This interview by Ed Stetzer with Mark Dever caught me by surprise. They're talking about the renewed interest among evangelicals in a "larger gospel" that captures a kingdom theology. Dever sees it as exceedingly dangerous because a focus on doing good may take away from evangelism. Check out this clip.
What surprised me was Dever's honesty. Consider his remarks:
1. He admits that the word gospel is used in Scripture to mean more than "God-man-Christ-response." He recognizes that it refers to the "restoration of all things." In this regard he is in agreement with scholars like Scot McKnight who have challenged the narrow definition of gospel in the evangelical tradition.
2. But Dever worries that focusing on this biblical definition of gospel will diminish our focus on individual salvation and evangelism. So,
3. He wants us to rely on a "systematic" idea of what gospel means based on a "long tradition of reflection" that emphasizes the individual redemption of people rather than the cosmic restoration of all things.
Is Dever asking us to put theological tradition ahead of Scripture?
Going further, Dever then negatively cites John Stott, one of the most celebrated evangelical scholars of the 20th century. Stott, a close friend of Billy Graham, and a founder of the Lausanne Movement for World Evangelization, also penned one of the most widely affirmed doctrinal statements of the modern age- The Lausanne Covenant which states in part:
We affirm that Christ sends his redeemed people into the world as the Father sent him, and that this calls for a similar deep and costly penetration of the world. We need to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society. In the Church's mission of sacrificial service evangelism is primary. World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.... The goal should be, by all available means and at the earliest possible time, that every person will have the opportunity to hear, understand, and to receive the good news.
One would hardly call John Stott soft on personal evangelism. But Dever says we should do the opposite of what Stott instructs in his book Christian Mission in the Modern World pages 26-28. I looked up the reference but did not find Stott calling for a de-emphasis of personal evangelism at all. Rather, Stott reveals how both traditional models of mission (proclamation only) and the ecumenical model (social renewal only) both fail to adhere to Scripture. Instead he calls for Christians to see in the Great Commission a call to make disciples (evangelism), and teach them to obey all Jesus commanded which includes social responsibility (page 37).
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