How to Never Say Anything True About Jesus to Anyone Ever

Below is an excerpt from a a brief but disappointing article by Scot McKnight:

“We enter into the far country of pluralism incarnationally, which for them means as embodying the gospel in how we live and how we live with others. Central to this is a lack of coercion. “We do not communicate the gospel until we have learned how (or have the right opportunity) to say it in such a way that it can be received as good news” (157).

We enter into the far country of pluralism as witnesses — by non-coercively pointing people to Jesus as Lord. The Christian’s affirmation is the non-negotiable affirmation that Jesus is Lord, and on that basis all witness occurs. Non-coercively, non-aggressively, non-defensively. Conviction that Jesus is Lord empowers the Christian to be a witness and to know God is at work.

Pluralism, they contend, is God’s way of revealing truth. It began with Babel. “Pluralism is the non-violent condition for God to work out the truth of the gospel in each of us, slowly over time and in relation to others (even other religions)” (160)…read more

The “them” to whom McKnight refers are David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw, authors of the book “Prodigal Christianity”. I’ve not read it (though the reviews and blurbs do not seem promising) so I’m responding mainly to what Scot McKnight has written about the book.

First of all, pluralism is not “God’s way of revealing truth”. His way of revealing truth is called “revelation”. He’s spoken his truth directly. He’s done so through his prophets and through his apostles. And he’s most recently done so by causing his revelation to be inerrantly recorded in the scriptures. The “pluralism” God caused at the Tower of Babel was a revelation of sorts, but a revelation of his wrath against human pride and self-exaltation. The division of the nations he caused at Babel in response to human vainglory he reverses through the gospel and in Jesus Christ through whom he re-unites all languages, cultures and nations on the basis and ground of his One revealed Truth.

Second, the authors suggest and McKnight seems to agree, that one should not share the gospel with words until one is sure that “the gospel will be received as “good news”. Where on earth does that idea come from. If the apostles – who also proclaimed the gospel in a pluralist world – had heeded that advice they would’ve never preached the resurrection in the streets of Jerusalem. You never see such reticence in the New Testament. Never. The apostles did not wait, nor do they ever suggest waiting until hearers might “receive the gospel as good news” before proclaiming it. The cross offends. It always will because it amplifies the sinfulness of human sin and the helplessness of humanity apart from the work of Christ. But even so – even given the offense of the cross – we are, both in preaching and in mission, to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.

Third, I keep reading and hearing this word “coercive” attached to the kind of preaching and teaching done by Piper and Carson. “Coercion” in English means manipulating by threat or extortion in order to force someone or a group of people to do what you would like them to do. But I get the sense that when guys like McKnight complain about “coercion” they generally have in mind those who speak clearly about the bible and the implications of Jesus’ call to repent. Those, in other words, who do not await the readiness of hearers to “receive the gospel as good news” but who instead call all people to repent and surrender to Jesus in order both to receive everlasting life and to escape the wrath of God are acting “coercively”.

There are certainly pastors who use the gospel to exert control over people. But that is not the fault of the gospel. Nor is it a reason to refrain from preaching it. If, as Jesus, says the “many” are on that broad road that leads to destruction, then being a good neighbor and warning the many about what lies ahead for them and pointing out a Narrower but eternally happier path is rather a nice thing to do – even when your neighbor(s) don’t appreciate the heads up. I may not like the raised voice and the coarse language the man uses who warns me to step out of the way of an oncoming bus, but I’ll generally step out of the street just to be sure.

Lastly, and this is directed more toward some of the reviews of “Prodigal Christianity” on Amazon and elsewhere than to what McKnight wrote, I do love it when various “missional” types ensconced behind their black rimmed glasses and goatees tell us that we’re now living in a “post-propositional” culture in which the gospel must be embedded in narrative and story if it is to be heard. Such an interesting proposition. Maybe I’d be persuaded if they told me a story about it? As things stand it seems that once again the church in an effort to accommodate itself to the current “cool” is tagging along on the tail end of a passing cultural fad (postmodernish relativism). Every time I’m told that we must to change the way we talk about Jesus; that we’ve got to be hip to reach the hip, I’m reminded of these guys:

How about we just stick to preaching the bible?

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