Out of Context: Mark Dever

"Too many Christians today are trying to improve on the gospel. The gospel is what it is: the Cross of Christ. Christians on both the political right and the left are downplaying the effects of the Fall, and instead buying into a secular myth of progress through market economics or socialism."

-Mark Deveris pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Taken from "Does Your Preaching Touch Politics?" in the Summer 2008 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

July 31, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 34 comments

Pastor Kip

August 06, 2008  10:02am

Good gosh, look at what John 3:16 has become . . .

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mike rucker

August 06, 2008  7:40am

"Mike Rucker, Dude...are you okay? :-\" regular readers here know too well the answer to that question ... :) even if the edges of the answers are a little blurry. thanks, but i can argue my side myself... in a foxhole, trying to make sure your fellow soldier doesn't spend eternity in flaming torment, i think it behooves you to make sure nothing is in the least 'a little blurry.' which is why Dever's statement is easy to make, yet impossible to reduce to its pragmatic implications and, more specifically, how it's put into practice. I'm not about to quarrel in response. i thought only republicans had deemed intelligent debate off limits or unpatriotic (unChristian?). i'm not quarreling, just asking you to specifically say what you - and Dever - mean. and then, of course, mean what you say.

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LayGuy

August 05, 2008  6:46pm

What a silly argument. When will Christians just learn to get along with each other and focus on more important issues.

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Paul Dalach

August 05, 2008  4:18pm

Mike Rucker, Dude...are you okay? :-\ I'm sorry...I believe those question have answers, even if the edges of the answers are a little blurry. I didn't mean to hit a nerve...and I'm not about to quarrel in response. Paul

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Jeremiah Fyffe

August 05, 2008  3:04pm

Thank you Darren and Mike and Paul and others for trying quite well to be kind and to listen to each other's comments. This can be very hard to do in this medium. I just wanted to say thank you for not giving up on the conversation. One thing that I note is that one of the reasons I believe people like Dever or Sproul or Piper, etc, keep talking about the "Cross of Christ" even to the degree that some feel like it is reductionistic is because they see the idea of Penal Substitutionary Atonement being (at best) placed to the side amongamong other aspects of the gospel. The thing that they are fighting for is that the Atonement as understood in this way is not the implications, it is the spring from which all that is grace flows. As I am sure you know, 1 Corinthians 2 puts it this way, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." It is not that this is all there is to the meaning or importance or implications of the gospel. It is simply that if you can concentrate on this and get this then this crucified Christ atoning for sin is the place from which flows all else that we might speak. It also serves as the corrective against any foreign additions that are not genuine implications. Let's look at a biblical example. If you get the atonement you won't become bound up by the law (i.e. the Judaizers). Now, it is not the gospelthe gospel that the believer is free from the law. The gospel is that the believer is reconciled to God because of Christ became our righteousness and paid our debt. But if you get you will get that Christ has fulfilled the law on our behalf. I think that this example can pour over into the present conversation. Make much of the gospel as the life and work of Jesus Christ culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection and the meaning of this gospel in the life of the church and the believer will flow from this all important source. That is why I believe that Dever and others can sound reductionistic. It is in this simple gospel that the manifold grace of God appears. Again, thanks to all of you for your gracious interaction about the gospel.

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mike rucker

August 05, 2008  2:45pm

Mike Rucker, Is it perhaps that you've entangled the effects of the gospel with the gospel itself? The gospel is conceptually simple. ok, what is it? and what is 'conceptually,' other than a means to fudge being specific? and what are the 'effects' of the gospel? is it 'effectual' on its own? or do you believe everyone is 'lost' and must be saved? if so, what must one do with it - if anything? and what does 'preaching the gospel' mean? telling a story from the bible? asking for every head to be bowed and every eye closed so that those who are 'ashamed of the gospel' can raise their hands without anyone seeing them? and which options on the basic model (baptism, speaking in tongues, etc.) does your denomination require to bless someone with 'salvation'? can i believe in a different Jesus than you do (chances are, i do...)? to what degree? mine is a big Jethro Tull fan; how about yours? so is one of us saved and the other not? can i shut up now? m.r.

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Paul Dalach

August 05, 2008  1:31pm

Mike, I think you're distinction between emerging and Emergent is helpful in this case. I've had more interaction with Emergents and there are a whole slew of interconnecting theological debates I feel are relevant. But perhaps the biggest one to me is a strong Emergent contingent's view of penal substitution, not as an act of love that the Trinity performed for love of us and glory for themselves, but as a repulsive idea of divine child abuse (there's been tons of debates of Brian Mclaren's work over this and I've seen some hints of Rob Bell being somewhat in agreement with it). I agree with Melody's post here...the theology and the sentiment. I'm one like your friends who view redemption/reconciliation as central to the cross but with many complementary facets. You asked about what I mean by "redemption of sinful creation"? I think what was in my head is best explained in Colossians 1, with redemption and reconciliation used more or less interchangeably (hmm...is that a problem?...have to think about that.) : "19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant." Is that a helpful in clarifying?

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Paul Dalach

August 05, 2008  1:23pm

Darren, I think you're right to say that results and very difficult to disentangle from their causes. Let me throw a metaphor of sorts out there since this is how I think. Hopefully it's helpful. It is impossible, once grown, for a plant to be disentangled from its seed. From the point of view of the plant, it is merely the maturation of the seed. So though we can't truly disentangle the greater complexity of a grown plant from it's progenitor seed, we still can distinguish a simple seed FROM a complex plant. To be explicit, gospel is the seed and the plant is the lives of a faithful Christian. And so I have to credit Jesus (mustard seed) and Paul (Paul vs. Apollos) with that metaphor, since as I was writing this out I realized that it had been used before to describe the Christian life. Does this somewhat capture what you're thinking, Derran? Thanks for the great dialogue.

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Mike

August 05, 2008  11:42am

Paul, thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I do not disagree one bit. I think the question we are wrestling with is one of semantics and deeper understanding. This leads me to a few questions I have... What do you mean by the "redemption of sinful creation"? Are you referring predominantly to humanity, or something larger? I would argue that indeed the Gospel writers did focus on redemption as the focal point of the "gospel." However, within their historical-social context as Second Temple Jews, this "redemption" went far beyond mere forgiveness and "going to heaven someday." As for the Emerging church movement as a whole [larger than the organization "Emergent"], I have friends who are vocal proponents. I have never heard a one of them "disregard the atonement as the central work to the cross." I have heard many of them see the atonement as larger then merely one theological interpretation [penal substitutionary atonement]. They may see different nuances in atonement theology, but then again, so did many church fathers. on the flip side, I have heard some in the Emerging church movement try to distance themselves too far from substitutionary theology, perhaps this has been your experience.

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Darren King

August 05, 2008  1:04am

Paul, I appreciate the thoughts and tone expressed in your most recent post. I would say though, that on your last point, it's not so easy in practice (nor, I would argue, fruitful), to separate consequences and implications from first causes. I think it's all organically, intrinsically connected. When one looks at something from a one perspective, things can look pretty easy to delineate. But when seen from other perspectives, ascertaining where one thing begins and another ends, isn't so easy. We try and separate things out, for the sake of teaching, and for clarity of thought, but, it seems to me, we should always keep in mind that these are still, at best, attempts at translating multi-dimensional realities into more narrow frameworks. This isn't a bad thing, it just happens, and necessarily so. But perhaps some hermeneutical, epistemological, and theological humility would be appropriate. Don't you think? Peace, Darren

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