Wednesday, December 29, 2010

R.C. Sproul's "What is the Gospel?"

While I'm still juiced on the R.C. Sproul mode, I want to offer something from Sr. that I whole heartedly agree with. He had a short article earlier this year on Ligonier called What is the Gospel. Being classically Arminian in soteriology I half expected to object upon reading it. However, I think he hit the nail on the head and kept the matter rather simple. It is about faith in the one sent to redeem. Here is a short excerpt.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn't concerned to protect His own integrity. He's a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ's life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you're declared just by God, you're adopted into His family, you're forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.

This is pretty much the Arminian and non-Calvinist view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From an evangelical perspective, I am pleased to see R.C. preach this word as an Arminian stating that the receipt of the benefits of Christ is made by placing our faith in Him. I emphasize our faith for a purpose here. Most of the body of Christ recognizes that even the ability to believe is by the grace of God. It is a core tenet of James Arminius and the other early Reformers that natural man has no innate functionality, no desire or quest for the things of God and can make no move of his own lacking the effectual grace of God (see here). We believe because we have been enabled to do so. We believe because the grace of God did precede our surrender and bring us to a point where faith brought about a repentance and new birth or regeneration, scripturally a new creation. This is not only the position of Arminius, Wesley and a great many other theologians and pastors before and after but it is also the classical position of John Calvin (see here) and reaching well before, Augustine of Hippo.

It is putting our trust in Him that reaps the benefits of salvation, of redemption from a spoiled life. It is not God's belief in us. He did not drag us kicking and screaming. We are not forced into the Kingdom of God. Instead, it is as R.C extolled in his best Arminian prose, our trust placed in Him. Now, rather than waxing golden over a supposed conversion of a noted Calvinist theologian embracing the Arminian and orthodox way, I'm not going to suppose that R.C. has now abandoned his creedal albeit misguided beliefs. Instead, R.C. merely confirms what many of us have suggested all along. The Calvinist preaches the good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, as an Arminian (or non-Calvinist for those that do not prefer the label). For that we are grateful.


Pumice said...

I was listening to a pod-cast by Sproul when he declared war on Arminians as if we were the enemy. I much prefer Alistair Begg's way of dealing with the issue. He is a Calvinist and makes no real apologies for it. One time in the last year I was listening to one of his sermons on the way to work and he made a point that was obviously Arminian. At that point he paused and said something to the effect, "I know that doesn't agree with what I told you last week, but it is what the Bible teaches. My job is to preach what the Bible teaches, not to work our your questions." And he went on. I wish I had the date of the pod-casts, but it was a classic.

Grace and Peace.

A.M. Mallett said...

I used to listen to Alistair every morning during the week on the way to work. I had a 50 minute commute and his show always started as I left the house. I always appreciated his willingness to stay as close to the scriptural text as he could without plugging a lot of philosophy in the midst of it. Unfortunately, I cannot pick him up on a station here that I know of.
I love your blog, by the way.


Pumice said...

Thanks for the good word.

I use my I-pod rather than the radio now. It makes the drive to work a blessing. If you are still driving, you might try it.

Grace and Peace