The Consequences of a Pseudo-Gospel

If anyone would like to see the future of the LCMS if we continue to deal with the Scriptures in a pure Law/Gospel way (i.e., Law versus Gospel), read this.

Gene Robinson is the product of a mainline American denomination that has clearly played Law against Gospel and is reaping the harvest of such an approach to the Scriptures. Other things have contributed to the chaos, such as picking and choosing which parts of the Scriptures are “God’s Word,” but behind it all is the idea that if someone says “no” to a particular behavior or lifestyle, that person is legalistic and anti-Gospel. Thus, the Gospel is turned into one big huggy-kissy “yes” to the perversion du jour.

“Jesus never says anything about homosexuality,” he says, the light tone in his nasal voice suddenly darkening, “but he says a lot about treating every person with dignity and respect. All the biblical appeals for a particular attitude to homosexuality can never quote Jesus.”

What, though, of Old Testament condemnations of “men who lay with men”?

“The Church isn’t the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he says.

“Only God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Church has always been changing. The Holy Spirit is leading us into truth. And I believe we have learnt that about people of colour, about women, about those who are disabled and now about lesbian and gay people.”

In this system, Jesus is the Almighty Messenger of Acceptance, Dignity, and Respect (AMADR). Somehow “dignity and respect” are exchanged for love, and Jesus, the AMADR, has no words of condemnation except for those who condemn sin. What Robinson fails to understand is that this is not about “a particular attitude to homosexuality,” but about an attitude toward the relationship of men and women, and Jesus does have some things to say about that, including “at the beginning, God made them male and female,” with all that that entails in Genesis 2. We can talk all we want about dignity and respect, but there is no passage, not a single one, that expresses a positive attitude toward homosexual genital contact. The Law of God built into creation itself has been transformed into something that can mean whatever the individual sinner wants it to mean. Forget homosexuality; can Gene Robinson say a single prohibition to any form of conduct, sexual or otherwise?  And on what basis?  By what standard can he judge to be in the wrong those who think sex should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman?  Further, I challenge him to point to a single passage where Jesus says we should treat people with “dignity and respect.”

And can we put to bed (no pun intended) this ridiculous notion of the Holy Spirit leading us into some sort of nebulous “truth”? Why do these people always end in the middle of verse 13? The rest of the passage says,

“…for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13b-15, ESV)

The Spirit is not an independent god floating around bringing whatever notions of “truth” might fit with our own self-conceptions. If it doesn’t fit with the Trinity, especially the Gospel of the Incarnate Son, but also the creation of the world (God did that, remember?), then it’s not the Holy Spirit who gave that “truth.” How arrogant do you have to be to presume that your pet sin has been truthified by the Holy Spirit? This is more dangerous than any dictator claiming to have God on his side, because the dictatorship of the self over and against God is open to everyone. I’m not sure where, exactly, Gene Robinson would locate God and His revelation, since he seems to think that Scriptural prohibitions against having sex with other men is something the Church, and not God, has said. That’s freedom for you! Just claim that whatever sin you like to commit is not prohibited by God, but by the Church–St. Paul was a member of the Church, after all (the patriarchal, hierarchical, sexist, homophobic Church, at least).

But here is Robinson’s driving concern (sound familiar?):

“It is so sad to me that this issue has become so important to us,” he insists. “To raise any issue about the central issues that Jesus raised is idolatry. To focus on this issue to the exclusion of everything else is a kind of idolatry.

It makes the Church seem that much more hopelessly irrelevant to the culture for whom this is less and less of an issue all the time, and especially for people under 30. It makes the Church look so behind the times. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Church could lead for a change rather than bring up the rear?” [emphasis added]

It’s no longer loving someone who is “homo” to you that is narcissistic and idolatrous, but calling that sort of “sexual expression” wrong that is idolatrous! But seriously: who focuses on homosexual genital contact “to the exclusion of everything else”? There I agree with Robinson; such a person would have a problem.

But it’s all about relevance. There is perhaps not anything worse that the Church could be. Hey, whatever people want to do, we’ll say it’s okay. You want to beat your wife? We’re relevant to that. You want to divorce your husband for the cable guy? We’re relevant to that. You want to drink yourself into oblivion? Let us help you! Whatever your perversion, we’ll be relevant. In fact, we’ll lead the way, and beat your wife for you! We’ll give you and the cable guy a blessing! See how relevant and leading we are?

The only way the Church can be relevant to damned sinners is to be irrelevant to their individual wants and desires. Only the Law that condemns sinners and their pet sins is relevant. Only the Gospel that forgives and does not excuse their sins is relevant. Everything else is playing games and chasing fads. The Church does not exist to “accept” anyone (which means, in Robinson’s parlance, “letting them do whatever they want as long as they don’t tell me I’ve sinned”), but to destroy their pretensions. Making people feel better about themselves is the job of the self-help section. The Church exists so that God can kill sinners and raise them to a new life. Robinson wants them to go back to their old life feeling “dignified” and “respected.” That’s called Hell.

This is a pseudo-Gospel, and therefore a pseudo-Christ. In Robinson’s World, everything is inverted:

Given that he is not about to change his view, Anglicanism faces an uncertain future, I suggest. “I believe,” he says, giving every indication of meaning it, “that in the end the communion will win out and we will hang together. God calls all of his children to the table. We can disagree and even say a lot of hateful things, but what we can’t do in good conscience is leave the table. Or demand that someone else not be at the table.”

Which seems to be exactly what some of his fellow bishops are demanding of him. “They are,” he confirms, “and that is the worst sin. But by virtue of our baptism, Peter Akinola and I are brothers in Christ and one day we are going to be in heaven together, so we might as well learn to get along here because we will have to get along there. God won’t have it any other way.”

He’s the victim and the sinned-against, and not even God is going to remove that self-assurance. Thus, the one who begins by saying “yes” to everything to which God says “no” becomes the most legalistic with those who oppose him. Everyone will have a lex aeterna; the question is, does it match God’s?

Unless the Missouri Synod can escape a pure Law/Gospel polarization, following the Episcopalians down their well-trodden path is absolutely unavoidable. And unless there is something outside Law vs. Gospel (God’s Law and God’s Gospel, remember), there is no argument that can be made against Robinson’s form of Law-Gospel reductionism. In such a universe, sin will be definable as “whatever condemns my so-called sin,” and the Church will turn into the world, where discourse becomes a series of emotional assertions with moral labels attached. God help us.

Timotheos

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8 thoughts on “The Consequences of a Pseudo-Gospel

  1. I’m sure you have heard this rant from me before so I will keep it simple: Certain homiletics professors talk about “Law and Gospel” as if they were talking about “Sin and Salvation” where “Law = Sin” making Law the enemy and that is manifestly incorrect.
    Since it is God’s Law it functions as a pointer to our sin. Law is in fact, the enemy of sin because it seeks it out like a bloodhound and forces it to the surface. The enemy is not the Law. The enemy remains to be sin.

    CC

  2. Could you explain a little bit more what you mean by “pure Law/Gospel polarization”? Clearly the Robinson guy doesn’t talk about real Law or real Gospel, as he defines what he thinks God is saying. I don’t think we have that (God willing) much in the LCMS, so I’m not sure why we’d be headed down that path.

  3. Yeah, the connection was probably not as clear as it could have been.

    What I see in the Episcopalians and in most other mainline/oldline denominations is an unwillingness to say that anything is wrong or sinful. This is not relativism so much as it is a result of having played Law against Gospel for so long, the Law becomes the enemy.

    It’s related to what the Captain says about equating Law with sin, and instead of sin and sinners being the enemy of God, God’s Law becomes the enemy of His Gospel. And, of course, the Gospel “trumps” the Law, and soon it is almost impossible to say ‘no’ to anything because you will be labeled as “Law-oriented” rather than “Gospel-oriented.” And who, especially in a Gospel-church like the LCMS, wants to be known as the guy who’s trying to make people live under the Law again rather than in the freedom of the Gospel?

    You’ll hear this when it comes to closed Communion: “Doesn’t preventing some from communing go against the Gospel?” It’s almost impossible to get out of that Law vs. Gospel trap once you’re stuck in it.

    Thanks,
    Tim

  4. Ah, I think I see what you’re getting at. If you see the Law and Gospel as working against each other, then you’ll end up with the Gospel reductionism that you’re talking about. In fact, that kind of happened in the 70s.

  5. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just something that happened in the 70s. We are now reaping the ugly harvest of reducing Law and Gospel to Law vs. Gospel. Now, every “no”=legalism and every “yes”=Gospel. Communion, women in the pastoral office, and unionism are all battlefields. I fear we “won” the battle over the Bible in the 70s only to lose the war over the Gospel.

    Tim

  6. It is not the Law that is the enemy, it is us in our constant and consistent desire to sin. We could say that Satan is the enemy, but even Satan just temps, we are the ones who choose.

    The problem people have in this modern age of legislating or excusing blame is accepting that we are the problem. If you can’t accept that you are the enemy, then you can’t focus on Christ as the only salvation.

    What this leads to is the new (yet old) idea that Christ return to us our free-will rather than to pay for our past sins. This ideology drives the Law vs. Gospel doctrines more often than not.

    So, because our secular culture directs us to place blame on the individual rather than sin, by default if not by purpose we start wanting placing the onus of our christian salvation on ourselves, all under the guides of “freedom”.

  7. In this scheme even the Law becomes a pseudo-law. This psuedo-law only condemns those that are not “accepting” of everything and everyone except of course of anything that can be considered apart of Christian tradition i.e the order of creation, closed communion, etc.

  8. The proper uses of Law and Gospel is not the problem. The probler remains improper usage.

    God only speaks to us in Law or Gospel terms. Demands and Promises. What else is there?

    Anything goes in the mainline churches because they’ve abandoned the doctrine of sin. They gone over the ‘left’ edge.

    The problems of legalism persist because of improper usage of the law on the ‘right’ side of the spectrum.

    There is a middle. Not license, nor legalism. God’s law to kill us off and God’s Promises to raise us.

    Thanks much!

    – Steve Martin

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