclean, for creeping things and winged fowls.”[29] However, even when a doctrinal statement was adopted, it was vague and bland, due to last minute modifications. MacArthur further demonstrates how, “Just as Spurgeon had warned all along, nothing was to be gained by compromising with the enemies of the gospel. The Baptist Union’s decline was, if anything, accelerated and those who embraced the ‘New Theology’ were emboldened after the Union Assembly, as they now held the reins of the Union.”[30] The ripple effects of this controversy have lasting impacts to this day.

HIS LEGACY

The prince of preachers has left a rich legacy behind. Spurgeon never sugarcoated any message and he always spoke to the heart of the matter. He wanted his listeners to understand, “There is a disease upon you which has already brought you down to spiritual death, and will bring you down to hell. The most moral of you, the most amiable of you, unless Jesus shall look upon you in love, is carrying about within himself a plague of the heart which will be your eternal ruin; Jesus must save you, or you are lost. Man’s only home is to come from Him.”[31] In many of his sermons, illustrations were used to allow light to shine upon the biblical truth being conveyed. Spurgeon said, “There exists no reason why the preaching of gospel should be a miserable task either to the speaker or the hearer. Pleasantly profitable let all our sermons be. A house must not have thick walls without openings, neither must a discourse be all made up of solid slabs of doctrine without a window of comparison or lattice of poetry.”[32] Out of Spurgeon’s immense devotion to God arose a charitable heart towards social concerns. Rooted in this construct, David Duke demonstrates, “The three pillars of Spurgeon’s social concern rest upon: his call for absolute devotion to God in Christ; his concern for the salvation of individual souls; and his emphasis on Christian character which develops from the new nature found in Christ.”[33] Duke reveals how Spurgeon’s life was lived so deeply in Scripture that, “He could not escape the powerful calls for justice and peace, [and] while his primary concern was for individual souls, his compassion for all souls in every dimension of their lives compelled him to speak fervently for radical changes in the attitudes of his society and Union.”[34] Spurgeon always sought the moral high ground in this fight against modernism, but the Baptist Union would never be the same. Spurgeon’s cost in this fight was great, as his friends turned against him, his health declined, and the church he loved was corrupted. While some questioned Spurgeon’s departure from the Union, MacArthur equates Spurgeon staying in the Union to Abraham staying in Ur, in the hope of converting the entire household out of which he was called. Following Spurgeon’s passing, Shindler brilliantly encapsulates the heart and desire of Spurgeon when he wrote, “May the Lord graciously purge His Church of all false doctrine, all false teachers, and all who are traitors in the camp of Israel! And may the Spirit from on high be poured out upon all flesh, that all the ends of the earth may see, and own, and rejoice in, the salvation of our God!”[35]

CONCLUSION

During the late nineteenth century, as many so-called English Baptist pastors became so infatuated with worldly pursuits that many churches stopped engaging in prayer meetings and some even went as far as hosting dramas in the house of God, Charles Haddon Spurgeon arose as the man of God who was called and equipped to shine the light of truth on the moral and doctrinal decay. The “downgrade” of the Baptist denomination, was a hard fought war, one in which ultimately took years off the life of the protagonist. Spurgeon himself warned everyone, “There is truth and there is error and these are opposite the one to the other. Do not indulge yourselves in the folly with which so many are duped-that truth may be error, and error may be truth, that black is white, and white is black, and that there is a whitey-brown that goes in between, which is, perhaps, the best of the whole lot.”[36] Following Spurgeon’s passing, Estep illuminates how “Thomas Spurgeon was reported to have remarked to a Baptist leader that the Union had killed his father, whereupon, the leader replied, ‘and your father almost killed the Union.’”[37] This controversy serves as a stark reminder that if one fails to stand for doctrinal purity, he or she will fall for anything. In today’s climate, tolerance and compromise have become the weapons being used to downgrade the moral and doctrinal purity of the gospel message.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Crocker, Lionel. “CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON’S THEORY OF PREACHING.” Quarterly Journal Of Speech 25, no. 2 (April 1939): 214. Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Duke, David Nelson. “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: social concern exceeding an individualistic, self-help ideology.” Baptist History And Heritage 22, no. 4 (October 1987): 47-56. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 5, 2017).

Estep, William Roscoe. “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 3-15. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Hixson, Elijah. “NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM IN THE MINISTRY OF CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57, no. 3 (09, 2014): 555-70, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1565535207?accountid=12085. (accessed May 4, 2017).

MacArthur Jr., John F. “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy,” The Spurgeon Archive Website, http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/downgrd.htm#16 (accessed May 5, 2017).

May, Lynn E. “The impact of one life: Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History and Heritage 19 no. 4(1984): 2.

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

Oswalt, John N. Oswalt. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Pitts, John. “Genius of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Theology Today 6, no. 4 (January 1950): 524-530. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Shindler, Robert. From the Usher’s Desk to the Tabernacle Pulpit: The Life and Labors of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. New York, NY: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1892.

Skinner, Craig. “The preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 16-26. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. “A powerful reason for coming to Christ.” Bibliotheca Sacra 99, no. 393 (January 1942): 68-86. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

________. Art of Illustration. Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4,, 2017).

________. Is Conversion Necessary? Pensacola, FL: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d., 1874 eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), (accessed May 4, 2017).

________. Talks To Farmers. Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4, 2017).

 

________. The Best War Cry. March 4, 1883. (accessed May 5, 2017).

________. The “Down Grade” Controversy. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 2009.

________. The “Down Grade” Controversy: Collected Materials Which Reveal the Viewpoint of the Late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

________. The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon: Selected Books, Sermons, and Other Writings, Edited by Daniel Partner. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2009.

________. “The Form of Godliness without the Power,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon in the Year 1889, repr. ed. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1975.

________. “A Fragment on the “Down Grade” Controversy.” The Sword and Trowel 23 (1887): 560-565.

________. “Notes,” The Sword and Trowel (April 1887): 190-196

Swanson, Dennis. “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries: Some Lessons from Spurgeon’s Battle for Evangelical Orthodoxy.” Faith and Mission 20, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 20-33.

_________. “The Millennial Position of Spurgeon.” Master’s Seminary Journal 07, no. 2 (Fall, 1996): 200-211.

Wills, Gregory A. “The ecclesiology of Charles H. Spurgeon: unity, orthodoxy, and denominational identity.” Baptist History and Heritage 34, no. 3 (1999): 67-79. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA94161024&sid=summon&asid=f18c26f68eff860fdfd2b2c98d45a42e (accessed May 5, 2017).

            [1] John Pitts, “Genius of Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” Theology Today 6, no. 4 (January 1950): 524. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[2] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Is Conversion Necessary? (Pensacola, FL: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d. eBook Collection, 1874), 4. EBSCOhost, (accessed May 4, 2017).

[3] John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 223.

[4] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Talks To Farmers (Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013), 5. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4, 2017).

[5] Craig Skinner, “The preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 22. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[6] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Best War Cry, March 4, 1883. (accessed May 5, 2017).

[7] Gregory A Wills, “The ecclesiology of Charles H. Spurgeon: unity, orthodoxy, and denominational identity,” Baptist History and Heritage 34, no. 3 (1999): 67. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA94161024&sid=summon&asid=f18c26f68eff860fdfd2b2c98d45a42e (accessed May 5, 2017).

[8] Wills, “The ecclesiology of Charles H. Spurgeon,” 68-69.

[9] Pitts, “Genius of Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 529.

[10] William Roscoe Estep, “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” Baptist History And Heritage 19, no. 4 (October 1984): 3. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[11] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The “Down Grade” Controversy (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 2009), 2.

[12] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 302.

[13] Dennis Swanson, “The Millennial Position of Spurgeon,” Master’s Seminary Journal 07, no. 2 (Fall 1996): 200.

[14] Dennis Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries: Some Lessons from Spurgeon’s Battle for Evangelical Orthodoxy,” Faith and Mission 20, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 20.

[15] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 22.

[16] Robert Shindler, ‘The Down Grade,” The Sword and Trowel (March 1887): 122.

[17] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Notes,” The Sword and Trowel (April 1887): 196.

[18] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 22.

[19] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The “Down Grade” Controversy: Collected Materials, Which Reveal the Viewpoint of the Late Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 513-514.

[20] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 22.

[21] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “A Fragment on the “Down Grade” Controversy,” The Sword and Trowel 23 (1887): 560.

[22] Estep, “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 13.

[23] Christian George, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon Volume I: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854 (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2017), 332.

[24] John F. MacArthur Jr., “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy,” The Spurgeon Archive Website, http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/downgrd.htm#16 (accessed May 5, 2017).

[25] Swanson, “The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries,” 29.

[26] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Form of Godliness without the Power,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon in the Year 1889, repr. ed. (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1975), 308.

[27] MacArthur Jr., “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy, the final compromise.”

[28] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Our Reply to Sundry Critics and Enquirers,” The Sword and the Trowel (September 1887), 461.

[29] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Baptist Union Censure,” The Sword and the Trowel (Feb. 1888), 83.

[30] MacArthur Jr., “Spurgeon and the Down Grade Controversy, the aftermath.”

[31] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “A powerful reason for coming to Christ,” Bibliotheca Sacra 99, no. 393 (January 1942): 73. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 4, 2017).

[32] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Art of Illustration (Auckland, NZ: The Floating Press, 2013), 7. ProQuest ebrary. (accessed May 4,, 2017).

[33] David Nelson Duke, “Charles Haddon Spurgeon: social concern exceeding an individualistic, self-help ideology.” Baptist History And Heritage 22, no. 4 (October 1987): 47. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 5, 2017).

[34] Duke, “Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 55.

[35] Robert Shindler, From the Usher’s Desk to the Tabernacle Pulpit: The Life and Labors of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (New York, NY: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1892), 274.

[36] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Three Sights Worth Seeing,” in the MTP 1887, 476.

[37] Estep, “The making of a prophet: an introduction to Charles Haddon Spurgeon,” 13.

A Comprehensive Analysis and Plan to Stop Children From Leaving the Faith

Family ministry stick figures

Since the beginning of creation, God instituted the family as the primary place for parents to model, teach, and train children of His love, His nature, and His character. It is in this environment, a child should first experience the love of his or her earthly father, to gain but a glimpse of the Heavenly Father’s love. Unfortunately, due to the fall of man, sin entered into the world and as a result, Satan now wants nothing more than to attack the family because he knows if he can divide the family, the children will become isolated and defenseless. This strategy has proven very effective, spawning an entire generation of spiritual orphans, often referred to as the “fatherless generation,” many of which come from broken homes, facing deep-rooted abandonment issues, so the church is left with the dilemma of not only stopping children from leaving the faith, but also rescuing those who have. In order to reclaim families for God’s kingdom, the church must implement a comprehensive family discipleship strategy, which is rooted in the recovery of a biblical understanding of the pastor’s primary role being equipping the saints to do the ministry and refocuses on training parents to be the primary disciple makers in the home. Only by providing a biblically sound and safe environment, rooted in love, acceptance, and forgiveness will the church will be appropriately positioned to provide discipleship, restoration, and wholeness to this lost generation, which represents a vital component in the future of the church.

CURRENT STATE OF FAMILY DISCIPLESHIP

There is no denying the future of the church will largely depend on the success of family ministry. Roland Martinson offers the best picture of the current state of family discipleship, “Today’s 18- to 30-year-olds grew up in a time in which children were devalued. Forty percent raised themselves and grew up alone and very often they were lost in a complex web of changing human identity, relationships, and lifestyles. Disconnected from the church, this young adult generation’s religious drift is more expansive and has continued longer.”[1] This trend has only continued to get worse as Martinson further explains, “On almost any Sunday, these young adults are absent, invisible in our churches and as their faith experience shifts, more young adults go away and stay away. The chasm between language, symbols, and music of the church and the realities of their world has become great, making them feel like strangers in their churches.”[2] While there are multiple approaches to family ministry and discipleship, Randy Stinson could not be more correct in his assertion that: “Family ministry is necessary and significant because families are under siege, because husbands and fathers have been marginalized, because what we have been doing is ineffective, because the church is a family, and because families are wanting to be led.”[3] God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). Timothy Paul Jones further demonstrates, “When evangelism, worship, and discipleship for children and youth occur in isolation from, and, at times, with disdain for, their counterparts, it is difficult to see how the hearts of parents and children can consistently be turned toward one another.”[4] For many churches, Sunday school and services geared towards children and youth have become more about entertaining the kids and keeping them happy while mom and dad enjoy feel-good services. Churches and pastors are not babysitters and parents, as well as the children should be challenged each service, in the lessons being taught, to live a life pleasing to the Lord and one in which brings honor and glory to His name. For this to happen, families need to remain united in each other’s spiritual growth, because it is impossible to spiritually disciple someone further than the individual himself or herself has personally developed. No longer can parents delegate the spiritual upbringing of his or her children to teachers or pastors. No longer can parents just say, “Because I said so,” or, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

The most important lessons in life are witnessed in the home and it is in this environment and context that children determine what is normal and acceptable in friendships and intimate relationships. For real change to occur, parents must consciously devote time to teach children, and the children must equally be open to instruction and discipleship. Parents must realize before correction can be given, instruction must first be provided and for many parents, this is not a high priority in the scope of parental responsibilities. Many parents feel this way because it was the same dynamic he or she experienced growing up and this cycle has continued to reproduce an entire generation who do not know the first thing about being a parent nor what God has called mothers and fathers to be and do. Thomas Frederick explains how spirituality is an important aspect of being human, but he takes this truth one step further by advocating, “Discipleship is the core of Christian spirituality, and is vital for fostering one’s relationship to the transcendent.”[5] The crisis of faith in the lives of young adults is happening earlier in life and David Wells illustrates how, “The issues of what we know, how we know, whether we can know with any certitude is now being made far more complex by the fact that our cognitive horizons have been unavoidably expanded. Now, our inward crisis is being framed by our globalized consciousness and that puts a slightly different edge on what it means to be postmodern.”[6] In an age where knowledge is relevant and perception is reality, reaching a generation that feels abandoned requires bridging a wide gap of affluence and lifestyles. However, Jesus, the King of kings, regularly did this during His earthly ministry as He dined and met with individuals who society deemed as outcasts. Christians too are called to be Christlike, so just as Christ came to set the captives free, the church must begin looking outside the four walls for areas of ministry in the local community.

Choices have consequences and many people, especially younger ones, learn life-lessons the hard way. Just as parents must devote time to teaching, children must also learn about the effects of sin. Tyndale shows, “Many parents want to make all the choices for their child, but this hurts him or her in the long run. When parents teach a child how to make decisions, they don’t have to watch every step he or she takes. They know their children will remain on the right path because they have made the choice themselves. Train your children to choose the right way.”[7] One of the biggest problems facing many parents today is a desire to be the child’s friend instead of being a parent, because being a parent requires doing things that might upset the child. This mentality is backwards and has caused many children to never be trained properly from a young age, resulting in a life full of bad decisions and regret.

The only way to break this cycle is for parents to take an active role in the discipleship process. Andrew Burggraff defines discipleship as the process of learning the Scripture, internalizing them to shape one’s belief system, and then applying them to change one’s life. Based upon this definition, it should then be the church’s role to be actively involved in training the parents to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Burggraff further explains, “Today, more than ever, it is essential that the church develop curriculum that accurately and systematically teaches believers how to be a true disciple of Christ. Contemporary research has revealed several concerns that the church must acknowledge as it seeks to disciple believers:

There appears to be a decline in biblical literacy among believers today; there appears to be an exodus of believers from evangelical churches today; there appears to be an acceptance of inactivity among current evangelical Christians; and there appears to be a de-emphasis in discipleship training within the church. When taken collectively, these four areas present a dark picture of the current state of discipleship within American evangelical churches[8]

Biblical illiteracy is widespread and a huge dilemma facing the majority of churches. To effectively reproduce mature disciples of Christ, churches must begin to either use or develop curriculum, which will accurately and systematically teach believers how to fulfill his or her God-given purpose. Biblical literacy is the foundation to stopping evangelical Christians from leaving the church or accepting the notion that inactivity is acceptable. These notions can be directly correlated with the de-emphasis in the need for discipleship within the church. The mindset of doing just enough to get to heaven is totally missing the mark, so it is the job of leaders in the church to initiate a paradigm shift in the vision and mission, by casting light and truth on the deceptive lie that doing just enough is good enough for God.

FAMILY-EQUIPPING MINISTRY

Just as there is a time and season for all things, there is also a place. In the case of discipleship, this is the home. Tedd Tripp and Margy Tripp understand the complexity of instructing and shepherding children and have identified the importance of the heart in these roles. Tripp and Tripp explain, “The heart is the seat of motivation, so the when of behavior is the circumstance for the behavior. The what of behavior are things that one does or says and the why of behavior is the motive.”[9] The heart is essentially what makes the person who he or she is and the actions of the heart produce worship and emotions. Tripp and Tripp then illuminate, all children are born to worship; the only question is what he or she will choose to worship: the created things or the Creator?[10] Satan has built his kingdom upon two pillars: ignorance and error, so the job as parents, educators, and leaders of the church is to remove ignorance and to correct error. Tripp and Tripp further clarify, “Our central objective in instruction, discipline, and correction is heart change, not behavior change. This profoundly shapes how we view consequences… Children, then, must understand consequences as God designed them, not as the world teaches them.”[11] With this new mindset established, parents and leaders will begin to treat the problem instead of just the symptoms. By reaching the heart and imparting biblical truth as the foundation in the discipleship process, the first stage in this model will be complete.

Lynn Wray emphasizes, “the most important task the Lord has assigned parents is to make disciples of our children and our own hopes and dreams come second. We do not make them disciples; that is the Lord’s and the Holy Spirit’s job to do the transformative work, but we are tasked with being a strong influence and impacting their lives.”[12] Wray identifies just how critical discipleship is and then demonstrates its ability to happen in formal and informal settings. Wray explains, “Formal times include instances, which are set aside to engage in devotions, family altar, and faith talks.”[13] Wray then explains the importance of these times when children are young because a child’s mind is like a sponge soaking up all the information and influences it is immersed in. Michael Abel’s research shows, “Past involvement in family discussions about religious or spiritual matters significantly increases the likelihood that teenagers will develop strong belief in: praying with family, parental encouragement to participate in a youth group, and church attendance.”[14] Time invested in the spiritual discipleship and equipping of others in the only investment that will pay dividends in heaven, but so many things compete for time, making this sphere of discipleship a major need in most households. Abel also found, “Respondents who reported having witnessed a miracle, receiving an answer to prayer, and having powerful spiritual experiences also displayed greater religious confidence.”[15] As children get older, Wray stresses, “Informal times are crucial because children are being bombarded with social influences and the relationship between parent and child is also strained.”[16] The Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a great example of the discipleship model and is also a great illustration of the immense amount of time involved in forming an intimate relationship with children. Kathleen Beagles’ analysis pertaining to the relationship between interactions with youth shows, “The discipling attitude and behavior of family, Christian teachers, and the local congregation are significant in explaining adolescents’ responses to indicators of personal discipleship, so an increase in adolescents’ reporting of the discipling behavior correlates with increased self-reported scores by adolescents in personal processes involved in discipleship.”[17] Wray also stresses the importance of having one-on-one time with children and doing things each child enjoys, making them feel important and demonstrating one’s care for their interests. Tyndale further explains:

In the process of helping our children choose the right path, we must discern differing paths for each child. It is natural to want to bring up all our children alike or train them the same way. This verse implies that parents should discern the individuality and special strengths that God has given each one. While we should not condone or excuse self-will, each child has natural inclinations that parents can develop. By talking to teachers, other parents, and grandparents, we can better discern and develop the individual capabilities of each child.[18]

ACTION PLAN

Les Blank and J. M. Ballard illustrate, “The revival of hope to a lost culture is not just about winning converts but is the proclamation of the good news irrespective of results. Many of the youth and young adults in Generation X and the Digital Generation are not resistant to the concept of spirituality or the concept of God. They are resistant to the Christian church.”[19] The same mindset when engaging in foreign missions must be used in reaching young adults who feel estranged from the church. Only by meeting individuals where he or she are at in life and according to his or her customs and traditions will the church have an opportunity to reclaim a lost generation. It is hard to fathom, but there are entire urban centers considered as being un-churched and while America used to be the nation sending missionaries all over the world, she has become the destination for many foreign missionaries in his or her calling. Blank and Ballard explain, many estranged youth and even people raised in some form of Christian upbringing now view the church as being, “Separatist, segregated, institutional, irrelevant, judgmental, holier than thou and authoritarian. And to some degree, they are right. If this is the perception of the community of God, and if that perception is even somewhat accurate, there is no wonder why the impact of the Christian message is not penetrating the young generations.”[20] Perception is reality, and while this pill may be a little hard to swallow, the quicker it is done, the sooner the church can begin to address the problem. After establishing the biblical foundation, the second piece of the model is establishing mentors in the church who can impart wisdom on those considered less spiritually mature. The lack of any discipleship model in most churches is what has led to an entire generation of servant leaders passing on with no one to take his or her place. The United States Army instructs soldiers to teach his or her job to the person below him or her in rank. This is done, so if the person is promoted or killed, someone will know exactly what to do in his or her absence. The church could borrow this page out of the Army’s training procedures.

The battle over our souls is waged within us, (James 4:1) and all around us, (Ephesians 6:12) so, as Tripp and Tripp suggest, “First, we must identify the enemy and acknowledge his troop strength [and strategy.] Second, we must become skilled at using biblical formative instruction as an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy of our children’s souls (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Peter 5:8).”[21] Times have changed, as Alejandra Cancino shows, “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, up 7 percent from 2009. Experts say the trend is likely to continue as the nation responds to the opiate epidemic. Military deployment and a growth in the number of women incarcerated are other factors forcing grandparents to step into parental roles.”[22] This is a dynamic, which churches must be prepared to address and are currently missing the mark in. The concept of it taking a village to raise a child is long since past and many people are left alone, trying to figure things out as they present themselves. Because of this, Tedd Tripp explains the importance of, “Understanding your child’s inner struggles and the need to look at the world through his or her eyes. This will enable you to know what aspects of the life-giving message of the gospel are appropriate for conversation.”[23] Every child grows up to be the culmination of his or her own life experiences, so the past plays a huge role in training a child in the ways he or she should go. Some children feel as though their past defines them, while others are able to rise above it, but without Christ, there is still a feeling of void left inside. Poverty is an ever-increasing reality, which can impede a child’s upbringing, so telling people about how amazing God is when he or she is starving and does not have a roof over their heads is backwards. One’s most immediate and core needs must be addressed before earning the right and privilege to speak into his or her life or begin the discipling process.

The family is the model God designed and implemented for His Word and instructions to be passed onto future generations and for children, some of the most important lessons in life are caught and not taught, simply because children imitate what they see. Jason Lanker illustrates, “Previous research shows an important resource in adolescent development is the presence of natural mentors and the Christian community of faith has always been most fruitful in the accomplishment of this missional mandate when space is provided for all of God’s people to use their gifts in engagement with the world in which they have been placed.”[24] As parents and teachers, Michel Mitchell emphasizes, “we are always: being watched, being followed, and being imitated, so Mitchell encourages parents and teachers to be someone worth watching (I Thess. 1:5; I Cor. 11:1), to do something worth following (Acts 5:12; Matt. 20:34; Mark 10:52; Acts 8:11-13), and to saying something worth imitating (I Thess. 2:8; Luke 6:40).[25] Tripp then explains the importance of cultivating a child’s heart towards God because, “There is no such thing as a place of childhood neutrality; your children either worship God or idols. These idols are not small wooden or stone statuary; they are the subtle idols of the heart: fear of man, evil desires, lusts, and pride. These idols include conformity to the world, embracing earthly mindsets, and affections on things below.”[26] To have any chance of thwarting Satan’s strategy and desire to destroy the traditional family, children must be immersed with a biblical foundation, there must be mentors present, in order to teach, instruct, and emulate behavior. The third and final component of this proposed model entails children being taught how to develop and refine his or her spiritual giftings through serving. This final piece is crucial in the spiritual develop and discipleship process and is also vital in reproducing spiritually mature disciples.

Steven Frye illustrates, the earlier in life children are taught, the more equipped he or she will be to transition from youth to young-adulthood. Frye demonstrates, “During this time of transition, burgeoning young adults test the spiritual concepts and commitments of adolescence. External belief structures develop to inner beliefs, and these beliefs are sifted and self-tested.”[27] As Frye suggests, the transition from youth to young adulthood is one filled with uncertainty, so the more the parents can instill at a young age, the better off the child will be in developing into a spiritually mature follower of Christ. Sharon Parks uses James Fowler’s stages of faith as a starting point and then works to diagram the spiritual development process from youth through young adulthood:

  1. Adolescent/conventional—authority bound (accepts the conventions of the group and social norms) and counter-dependent (pushing against yet still authority bound).
  2. Young adult—probing commitment. A time of fragile inner-dependence (like a young plant): “healthy, vital, full of promise, yet vulnerable.”
  3. Tested adult—confident inner-dependence. The tested adult is “able self-consciously to include self within the arena of authority.” Inner-dialogue is vital as the adult begins to listen within. Mentors become peers and authority becomes “fully equilibrated within.”
  4. Mature adult—interdependent faith. A dialectic faith where dialogue is not only merely “expedient but essential.” The mature adult “can depend upon others without fear of losing the self.”[28]

Frye, then explains, each of these stages are vital in the development of children and for each stage missed, more is often required in the realm of discipleship on the part of parents and/or mentors/leaders in the church. Perry Shaw and Corneliu Constantineanu offer considerable advice when interacting with adolescents and young adults and identify how, “Space within community can be provided to children and youth such that they can be better understood, engaged, and empowered in using their gifts in service of the mission of God. The provision of hospitable space is a tangible expression of reconciliation, as well as being a practical necessity for emerging generations.”[29] However, this space Shaw and Constantineanu call for in community is unlikely to develop in churches and families without proactive intentionality on the part of parents and the church. Churches, which employ the family-equipping model, will be best poised to provide training for the parents, while also creating ways for multiple generations to serve together. Just as there is much knowledge and information the older/wiser generation can impart on the younger generations, there is also much the younger/learning generations can reveal to his or her counterparts. Malan Nel asserts, “Discipling youth is one of the key ‘missing links’ in developing missional thinking and missional local churches and this is even more so where churches suffer from a very obvious estrangement among generations.”[30] The segregation of ages in churches is a huge stumbling block to providing any good discipleship model. Many children and youth have a dedicated building and rarely come in contact with any other generations. This is a tragedy and just another reason adolescents have a hard time integrating into a normal adult service and why the crisis of faith is having such a huge success earlier in the lives of young adults.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, as George Barna emphasizes, “The primary formation of a child’s faith is not a job for specialists; it is a job for parents.”[31] This means the primary role of the church needs to focus on training parents to embrace their God-given primary responsibility for instructing children about God, in order for them to grow spiritually mature. David Bennett explains Jesus is more interested in counting disciples, rather than attendance on Sundays. Upon this statement Bennett poses the most important question regarding developing and stopping children from leaving the faith: “Are we producing people who have made a wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ and are we equipping the next generation to take over leadership of the church?”[32] Only by reaching the heart and imparting biblical truth as the foundation in the discipleship process, will the next generation be equipped for the challenges and temptations of life. After establishing the biblical foundation, the next most important piece is establishing mentors in the life of children and parents, who can then impart wisdom on those considered less spiritually mature. The lack of any discipleship model in many churches is what has led to an entire generation of servant leaders passing on with no one to take his or her place. Lastly, children must be taught how to develop and refine his or her spiritual giftings through the act of serving. This final piece is crucial, not only in the spiritual develop and discipleship process, but also in reproducing spiritually mature disciples.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abel, Michael K. “Sources of Adolescent Faith: Examining the Origins of Religious Confidence.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 7 (2011): 3-26, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1346931964?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007.

Beagles, Kathleen. “Growing disciples in community.” Christian Education Journal 9, no. 1 (2012): 148-164. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA289360002&sid=summon&asid=d9660eeb3a748cecdc1d81a509f47cec (accessed April 30, 2017).

Bennett, David. “The Leader as … Disciple.” Transformation 12, no. 4 (Fall 1995): 13-15. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43070175 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Blank, Les and J. M. Ballard. “Revival of Hope: A Critical Generation for the Church.” Christian Education Journal 6, no. 2 (Fall, 2002): 7-24. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/205418022?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Burggraff, Andrew. “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397+. Academic OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA429498261&sid=summon&asid=ade420579921909ec161d6995fadd701 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Cancino, Alejandra. “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” www.pbs.org February 16, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/more-grandparents-raising-their-grandchildren/ (accessed April 30, 2017).

Estes, Daniel J. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1 – 9. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Frederick, Thomas V. “Discipleship and Spirituality from a Christian Perspective.” Pastoral Psychology 56, no. 6 (07, 2008): 553-60, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/199312601?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Frye, Steven B. 2014. “Becoming an adult in a community of faith.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 51-61. (accessed April 30, 2017).

Lanker, Jason. “The family of faith: the place of natural mentoring in the church’s Christian formation of adolescents.” Christian Education Journal 7, no. 2 (2010): 267+. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA239092337&sid=summon&asid=1db8938b3a6e6af818ab86ed42759ff7 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Martinson, Roland. “Spiritual but not religious: reaching an invisible generation.” Currents in Theology and Mission 29, no. 5 (2002): 326-340. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA93610956&sid=summon&asid=f753d5982c72999332bd6e19dccf9072 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Mitchell, Michael. “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

Mohler, Albert. “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem.” AlbertMohler.com. October 14, 2005. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/10/14/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem/ (accessed April 30, 2017).

Nel, Malan. “Imagine-Making Disciples in Youth Ministry … that Will make Disciples.” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 71, no. 3 (2015): 1-11, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1738751534?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Parks, Sharon Daloz. Big Questions Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Study Guide Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Renfro, Paul et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009.

Shaw, Perry WH and Corneliu Constantineanu. “Space and Community, Engagement and Empowerment: The Missional Equipping of Children.” Transformation 33 no. 3 (February 2016): 208-217. doi: 10.1177/0265378816633611 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Thompson, Tad. Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2011.

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005.

Tyndale. Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988.

Wells, David F. “CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP IN A POSTMODERN WORLD.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (03, 2008): 19-33, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/211233719?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Wray, Lynn and Dan Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 12:23. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588847_1 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Wright, Steve and Chris Graves. ApParent Privilege: That the Next Generation Might Know… Royal Palm Beach, FL: InQuest Ministries, 2008.

[1] Roland Martinson, “Spiritual but not religious: reaching an invisible generation,” Currents in Theology and Mission 29, no. 5 (2002): 326-328. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA93610956&sid=summon&asid=f753d5982c72999332bd6e19dccf9072 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[2] Ibid., 328.

[3] Paul Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009), 1-3.

[4] Ibid., 19.

[5] Thomas V. Frederick, “Discipleship and Spirituality from a Christian Perspective,” Pastoral Psychology 56, no. 6 (07, 2008): 553, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/199312601?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[6] David F. Wells, “CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP IN A POSTMODERN WORLD,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (03, 2008): 19-21, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/211233719?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[7] Tyndale, Life Application Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), 1041.

[8] Andrew Burggraff, “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397. Academic OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA429498261&sid=summon&asid=ade420579921909ec161d6995fadd701. (accessed April 28, 2017).

[9] Tedd Tripp and Margy Tripp, Instructing a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008), 57.

[10] Ibid., 93.

[11] Ibid., 63.

[12] Lynn Wray and Dan Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 12:23. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588847_1 (accessed April 28, 2017).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Michael K. Abel, “Sources of Adolescent Faith: Examining the Origins of Religious Confidence,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 7 (2011): 3-5, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1346931964?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[15] Ibid., 5.

[16] Wray and Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers.”

[17] Kathleen Beagles, “Growing disciples in community.” Christian Education Journal 9, no. 1 (2012): 148-149. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA289360002&sid=summon&asid=d9660eeb3a748cecdc1d81a509f47cec (accessed April 30, 2017).

[18] Tyndale, 1041.

[19] Les Blank and J. M. Ballard, “Revival of Hope: A Critical Generation for the Church,” Christian Education Journal 6, no. 2 (Fall, 2002): 7-8. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/205418022?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[20] Blank and J. M. Ballard, “Revival of Hope: A Critical Generation for the Church,” 8.

[21] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 15-16.

[22] Alejandra Cancino, “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” www.pbs.org February 16, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/more-grandparents-raising-their-grandchildren/ (accessed April 28, 2017).

[23] Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition (Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005), 76.

[24] Jason Lanker, “The family of faith: the place of natural mentoring in the church’s Christian formation of adolescents.” Christian Education Journal 7, no. 2 (2010): 267, General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA239092337&sid=summon&asid=1db8938b3a6e6af818ab86ed42759ff7 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[25] Michael Mitchell, “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

[26] Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 21.

[27] Steven Frye, “Becoming an adult in a community of faith,” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 53. (accessed April 30, 2017).

[28] Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 77-87.

[29] Perry Shaw WH and Corneliu Constantineanu, “Space and Community, Engagement and Empowerment: The Missional Equipping of Children.” Transformation 33 no. 3 (February 2016): 209. doi: 10.1177/0265378816633611 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[30] Malan Nel, “Imagine-Making Disciples in Youth Ministry … that Will make Disciples,” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 71, no. 3 (2015): 2-3, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1738751534?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[31] George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), 12.

[32] David Bennett, “The Leader as … Disciple.” Transformation 12, no. 4 (Fall 1995): 13, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43070175 (accessed April 30, 2017).

 

Doctrine, Theology, and Religion

doctrine

It should be no surprise with the multiplicity of world religions and various denominations within each that even defining the word doctrine has proven to be problematic. Millard Erickson asserts, “Doctrines consist of genuine knowledge about God, and that religion involves the whole person: intellect, emotions, and will. This view of doctrine and theology has two major advantages: it enables us to account for the full richness and complexity of human religions… [and] it fits more closely the actual understanding of religion and doctrine with which the early church and the authors of Scripture”[1] However, liberation theologians, such as Gustavo Gutiérrez, believe “Religion is clearly pragmatic, concerned with alleviating the injustices within the human race, [making] the role of doctrine speaking to those inequities. Theology, then, becomes a critical reflection on praxis.”[2] Others, like John Hick, take a more subjective view of religion claiming, “The essence of religion is an experience of the one great reality, which he terms the ‘Eternal One.’ Doctrines, then, whether of different religions or of varying denominations within a given religion, are the differing interpretations various groups of people place on this generic experience as they interpret it through the grid of their own culture.”[3] Lastly, postliberals like George Lindbeck hold to a view that “Rejects both the idea that religion consists primarily of its doctrinal teachings in proportional form and that it is primarily an expression of emotional experience. [This cultural-linguistic view] is the idea that religion is a set of categories or teachings that each culture constructs to interpret life and on the basis of which its members function.”[4] Erickson further explains, “Doctrine on this view, is a second-level activity that serves a regulative function. Rather than giving us ontological knowledge about God, doctrines are rules governing the community. [Ultimately,] it does not grow out of experience so much as it shapes it. It is a story, told by its adherents, on the basis of which serves a regulative function.”[5]

The extent to which Christians view the Bible as being, valid, primary, authoritative, and inerrant is the foundational piece to any doctrine. As P. D. Feinberg explains, “The question of authority is central for any theology, [so] biblical inerrancy is [a highly debated topic, which] views that when all the facts become made known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to any life sciences.”[6] Erickson similarly defines inerrancy as, “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.”[7] Through the study of this course, this writer has become more resolute on the topic of inerrancy and believes the Bible makes no false or misleading statements about matters of faith and practice, but admits there are grounds to debate the infallibility of the church’s interpretation and teachings throughout the centuries. Human beings are flawed and Feinberg explains, “Human knowledge is limited in two ways: first, because of our finitude and sinfulness, human beings misinterpret the data that exists; and second, we do not possess all the data that comes to bear on the Bible.”[8] However, when it comes to the Bible, “The writers were under the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit, which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[9] The main issue faced, throughout history, was how to preserve this revelation and for multiple generations, oral tradition was used, which certainly made it possible for specific details to be modified and/or changed. Because of this and other issues resulting in various scribes’ translations, this writer holds to more of a full inerrancy view. Absolute inerrancy has some questionable areas pertaining to history and science. For example, II Peter 3:8 says, “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.”

Feinberg further explains why the doctrine and debate of biblical inerrancy is very relevant to the church today, by illuminating how the Bible is a divine-human book so, “To deny the authority of the original is to undermine the authority of the Bible the Christian has today [and] to deemphasize either side of its authorship is a mistake.”[10] Additionally, biblical inerrancy does not explain how to interpret Scripture; that is the job of hermeneutics; however, it does assert, “Whatever statements the Bible affirms are fully truthful when they are correctly interpreted in terms of their meaning in their cultural setting and the [original] purpose for which they were written.”[11] Erickson adds, “Scripture inspired by God is necessary because it confirms the nature of God’s special revelations through Scripture”[12] and this is one of the primary ways God made Himself known to man. The argument for biblical inerrancy rests on the foundation that the Bible is the inspired Word of God or “God-breathed” (II Timothy 3:16). Additionally, as Erickson illuminates, “If the Bible is not inerrant, then our knowledge of God may be inaccurate and unreliable.”[13] The final argument for the inerrancy of the Bible is Jesus, Paul, and the apostle’s teaching Scripture as though it was authoritative, leading the church to continue that tradition and hold fast to the inerrancy of the Bible. Ultimately, it comes down to one’s belief in the power and authority of God’s Word and whether or not Scripture then leads a person to change his or her behavior and/or conviction.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Gutiérrez, Gustavo. A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1973.

Hick, John. God Has Many Names. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1982.

Lindbeck, George A. The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1984.

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 383.

[2] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1973), 6-15.

[3] John Hick, God Has Many Names (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1982), 42-51.

[4] George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1984), 32-41.

[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 7.

[6] P.D. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 156.

[7] Erickson, Christian Theology, 201-202.

[8] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 156.

[9] Erickson, Christian Theology, 169.

[10] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 159.

[11] Erickson, Christian Theology, 206.

[12] Ibid., 168.

[13] Ibid., 188.

[14] P.D. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 156.

[15] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 169.

[16] P.D. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 157-158.

[17] Ibid.,158.

[18] Ibid., 157-158.

[19] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 159.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Erickson, Christian Theology, 202-205.

[22] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 159.

[23] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 206.

[24] Ibid., 168.

[25] Ibid., 188.

Instructing a Child’s Heart: Book Review

Instructing a child's heart

Tedd and Margy Tripp have identified the importance of instructing a child, not only to inform his or her mind, but also to impress God’s truth and wisdom upon the heart. Getting away from corrective behavior to the heart of the matter is vital in the formative discipline process presented by Tripp and Tripp. As parents, it can become second nature to focus on the behavior, which requires correction, instead of on the heart issues that are the true source of bad behavior. Solomon demonstrates the importance of the heart in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Tripp and Tripp explain, “The heart is the seat of motivation, so the when of behavior is the circumstance for the behavior. The what of behavior are things that one does or says and the why of behavior is the motive.”[1] The heart is essentially what makes the person who he or she is and the actions of the heart produce worship and emotions. Tripp and Tripp then illuminate, all children are born to worship; the only question is what he or she will choose to worship: the created things or the Creator?[2]

Satan has built his kingdom on two pillars: ignorance & error, so the job as parents is to remove ignorance and to correct error. Tripp and Tripp clarify, “Our central objective in instruction, discipline, and correction is heart change, not behavior change. This profoundly shapes how we view consequences… Children must understand consequences as God designed them, not as the world teaches them.”[3] This model provides considerable insight on the sowing and reaping principle of Scripture. Thus, the major goal in any form of discipline must be to reach and impact the heart of the child. Sadly, as Tripp and Tripp show, the world uses behaviorism as the answer and it “may be popular – it may even work, but it obscures the gospel. When we can use incentives or punishments to get the behavior we want without God and His redemption, we are teaching our children that they can live in God’s world without Christ and be fine.”[4] Instead, parents should teach children how the principle of sowing and reaping are both positive and negative (Galatians 6:7-8). Tripp and Tripp then suggest, “During times of corrective discipline, we must appeal to formative instruction that helps children understand all the issues of life from the perspective of God’s revelation, the Bible. [In doing so,] children will think about the consequences and implications of the things they say and do.”[5] Ultimately, Tripp and Tripp show parents must first understand his or her role in the process of raising children, by teaching the truths behind formative discipline. With this as the starting point, parents must then teach the consequences behind action, while also demonstrating the forgiving, transforming, and empowering grace and mercy of Jesus Christ found in the gospel.

CONCRETE RESPONSE

As a parent myself, I have a much deeper appreciation for all my parents contributed to my upbringing. Growing up in a military family, my dad was gone quite often, so the family dynamic was very skewed and the reintegration process became more difficult each time. As a young child, I can remember going to the base with my mom and having her point to which man was my father. This memory stirred up a lot of deep-rooted emotions I had previously suppressed. I then recalled my mom telling me stories of the horrible upbringing my father had to endure, as the result of his parents getting a divorce. His own mother destroyed virtually every picture of him and threw away most his belongings, out of anger. I harbored resentment against my father for a number of years, until I came to realize he had no framework or reference to emulate in being a father, because he himself never had a father to look up to. He was doing his best, but without Christ as the guiding force, our best is only the capacity to sin, due to our fallen nature. The traditional family is the model God designed to convey His ways, His authority, and His truth to children, but Satan knows this and that is why he is so determined to destroy, counterfeit, and pervert everything God has established. One’s earthly father should serve as but a glimpse of the love the heavenly Father has for His children.

Unfortunately, there is now an entire people group known as the “fatherless” generation, who are currently coming into their young adult years, so never before has there been a time that the body of Christ, the church must stand in the gap to rescue these spiritual orphans and reorient them to the complete love, mercy, and grace found only in Christ Jesus. If this is not done, with the love of Christ being the primary motivator, the cycle will not be broken because we all are products of our environment and our past experiences shape who we are and what we do. Because of this, we must be able to recognize what the Word of God says, so we will be able to differentiate between God’s truth and what the world tells us is normal and acceptable. The battle over our souls is waged within us, (James 4:1) and all around us, (Ephesians 6:12) so, as Tripp and Tripp suggest, “First, we must identify the enemy and acknowledge his troop strength [and strategy.] Second, we must become skilled at using biblical formative instruction as an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy of our children’s souls (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Peter 5:8).”[6]

REFLECTION

Tripp and Tripp provide substantial content relating to the goals of formative instruction. While Scripture is part of one’s history, it is equally important for parents to relay family history to his or her children. For many, it seems the mistakes, pain, and bad choices, which have occurred in one’s past, are left buried in an attempt to shield the child from thinking less of one’s parent. However, the exact opposite is done and God’s word says, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). This is an area Tripp and Tripp could have included which would have strengthened the goal of producing children who are bold and courageous. By omitting family history and the victories and/or failures experienced, children often are left feeling as though he or she are going through things the parents never had to face. Ultimately, a life of transparency is the best model to use, which will convey parents have walked through many of the same trials and temptations faced by children today.

Another area Tripp and Tripp could have explored further, which would have made this book more appealing to a larger audience is how individuals other than the child’s parents can model the behavior and traits needed in instructing a child’s heart. As Alejandra Cancino shows, “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is up 7 percent from 2009. Experts say the trend is likely to continue as the nation responds to the opiate epidemic. Military deployment and a growth in the number of women incarcerated are other factors forcing grandparents to step into parental roles.”[7] Tripp and Tripp offer considerable advice pertaining to teaching and training, but an area devoted to redeeming the lost and helping the prodigals find his or her way home would have been useful for anyone who is serving in a parental or ministerial role.

Lastly, Tripp and Tripp do a great job explaining the importance and danger of missing the heart’s connection with behavior and how it relates to correction and discipline. However, one area that would have been nice to see during the child’s development was a purposeful identification of a child’s spiritual gifting(s) and a plan to help develop them. One’s life must always reflect the truths being taught because the child catches many of life’s truths and principles. The primary place to develop these giftings is in the home, so explaining the importance of serving in ministry together, as a family would have added greatly to the model.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cancino, Alejandra. “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” www.pbs.org February 16, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/more-grandparents-raising-their-grandchildren/ (accessed April 27, 2017).

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

[1] Tedd Tripp and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008), 57.

[2] Ibid., 93.

[3] Ibid., 63.

[4] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 77.

[5] Ibid., 155.

[6] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 15-16.

[7] Alejandra Cancino, “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” www.pbs.org February 16, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/more-grandparents-raising-their-grandchildren/ (accessed April 27, 2017).

[8] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 81.

Choosing the Best Teaching Model

            Using Your Past

As Rick Yount asserts, “Analysis of a text is just the beginning point of lesson preparation, [because] effective teaching also asks: What do they need to remember? What do they need to understand? And how should they personally respond?”[1] From this premise, understanding how to synthesize and implement the critical biblical foundations for teaching is vital to not only success in ministry, but also in bringing glory to God. Lawrence Richards and Gary Bredfeldt advocate the “Hook, Book, Look, Took” (HBLT) method. While there are numerous approaches to use, Richards and Bredfeldt illustrate this model’s credibility as the apostle Paul used it, when he addressed the philosophers at the Areopagus on Athens’s Mars Hill (Acts 17). A good “hook” is essential in Bible teaching and Paul uses the “hook” to get the philosopher’s attention, to surface a need, and to then provide a goal why what is being said is relevant to them. The “Book” section is all about helping the listeners understand what is being taught and clarifying the meaning behind the message. The “Look” involves guiding the listener to discover and grasp the relationship of the truth just studied to daily living. The “Took” requires a response and ultimately should lead to transformation.[2] Teaching should always lead to some form of transformation because as Warren Benson demonstrates, “A true Christian education should help us understand and appreciate the authority of God’s Word.”[3] It should also allow the believer to be transformed into the image of Christ, thus allowing he or she the ability to align one’s will with God’s. The major advantage of this approach is the ability to break down the lesson into four parts, with each being focused on Scripture and how to apply its principles to daily life. The strength and weakness of this approach is the absence of personal stories on the part of the teacher. In any learning setting, the teacher must choose the method that will allow the listeners to engage with God’s Word on a deeper level. Overall, models are just a way for different people to learn, so as Richards and Bredfeldt assert, “If you understand what you are trying to accomplish, you can select or invent an approach in lesson planning to accomplish it [and the HBLT approach] allows the teacher who understands the distinct parts of the lesson to find and correct weaknesses in printed lesson material.”[4] This model would be most appropriate for teachers who do not possess a real-life-story applicable to what is being taught.

In Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley uses a unique approach rooted in: determining your goal, picking a point, creating a map, internalizing the message, engaging the audience, finding your voice, and then starting all over. Stanley is perhaps one of the most gifted communicators and he breaks his approach down into “Me, We, God, You, We” (MWGYW) model. The “Me” is all about orientation, the “We” establishes identification, “God” provides illumination, “You” illustrates application, and “We” delivers inspiration. The major strength behind this model is found when the communicator has endured a specific trial or circumstance in which he or she is teaching about. From there, Stanley shows how moving through the model allows the teacher to find common ground with the audience, transition to what God says about it, challenge the audience to act on what was just heard, and ultimately illustrate what could happen if everyone embraced the truth behind what was just said.[5] Once again, the strength and weakness rests upon whether the teacher has personally experienced what is being taught. For example, if a teacher was speaking on the subject praying for a wayward child and he or she has no children, the “Me” part would be very difficult to identify with in establishing common ground with the audience. However, sometimes a hybrid approach can be used in these cases by approaching the topic from a different perspective. Using the same example, the teacher could use the story of the prodigal son and instead of approaching it from the father or parent who was waiting for the son or child to return, the teacher could speak of a time in his or her life when everything was squandered and he or she had chosen a path contrary to God’s best, but then demonstrate the redemptive work God had done in bringing them back home. Stanley rightly asserts, “Me is not really about me. ‘Me’ is about finding common ground with ‘Them’… [and] an audience has to buy into the message before they buy into the message… [This is so true because,] it is difficult to receive challenging information from someone who seems to have no clue as to what it is like to be you”[6] The major strength behind this approach is demonstrating transparency, while also casting vision to the potential outcome, if the truth behind the application is engaged. The only weakness behind this model is when the teacher cannot provide a similar experience to establish common ground with the audience, and this approach’s foundation rests solely upon establishing a personal experience with the audience. To follow the teacher on the journey of the message, the audience must be able to relate to what is being taught.

Marlene LeFever further demonstrates the vast number of learning styles and how the traditional view of learning is no longer true because everyone has a different learning style. LeFever emphasizes how the collaborative learner asks: why do I need to know this? The analytic learner asks: what do I need to know? The common sense learner asks: how does this work? And the dynamic learner asks: what can this become?[7] Robert Pazmiño could not be more correct than when he stresses, “The gift of teaching requires speaking for God and serving the faith community with gifts and the strength that God provides. The ultimate end must always be in view, namely the glory of God through Jesus Christ.”[8] For this to take place, the teacher must be mindful of the various approaches and use whichever is going to fit best with the audience, while also being true to oneself. Stanley provides another great model in preparing lessons that can be used in either approach: (1) What do they need to know? Information. (2) Why do they need to know it? Motivation. (3) What do they need to do? Application. (4) Why do they need to do it? Inspiration. (5) How can I help them remember? Reiteration.[9] These questions are a great resource in lesson planning and will help any teacher stay on point and provide the audience with the best learning experience.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Benson, Warren S. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Esqueda, Octavio J. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Edited by William R. Yount. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

LeFever, Marlene. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Pazmiño, Robert. By What Authority Do We Teach? Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1994.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Zuck, R. B. Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998.

[1] Rick Yount, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition, ed. William R. Yount (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 233-248.

[2] Lawrence O Richards and Gary J. Bredfeldt, Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998), 154-158.

[3] Warren S. Benson, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michael J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 33.

[4] Richards and Bredfeldt, Creative Bible Teaching, 159.

[5] Andy Stanley and Lane Jones, Communicating For a Change (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006), 120.

[6] Stanley and Jones, Communicating For a Change, 121-123.

[7] Marlene LeFever, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michael J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 130-137.

[8] Robert Pazmiño, By What Authority Do We Teach? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1994), 73.

[9] Stanley and Jones, Communicating For a Change, 191.

75 Million Dollar Campaign and Cooperative Program

75mill_titleimage

Leon McBeth illustrates, “After the turn of the century, prosperity and optimism prompted Southern Baptists to project larger programs… [and] in 1919, Southern Baptists launched their “Seventy-Five Million Campaign,” in an effort to raise $75 million for Baptist causes over a five-year period between 1919 – 1924.”[1] This was the biggest fundraising endeavor the Southern Baptists had ever engaged in, which led to an even more aggressive campaign of publicity and promotion. Unfortunately, as McBeth highlights, “The seventy-five million dollars proved easier to pledge than to collect.”[2] This was largely in part to the economic recession that hit the south in 1920, which led to crop prices dropping by half and farmer’s income by over sixty percent.[3] The campaign also had both good and negative impacts, but the good far outweighed the bad. Despite being vulnerable for Fundamentalist attack or causing embarrassment on the part of individuals unable to pay what was previously pledged, the campaign not only led to Baptists tripling annual giving, but also led to major spiritual renewal and a new spirit of unity within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

McBeth explains, “Due to the success of the campaign, in 1920, the SBC appointed a Conservation Committee to preserve the results of the campaign… [and] out of it came a permanent convention financial plan startling in its simplicity, yet revolutionary in its impact. Launched in 1925, the Cooperative Program (CP), called for churches to send their offerings for denominational ministries to their state conventions.”[4] This program became the lifeline of Southern Baptist ministries and no method, even to this day, has come close to the effectiveness of the CP. Part of the program’s success rests in its ability to provide both balance and perspective, by providing a way to equally support all ministries under the SBC umbrella. However, as McBeth states, “Any assessment of the CP must also include its drawbacks, such as some speaking to rather than through the program, as if it were an end in itself.”[5] Despite this, the CP allowed churches to play an active role in not just some of the denomination’s ministries, but in all of them. This was one more initiative that led to the SBC growing numerically and geographically. McBeth records, at the turn of the century, “Records showed a total of 1,586,709 members 18,873 churches and these churches were grouped into 16 state conventions. By 1983 reports showed 14,208,226 members in 36,500 churches, gathered into 37 state conventions, many of which were located outside the South.”[6] This numerical and geographical growth can be directly linked to these previous programs and it is truly astonishing to see how far the SBC has come and the amazing things God has done in and through this denomination.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 618.

[2] Ibid., 619.

[3] Donnie Gerald Melton, “The Seventy-Five Million Campaign and Its Effects upon the Southern Baptist Convention,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1975): 188.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 622.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 623.

Sin and Christian Teaching: Journal Critique

Effect of sin

Sin, in its very essence, is contradictory to the nature of God, creating separation in the intimacy between God and man, but is ultimately conquered by God’s grace, in the ultimate redemptive plan, through Jesus Christ. Upon this foundational truth, Octavio Esqueda asserts a clear understanding of the relationship between sin and grace is necessary to fully appreciate the grace of God and to understand sin’s goal in opposing God and His holy character. The purpose of this critique is to assess Esqueda’s conclusion regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching.

SUMMARY

Esqueda acknowledges the grace of God and the sin of man are two essential realities that define the Christian faith and that all humans are sinners in desperate need for God’s grace. This hypothesis is traced back to the original sin and Esqueda illustrates how, “Sin permeates our entire being and alienates us from ourselves, other people, our world, and most importantly from our Creator.”[1] As time has gone on, Esqueda explains how culture continues to play a more dominant role in determining what is right and wrong, and what should be viewed as being happy or sad. Next, Esqueda establishes sin’s role in fading God’s plan for His creation and its ability to corrupt and isolate, leading to a life of pride. Citing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esqueda emphasizes, “Perceiving God’s grace without an appropriate understanding of sin is meaningless and becomes cheap.”[2] After establishing a clear definition of sin and its effects, Esqueda uses the seven capital sins to define specific character traits that lead individuals away from God. Robert Kruschwitz identifies, “These sins are the harbingers of destruction; and they are the first in order of attack after pride and they bring in other sins that destroy people’s love for God and one another.”[3] Lastly, Esqueda explains the need for Christian teaching because any teaching, which fails to stress the importance of grace to sinners, is futile.[4]

CRITICAL INTERACTION

Esqueda does an excellent job of explaining the responsibilities of leaders and teachers in cultivating the spiritual growth of his or her students and he firmly believes the Holy Spirit is vital in the supernatural transformation of learners. By demonstrating the effects of sin and then establishing how Christ restores all of those broken relationships by grace, Esqueda reaffirms the apostle Paul’s message to the Romans and the church at Corinth being: “Christ died for all sinners and His righteousness is imputed to us by His grace, which overflows to the world much more than any effect of sin.” Grace over sin is a continuing theme throughout the Bible and one in which Esqueda has implemented in his strategy in Christian education and spiritual formation.

The overview of the seven capital sins was an interesting insertion and tracks with a modern-day culture that ranks and classifies various crimes on different levels. However, in God’s eyes, sin is sin, so any attempt to provide levels or grades to specific sins seems folly. This is partly the reason Esqueda believes, “Most Protestants rejected this list of capital sins because the Bible does not provide this classification of capital vices and Reformers were also concerned the list of virtues could become a way to earn salvation by works and not a gift by God’s grace.”[5] Despite this, it was very interesting looking at each individual sin in its attempt for: selfish gratification, selfish physical pleasure, attachment to material possessions, selfish sin against temperance, sadness for the glory of another, laziness, and desire for recognition and approval from others.[6] Esqueda seemed to approach this topic with some presuppositions, as he documents the introduction of the piñata in Mexico and Central America. He explains the piñata represented Satan who often wears an attractive mask to deceive humanity, and as temptation. Blindfolded participants represented blind faith, forcing them to look upwards towards heaven.[7]

God created the family and He also ingrained a longing for community inside everyone. Sin, which is often rooted in pride, stands opposed to both of these systems, in an attempt to deny love for one another and towards God. This was one area Esqueda could have covered in more detail, especially since his overall goal is reaching sinners with Christian teaching. Over time, sin erects a wall to further isolate individuals from any sense of hope and grace. While he does mention virtues, which when implemented lead to a regenerated life, his argument would have been strengthened with a solution of how to bridge the gap and tear down the walls of sin.

CONCLUSION

Esqueda does an excellent job explaining if a consequence of sin is isolation, then grace produces community. He illustrates, “When Christian leaders and teachers model grace, they foster a sense of community among their learners.”[8] This is the first step Esqueda successfully identifies in the spiritual transformation process. Esqueda’s conclusions regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching is also shown to be true. He also correctly identifies the Holy Spirit’s role and provides ample Scripture references and multiple references from respected philosophers and theologians. Overall, Esqueda provided substantial content in the importance of grace in teaching and over sin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995.

Boyd, Ian T. E. “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 487-507. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Blass, Rachel B. “Sin and Transcendence Versus Psychopathology and Emotional Wellbeing: On the Catholic Church’s Problem of Bridging Religious and Therapeutic Views of the Person.” Spiritus 12, no. 1 (Spring, 2012): 21,42,156, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1019770875?accountid=12085 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Clendenin, Daniel B. “God is Great, God is Good Questions About Evil.” Ashland Theological Journal 24, no. 0 (1992): 35-48. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Crisp, Oliver D. “On Original Sin.” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 252–266. doi:10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Egan, Robert. “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin.” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi:10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Esqueda, Octavio Javier. “Sin and Christian Teaching.” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164-176. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed April 21, 2017).

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. The Problem of Evil, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Gockel, Matthias. “‘Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97-105. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Harrison, William K. (William Kelly). “Origin of Sin.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 58-61. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Haven, Joseph. “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose.” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 445-488. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell.” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 61-78. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008447 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Hume, David. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Edited by Henry D. Aiken. New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779].

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.

Kruschwitz, Robert. Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil. Waco, TX: Author, 2010.

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Pasternack, Lawrence. “Kant on the debt of sin.” Faith and Philosophy 29 no. 1 (January 2012): 30-52. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Sehon, Scott. “The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism Leads to Moral Paralysis.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67, no. 2 (2010): 67-80. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25652862 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Venter, Dirk J. “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh.” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA406163579&asid=6a1e0a7a5321bc7b9c4c11a1a02b29d6 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Wilcox, David L. “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA486164679&sid=summon&asid=e80c6aa2b9a2eae051ab74327ee96e56 (accessed April 13,2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Octavio Javier Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed April 21, 2017).

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995), 44.

[3] Robert Kruschwitz, Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil (Waco, TX: Author, 2010), 11.

[4] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 173.

[5] Ibid., 170.

[6] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 167-169.

[7] Ibid., 170.

[8] Ibid., 175.

Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement: Article Critique

inter-failth-300x156

John H. Y. Briggs, formally a professor of Baptist History at the University of Oxford, past chairman of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), and former editor of The Baptist Quarterly[1] records the role and history of Baptists in the overall scope of the ecumenical movement. Briggs links the origins of the Baptist movement in the history of the Radical Reformation and within the logic of English Separatism, making it difficult not to view the Baptists as being a schismatic movement. The specifics of this journal article summarize how some European Baptists were involved in that movement and the purpose of this critique will be to verify Briggs’ findings.

SUMMARY

Briggs begins by identifying how, “Early Baptists, though separating from State Churches, were well aware of the dangers of becoming isolated and sectarian.”[2] This was a peculiar development in the Baptist movement, as the majority of Baptists during this time period had just escaped persecution from the State Church, yet one of the first things established was a State Church, which led to the ostracizing of many other Baptist groups. Briggs cites E. A. Payne’s analysis of John Owen’s True Nature of a Gospel Church in 1689 as being very influential in this move away from the State Church. Briggs emphasizes this, “Separation from a corrupt state church that was seen as only partially being reformed, was nevertheless anxious to avoid lapsing into sectarianism.”[3] Because of this, the Baptist denomination is often viewed as being separatists, but Briggs’ overall goal seems to be showcasing how even during times of isolation, theological differences, and division, Baptists were still extremely effective in evangelism, and spreading the gospel message domestically and internationally. J. D. Hughey would agree with this statement and adds, “The great majority of Baptists have always felt kinship with large number of other Christians… [and] in a very important sense, Baptists have long been a part of the ecumenical movement.”[4] Christian union was and continues to be a lofty ambition and throughout the history of Baptists, considerable efforts were made to attain unity.

STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES

Briggs does a worthy job detailing the Baptist’s history and role in the Ecumenical Movement, but very little was mentioned about the patterns of growth and decline. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “One of the most persistent and puzzling problems facing English Baptists in the twentieth century has been their steady numerical decline.”[5] However, Briggs provides ample information pertaining to individuals like John Bunyan and Thomas Grantham who were in favor of wider patterns of interrelationship, as well as the interworking of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the BWA, which Briggs himself served on. These individuals and organizations were vital in defining the two dimensions of ecumenism: international and inter-confessional, changing the ecumenical question of relating to other people who were alike, to relating to other people groups who were nothing alike. Finding common ground, without sacrificing core doctrine would have helped Briggs’ illustration of this dilemma.

As Briggs addresses the issue of persecution and lack of civil rights, he draws an important conclusion, which remains just as relevant today: “Persecution in Eastern Europe [and other parts of the world] has drawn Christians closer together and when the pressure has been removed, old tyrannies have reasserted themselves.”[6] For Baptists, persecution led to the Evangelical Revival and made way for itinerancy and village preaching and overseas missionary endeavors. Unfortunately, the revival also led to problems for the Baptists, but in the end would reemphasize the case for open communion. This was area Briggs should have covered in more detail, since there are still many churches that observe the stance of closed communion. Had Briggs included what reasons led to the case for open communion and the change in tradition, this would have enhanced his details of the Evangelical Revival’s impact on the denomination. Despite that, Briggs uses this landscape, to make a profound assertion that; “Evangelicalism and ecumenism are far from being opposed; rather the one is the child of the other.”[7] In the WCC, Briggs then demonstrates how the Baptists continually worked for peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by violence and how the Council carries that same faith and commitment today.

CONCLUSION

Briggs accomplishes the task he set out to do and while his list is not exhaustive of Baptist history in the Ecumenical Movement, he has demonstrated the Baptist contribution has been sacrificial, substantial, and often unrecognized.[8] He also clearly articulates how Baptists have continually been open to dialogue with other denominations, in an endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission and reach a lost and hurting world. Briggs could not be more accurate than when he said, “How can we expect an unbelieving world to take us seriously in our talk about a gospel of reconciliation when we remain so obviously un-reconciled one to another?”[9]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Briggs, John H Y. “Baptists and the ecumenical movement.” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11-17. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

Hughey, J. D. “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401–410. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. http://www.mwrc.ac.uk/briggs/ (accessed April 19, 2017).

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. http://www.mwrc.ac.uk/briggs/ (accessed April 19, 2017).

[2] John H. Y. Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

[3] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 12.

[4] J. D. Hughey, “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

[5] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 507.

[6] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 13.

[7] Ibid., 14.

[8] Ibid., 16.

[9] Ibid., 17.