The Gospel Coalition Needs to Set its House in Order

by Mike Ratliff

Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται. (Romans 1:16,17 NA27)

For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone believing, both to the Jew first and to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it has been written, “But the righteous man will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16, 17 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

In the passage above, the phrase “For I am not ashamed” translates “Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι.” Οὐ or ou is expressing an “absolutely negative” statement by the Apostle Paul. The verb ἐπαισχύνομαι or epaischunomai is in the present tense, indicative mood, middle voice case. The verb ἐπαισχύνομαι means, “to be ashamed, embarrassed, fearful of ridicule” because of one’s actions or beliefs. This verb generally does not carry the connotation of being ashamed of the wrong things one has done. This verb case asserts something that is occurring while the speaker is making the statement. Paul is, therefore, telling the Romans and us that he is NOT ashamed, embarrassed, or fearful of ridicule and will, therefore, preach the good news when he comes to Rome. Now, this does not mean that he believes he will be spared persecution or ridicule or embarrassment, et cetera for being bold for being obedient to his calling. Remember my brethren; our Lord said plainly that he did not come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). Therefore, those whose mission it is to proclaim the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ are to have this same determination, this same boldness, this same willingness to take up one’s own cross and follow Jesus regardless of the cost. 

In this post, I compared the interview done by Martin Bashir with Tim Keller to promote Keller’s new book The Purpose for God with the offense of the gospel. The reason I did that was that by all appearances, Tim Keller seemed to be nonplused with some very direct questions from Martin Bahsir having to do with the exclusivity of the gospel. I read one comment on another site that said that it appeared that Tim Keller was doing a poor job of gospel contextualization.

The following is an excerpt from the Gospel Coalition’s Confessional Statement:

The Fall We believe that Adam, made in the image of God, distorted that image and forfeited his original blessedness—for himself and all his progeny—by falling into sin through Satan’s temptation. As a result, all human beings are alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being (e.g., physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, spiritually) and condemned finally and irrevocably to death—apart from God’s own gracious intervention. The supreme need of all human beings is to be reconciled to the God under whose just and holy wrath we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can rescue us and restore us to himself.

The Plan of God We believe that from all eternity God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, and to this end foreknew them and chose them. We believe that God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace have faith in Jesus, and that he will one day glorify them—all to the praise of his glorious grace. In love God commands and implores all people to repent and believe, having set his saving love on those he has chosen and having ordained Christ to be their Redeemer.

The Gospel We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).

Compare that with Tim Keller’s reaction under fire from Martin Bashir. Yes, Tim Keller is a member of the Gospel Coalition. This post is a call to the Gospel Coalition to put its house in order and deal with Tim Keller on this issue. Is he with you on your central tenet (the gospel) or not? If he is then what is up with this sort of behavior? I read another comment on another discussion site about this in which one fellow, taking up for Tim Keller, said, “You catch more flies with honey. He was obviously not trying to offend anyone.” Uh, what about what our Lord said and what about this call for boldness in the face of persecution? If this was a case of gospel contextualization then it obviously shows the fallacy of that. God is sovereign in salvation, top to bottom. When men play games with it, then you have sorry episodes like this.

The Gospel Coalition is attempting to portray itself as a solid base of sound theology and gospel integrity in a sea of apostate churches. If that is the case, then their house must be set in order concerning Tim Keller very soon or their credibility is nil.

Soli Deo Gloria!

20 thoughts on “The Gospel Coalition Needs to Set its House in Order

  1. Is not Mark Driscoll part of this group? The man who has visions from god? Is not Piper in this group? The man who is a “brother in Christ” with Rick Warren? Is not Matt Chandler in this group? The man who audibly hears from god? Do not these men affirm contemplative spirituality also?

    What kind of Coalition is this?

    Thank you for your commentary; Mike. To “set in order” is stating it kindly.

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  2. “You catch more flies with honey. He was obviously not trying to offend anyone.”
    This quote is the problem with ‘modern’ and American “Christianity” IE: Charles Finney’s “New Methods”, in a one line statement.

    God did not send us out to ‘catch more flies’.

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  3. Who is left that does not affirm this “bunk”, “zaniness”? Is there ANYONE who will take a stand for the Lord here? Will this silliness continue and spread more of it’s roots as Acts 29 Network has?

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  4. Denise, did you read Ken’s article today? In it he says, “New Calvinism is a form of postmodern Calvinism; an oxymoron where one holds to some Reformation theology all the while marrying it to Counter Reformation theology.” I think that explains that “zaniness and “bunk” you are talking about.

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  5. I’ve been wondering about the G.C. as well. I can only think of 1 thing, If they are not continuing in the faith, and do not endure to the end, they were never saved. These men get a free pass because of years of teaching, good sermons, good confessional statements. It all means nothing if they do not persevere, which is what happens when they get into mysticism, centering prayer etc. This is adding to our Lords completed work

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  6. Amen to that Mike
    God is the same, Jesus is the same and the Gospel is the same as it always was. When political correctness and compromise infect the word of God its very indicative of the times we live in.
    Please see this link below , there appears to be world wide agenda to water down True faith and Christianity under the guise of “peace” that leaves the Word of God and and the salvation Jesus outside the equation.
    http://firstjohnfourfive.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/rick-warren-tony-blair-the-new-world-order/

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  7. I heard this interview over at Worldview Weekend by Brannon House. Afterwards I personally emailed those at the Gospel Coalition asking them if they heard the interview and if any of them had spoke with Tim Keller about this issue. Obviously I have not had a response from them at Gospel Coalition which does not surprise me.

    So my question is, what kind of coalition is this? I use to go to their web site often as there are a few who I like to read, D.A. Carson for one. But if they are not willing to speak with/confront Mr. Keller about this, I have no choice but to refrain from their site.

    If they are so willing to overlook this and not to mention, Piper, Driscoll and who knows who else, what else are they willing to overlook at the “Coalition.” Can we not find anyone these days to stand for truth and God’s Holy Word?

    Does not surprise me though in a P.C. Post-Modern World.

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  8. Mike,

    May I ask is Francis Chan or Josh Harris a member of this Gospel Coalition? I have many concerns about Fran Chan.
    Well,never mind I googled who the member are, I answered my won question.

    Having come out of the charismatic WOF/NAR movements, only by the Grace and mercy of God that he opened my eyes to his truth that I so desperately prayed for day and night. Now, these joker’s come to the surface………
    I use to tell my friend Deb… that these guy’s were a little to charsmatic for me, especially John Piper. I have never been a Mark Driscall, Matt Chandler, nor a John Piper fan, all these guy’s bugged me.

    I am praying tha Al Mohler or Voddie B will openly rebuked Tim Keller for thisbut of course they never rebuked John Piper as far as I know.

    Mike, thank you for challegening this coalition for this and please stand your ground to contend for the Gospel. of Jesus Christ.

    I thank God for men like you Mike, John MacArthur, Paul Washer, Jeff Pollard, Ralph Ovadall and lots more who stand on the Word of God and the true Gospel.

    It is getting really hard to trust a man, we must solely rely on the Word of God. My list is getting shorter and shorter of whom I can trust,……very sad.

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  9. As much as I disagree with John MacArthur on some things, I violently agree with him on many. When he recently diagnosed the danger facing the evangelical church, he specified the “neo-Calvinist” tendency to proclaim the reformed position on salvation, then conform to the culture on nearly everything else so goats will like them. Sempre Reformanda! This means we move forward to an ever narrowing Truth of God’s Word, with less and less of man’s opinion in our theology. These fellas – Tim, Rick, Bill, Mark, John, et. Al. – are going the WRONG WAY!

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  10. Once again, I say…Follow Jesus as Lord and no man…Appreciate men and women of God who hold to the scriptures in context, but do not follow them as “annointed ones.” We can’t have it both ways, if a person in the pews turns away, we say they were never saved (if they do not repent of their wayward error). Well the same goes for the pulpits folks! Can we think of any who genuinely repented? Their are preacher groupies in the Reformed, as well as the W.O.F./Charismatic congregations…And to think we used to giggle about how folks idolized “Bishop” Sheen think it was only the Catholics that were deceived! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXQP3UJnagM
    I don’t see an ounce of difference!

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  11. Tim Keller is the Reformed version of Rick Warren on a multitude of levels. People like Keller, Warren, Driscoll, Piper, etc. really do believe that there is truth in everything. However, Jesus stated to not eat of the leaven of the Pharisees nor Herod.

    This Reformed crowd is totally anti-Lordship while claiming “Jesus is Lord”. Just tell them how parading around their favorite beer is sinning against a weaker brother and you’ll see what I mean. MacArthur found out real fast! In a word, these guys are hypocrites. They claim a godliness but deny the power therein (their godliness isn’t even godly in many cases).

    When you have one of the most prolific writers get his popularity from marrying “hedonism” with “Christianity” and said it glorifies God—you know we’re in trouble. We are now suffering from the fruit of that one. Do whatever you want, as long as you are glorifying God and “enjoying Him”. However God is not pleased with such defilement. Just as Uzza.

    They don’t believe Scripture really IS the sole authority for ALL things pertaining to life and godliness. They don’t REALLY see Scripture as the sole book of absolute and infallible Truth–just a textbook they look at once in a while as an option to everything else–“Church fathers”, theologians, authors, professors. In other words, these guys really DO believe in “Truth in everything”. Including paganism.

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  12. Denise, what you are saying is that these fellows profess one set of beliefs or confession or whatever, but that there is no substance behind it. The exclusivity that we hold to scares them and they retreat from it. That is the dividing line between those who are genuine and those who only appear to be.

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  13. I really wonder if Tim Keller and those who have come to his defense have ever read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians (not to mention the rest of the New testament). What is the role of the pastor? For instance, what do they do with this statement from Paul: …”but with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition.. For the appeal we make does not spring from impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.” 1 Thessalonians 2:2b-6. As far as what happens to those who do not trust in Christ for salvation, Paul had this to say: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power….2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9; see also 2 Thess 2:9-12. Folks, if we remove the bad news, then we do not have any good news. At that point we have distorted the gospel and we have robbed men of hearing the only truth that can save their souls. What is Keller’s “good news” in this clip?

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  14. Mike, Paul Henebury wrote an old article series a few years back about Britain’s evangelical Christians titled “Evangelicalism in England”. In general, much of the British evangelical scene falls on the Reformed side of the divide, but there is likewise a lot of doctrinal decay analogous to what you see among Driscoll, Keller, Piper and the Gospel Coalition at all.

    Henebury poignantly put this remark in summary of the series, quoting Dr Peter Masters, Dr. Peter Masters, minister at Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle:

    ““What is the point of preaching or contending for sound doctrine, if the church’s practice has submitted to the world and become offensive to God?” (emphasis his).

    The hard truth is that doctrinal exactitude (whether Reformed or Dispensational) is never enough.”

    The original article is here:

    http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/evangelicalism-in-england-pt-3/

    * A Withering Plant.

    The American philosopher Elton Trueblood once wrote that “…the fruit separated from its root… is bound, in time, to wither, even though it may look good for a time.” – Foundations For Reconstruction, p. 2.
    Although Trueblood was referring to the fragmentation of morals in the West, his words well describe the present scene within Evangelicalism in the U.K. We have seen how that land has been blessed with many great men of God down the centuries – it is a rich heritage indeed. Yet the heirs of this inheritance, while repeating the old refrains of Reformed orthodoxy, are more and more showing themselves to be devotees of the prevailing ethos of pragmatic expediency. They are lured by the outward success of the charismatic fellowships, and they believe that with a bit of ‘tweaking’ here and there, they can have a slice of the action. Thus, normative church services such as the one I described in my last article are in the throws of being revamped. Meanwhile, the old leadership is seeking to pass the buck for the new downgrade by pointing to soft- targets outside their own particular sphere.

    * Evangelicalism Divided.

    The recent book by English Reformed writer Iain Murray entitled Evangelicalism Divided shares in the general excellencies and deficiencies of his other works. After a brilliant opening 100 or so pages Murray then gets bogged down discussing a theological hobby-horse (in this case it’s Evangelical Anglicanism), before closing off his book with thoughtful observations and helpful applications (I can’t be the only one who feels this way). The book was written to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Lloyd-Jones’s seminal address in 1966 in which he warned Evangelicals of the need for separating from the theological liberals within their denominational ranks. The book does contain some helpful information and analysis. For all that, I have to say that an American reading Murray’s book would probably come away with the idea that the Anglicans are to blame for the problems besetting British conservative Christianity today. Indeed, one might come away with much the same opinion after perusing The Banner of Truth magazine as well. The whole trouble is with these Anglican evangelicals! That is where the finger must point.

    Now the trouble with that view of things is that it is simply false. Yes, the Packer-Stott line has been influential in some quarters, but the buck does not stop with them. The truth of the matter is that the downward slide of Evangelicalism has had many contributors who are outside the pale of the Church of England.

    * Weaving Down A Straight Line.

    Granting the constitutional myopia which afflicts us all when our own circle is at fault, it is still disturbing to find the leaders within the independent churches in the U.K. fastening blame upon those dissembling Anglicans. I do not intend to follow suit.

    Aside from those benighted Anglicans (Packer, Stott, et al.) the Evangelicals are largely represented by three organizations; the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC), the British Evangelical Council (BEC), and the Association of Grace Baptists. None of these groups is now what it was originally meant to be. This is why people like Dr. Peter Masters, minister at Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, is not in membership with them. Certainly, there are still a minority of “old-style” evangelicals within these groups, but Dr. Masters is pessimistic about the future. He has written, “…we are profoundly doubtful that the existing evangelical organizations will take any stand against the advancing corruption of our churches.” – (Sword & Trowel magazine, 1999, #4, page 11).

    One example of such corruption was the subject of an article from Dr. Masters’ pen just one year later. In the first number of 2001 Sword & Trowel he commented on a new hymnbook initiated by leaders within the FIEC and Grace Baptists. This hymnbook, called “Praise”, introduces contemporary charismatic songs into Reformed churches. It is the culmination of a movement that has been growing in impetus since many of these fellowships adopted the “Mission Praise” songbook which accompanied Billy Graham’s Crusade of 1985. The leaders have had their set agenda, and they will see it through. For sure, the fruit will remain for a time , but it has to wither. As Peter Masters so poignantly expresses it;

    “What is the point of preaching or contending for sound doctrine, if the church’s practice has submitted to the world and become offensive to God?” (emphasis his).

    The hard truth is that doctrinal exactitude (whether Reformed or Dispensational) is never enough.

    Masters asks: “But are there not some reformed men who have espoused [this]?… With great grief we acknowledge that there are; but we can only say that Reformation tenets are in their head, not their heart; in their claims, but not in their allegiance; in their words, but not their deeds. In the days ahead the onward march of contemporary worship will reveal some painful surprises.” (Ibid, p. 7). Someone needs to sound the alarm.

    * A Personal Experience.

    I found out while attending Seminary in London that a ministry of warning is disallowed ‘up-front’ by men whose job it is to know better. If you will permit me one of many personal experiences. Our Theology Lecturer had two 90 minute periods left in which he wanted to discuss a prominent issue with the class. We were to put forward suggestions and then vote on them. My suggested topic was “New Evangelicalism” – which received the most votes. For the rest of the period our Tutor dithered and vacillated about and managed to evade the chosen topic. Come the next 90 minute period he took another vote. To his chagrin the class again opted for my previous suggestion. Whereupon we were treated to a lengthy discourse on…church architecture! There and then I learned why our churches were wide open to declension. The ministry of warning, repeatedly taught in the NT, was not welcomed. A vacuous orthodoxy might sound good, but it is impotent to retard the ranks of evangelical high-flyers who have mastered the art of accommodation. I am reminded of something that John Frame wrote. He said “The present climate of theological criticism has become almost too genteel, it is virtually unheard of for one to charge another with heresy.” – Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, p. 356. And so we choose soft targets to convince ourselves that we are made of the same stuff as our forefathers. How easy it is to trot out those Reformed catchphrases. But it is quite another thing to emulate the men who first expounded them.

    * Rifling Through The Baggage.

    As the subtitle indicates, this section is a bit of a smorgasbord. Space will only permit me a cursory look at the state of things.

    I start with the Alpha Course, a hugely successful course of basic introduction to the Christian faith. Or at least that is what it masquerades as. In reality it is a watered down version of the real Gospel. Sin is depicted as an unfortunate inability to live together with God. God Himself is not so foreboding, nor is He so full of majesty as scripture presents Him to be. The holiness of God is scarcely mentioned, leading to an unbiblical disjunction between God’s holiness and righteousness and His love. The whole direction of Alpha is anthropocentric.

    Backed in the US by Fuller Seminary, (that purveyor of all things suspect that still paints its face to persuade the unwary that it is evangelical), together with endorsements from J.I. Packer and Luis Palau, this adventurous but misguided group study is perfectly adapted for those who equate moral reformation with conversion. Developed at a charismatic Anglican Church in London, Alpha is being enthusiastically used by a broad spectrum of churches (including Roman Catholics) It scores because it is positive, inoffensive, and hopeful. It also offers the individual something that she needs in order to be fulfilled. With its impressive results and arresting merchandising, Alpha will either cause faithful Christians to contend for the true Gospel, or capitulate to its message. We hope that they will be steeled to respond in both a decisive and a relevant way.

    Another sign of the weakness of the church is the large amount of congregations without pastors. It has been my experience that these fellowships have in the past been in a position to call a new pastor, but have failed to do so partly because the deacons have been content to rely upon the steady supply of lay-preachers (of which I was once one), thereby insuring that things do not change. Also, many pastors have grown old with their congregations and have neglected to adjust to the times. They have let things slide due to a lack of vision and a wariness of new blood. I say it with some sympathy, these congregations want to preserve the status-quo, and have consequently got trapped in a Time-warp. I well remember preaching at a Church where the head deacon frankly informed me that they were not looking for a new pastor as the deacons were well able to run the church without one! There isn’t space for me to analyze this, but I believe that a root cause is an unwillingness to be in step with the times. Golden memories of former days obscure from view the reality of removed lampstands in so many local churches up and down the land.

    The Evangelical Line represented by the FIEC and the Grace Baptists has taken the steps that can only lead them away from the light. The Banner of Truth and Westminster Conferences delight in the battles and personalities of yesteryear, but they have little or nothing to say to the present. Only Peter Masters and those who will associate with his outlook offer the needed antidote. First, a presentation of well articulated and sensitive experimental theology (with its roots in the past but its branches grasping the present), and, second, a willingness to confront error and engage in a ministry of warning. And while I do not agree with all he does or says, I nevertheless hope to see his influence grow. There is no other sure leadership in sight.

    …”

    ——————————–

    I strongly suggest you read Henebury’s article series, even though Henebury started out Reformed and ended up a dispensationalist (and I personally share with his dispensationalist belief):

    http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/evangelicalism-in-england-pt-1/

    http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/evangelicalism-in-england-pt-2/

    http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/evangelicalism-in-england-pt-3/

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