Making preaching safe for consumption...
Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; and they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, but they have seen for you false and misleading oracles. - Lamentations 2:14
We oppose the men who evangelize for the Radical Two-Kingdom (R2K) and Redemptive-Historical Preaching (RHP) errors because they leave pastors standing in their pulpits bound and gagged. The only iniquity they expose is the iniquity of preaching contrary to their hermetically-sealed hermeneutics.
Understand, of course, that RHP men haven't said anything new about preaching when they exhort pastors to find the shortest path from the Old Testament to Jesus Christ. This approach may easily be traced back through all the godly preachers of Church history. As I said in an earlier post, our Lord Himself did it on the Road to Emmaus when He showed his travelling companions how Moses and the Prophets pointed forward to His life, death, and resurrection.
Who opposes the preaching of Christ from Moses and the Prophets? Every preacher needs to grow in his knowledge of the Old Testament's proclamation of God's plan of redemption--myself included.
But of course, that's the front end of the RHP plan, whereas the back end is where things run amok... As with the R2K error, it's not so much what these men tell preachers to do that's the problem, but what they command preachers not to do.
Yes, yes; of course we must not replace the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of this world. But where does the Word of God show us one preacher or prophet who gags himself from addressing the wickedness and oppression of his city because he's afraid someone might accuse him of hankering after political office? Jonah, for instance?
It's ridiculous. John the Baptist was not lusting after political power when he preached against Herod's immoral marriage. Stop and think, man: he lost his head for it.
You see, the Biblical doctrines of the distinct nature of the kingdoms of God and this world and the Church's calling to proclaim the Gospel for the salvation of mankind are nothing new. Jesus Himself answered Pilate, "My Kingdom is not of this world." But Jesus also was executed by the civil magistrate. His death was no private murder nor an assassination. Everything He did and preached and taught was understood to be seditious, so the civil magistrate executed Him at the crossroads of Jerusalem.
You see, in this wicked world the obedience of faith will always be interpreted to be a political act. Just look at our Hoosier senate candidate Richard Mourdock testifying to his Christian faith concerning the unborn. He opens his mouth and all the forces of Hell gnash their teeth. Precisely how does a faithful Christian, whether church officer or church member, live and speak and teach and preach and rule in such a way as to allay any of the fears of the forces of Hell that this Christian has designs on the wicked kingdoms of this world?
Soren Kierkegaard and John Newton and our Lord are all agreed. Truth and godliness and the Gospel of Jesus Christ always present themselves as a lethal threat against the powers that be because the powers that be present themselves as gods and the purpose of all their little laws is to displace God's Moral Law and His authority. Take sodomite marriage and click it or ticket, for instance. The first is a direct attack on God to the destruction of life and immortal souls while the second is intended to teach the citizens how benevolent their rulers are.
Jesus' Kingdom is not of this world and His Kingdom will always be opposed by the kings of this world because they understand His Kingdom is of this world.
Thus John Newton titled his book, A Review of Ecclesiastical History: So Far as it Concerns the Progress, Declensions and Revivals of Evangelical Doctrine and Practice ; with A Brief Account of the Spirit and Methods by which Vital and Experimental Religion Have Been Opposed In All Ages of the Church.
Similarly, Kierkegaard wrote:
Folios and folios have been written to show again and again how one is to recognize what true Christianity is. This can be done in a far simpler way.
Nature is ...acoustic. Only heed what the echo answers, and thou shalt know at once what is what.
So when in this world one preaches Christianity in such a way that the echo answers: "Glorious, profound, serious-minded Christian, thou shouldst be exalted to princely rank," etc., know then that this signifies his preaching of Christianity is, Christianly, a base lie. It is not absolutely certain that he who walks with fetters on his legs is a criminal, for there are instances when the civil magistrate has condemned an innocent man; but it is eternally certain that he who--by preaching Christianity!--wins all things earthly is a liar, a deceiver, who at one point or another has falsified the doctrine, which by God has been so designed, in such a militant relation to this world, that it is eternally impossible to preach what Christianity is in truth without having to suffer in this world, to be repudiated, hated, cursed.
When one preaches Christianity in such a way that the echo answers, "He is mad," know then that this signifies that there are considerable elements of truth in his preaching, without its being, however, the Christianity of the New Testament. He may have hit the mark; but presumably he does not press hard enough, either by his oral preaching or by the preaching of his life, so that, Christianly speaking, he glides over too easily, his preaching after all is not the Christianity of the New Testament.
But when one preaches Christianity in such a way that the echo answers, "Away with that man from the earth, he does not deserve to live," know then that this is the Christianity of the New Testament. Without change since the time of our Lord Jesus Christ, capital punishment is the penalty for preaching Christianity as it truly is: hating oneself to love God; hating oneself to hate everything in which one's life consists, everything to which one clings, for the sake of which one selfishly would desire to have God's aid to get it, or to console one that one did not get it, console one for the loss of it--without any change capital punishment is the penalty for preaching this in character.
- Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon "Christendom," (Boston: Beacon Press, 1956), pp. 278-79.
And our Lord Himself said:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, "If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets." So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!" (Matthew 23:29-39)
So when R2K men are eager beavers to keep preachers from saying anything the civil magistrate could view as political, they are gagging the prophets to the end that the prophets will live to preach another day. Again, there is no way to preach the Gospel without suffering persecution. "No servant is greater than His Master," Someone once said.
It is not the preaching of the infinite separation between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world that's the problem with the R2K evangelists, but their frenzied efforts to silence the prophets of righteousness, today. Misery wants company. Men without chests want every preacher gelded.
And what of RHP evangelists?
The error of Redemptive-Historical Preaching is not that they call men to preach Christ from the Old Testament, but that they attempt to silence the preaching of the obedience of faith from the Old Testament. Of course, that's not how they put it: they would never want to include the word 'faith' in any description of what they oppose. Nevertheless they zealously oppose any preaching of obedience from the Old Testament--except possibly the Ten Commandments. The obedience of faith is never to be preached from any historical narrative. Never to be preached from any particular deed of any particular man.
Yet the Holy Spirit uses the "obedience of faith" to bookmark the beginning and end of Romans:
(W)ho was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His Name’s sake... (Romans 1:4, 5)
On verse 5 Calvin comments that "the design of (the Gospel) is to constrain us to obey God."
"To obey God:" may we please say this? The obedience of faith constraining us to obey God is no denial of imputation or justification. If the New Testament is filled with commands to obedience, why would anyone think it's right to eviscerate the Old Testament of commands to obedience claiming the pure doctrine of the Gospel requires it? This is beyond lunacy--it's faithlessness.
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)
This is what God says to Abraham:
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” (Genesis 18:17-19)
And all through Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, we find not only that believing is commanded, but that true believing is for the purpose of becoming conformed to the Image of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the reason our fathers in the faith have always said that the true Christian desires three things with regard to sin: justification that it might not condemn, sanctification that it might not reign, and glorification that it might not be.
Evangelists for both the Radical Two-Kindgom and Redemptive-Historical errors seek to gag preachers of righteousness by demanding they avoid any sort of preaching that might be misunderstood as being political (R2K) or moralistic (RHP).
Yet the civil magistrate has always misunderstood God's servants, the prophets, as being threats to their riches, power, and authority. This is the reason servants of God and His Gospel have always suffered at the hands of the civil magistrate. The martyrs of the Early Church were executed by the civil magistrate under two charges: atheism and anarchy. And did Rome try to execute Luther because he was no threat to their kingdom?
And the proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of mankind has always gone forward through the ministry of the Holy Spirit convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.
Which is to say the right preaching of the Word--the first mark of the church--will always bring persecution on the preacher both from those within and without the Church. Unbelievers, hypocrites, and those who have gone astray will always suspect faithful pastors of wanting what they want. A thief thinks everyone steals and kings, presidents, the media, and academics are fearful that Gospel preachers want their palaces, limousines, seats of honor, hoods, and tenure.
Allow me to say this gently. As I look deep within my heart--or maybe even not so very deep--I see so much love of this world that I wonder how many of us are able to say we don't want their palaces, limousines, seats of honor, hoods, and tenure? And if, for the sake of argument, we were to admit our hearts were set on this kitsch, wouldn't it be great to manufacture theological principles to hide behind as we bind and gag those preachers still faithful to preach against wickedness in high and low places? Preachers still bold enough to preach against the bloodlust of rulers and the oppression and murders at our local Planned Parenthood abattoirs? Still bold enough to preach against our seminary professors who are out and about seeking the repeal of anti-sodomy laws?
Preachers still bold and faith-filled enough to preach the Law of God and repentance with the obedience of faith and the faith of obedience?
Corrupted rulers and corrupted pastors in cahoots with them have always worked to silence God's servants the prophets. There is no way to reassure them without losing Gospel preaching's Holy Spirit potency. The Holy Spirit is never safe, so it only stands to reason that preachers are never safe. Thus mayors and scribes seek to imprison them in a maze of "do this, but don't do this." Or if their financial, legislative, or theological gagging enterprises fail, they imprison or murder them.
Recently a homeschooling mother and wife of a PCA elder was arrested for asking young mothers going into one of the Planned Parenthood Holocaust Centers not to kill their babies, but to let her help them and adopt their babies. After she was arrested, one of her pastors was arrested, also. Their crime was calmly speaking to those set on murder to reconsider and repent of their intended bloodshed of innocents.
Thus preachers have always been killed and it wasn't their fault for not working hard enough to avoid being misunderstood, whether as power-mongers or moralists.
So enough with Radical Two-Kingdom and Redemptive-Historical evangelists condemning faithful preachers of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! Preaching has never and will never be safe, and it's not the fault of God's servants, the prophets. It's the fault of God Himself Who determined that the Kindgom of God will be born in humility and foolishness and weakness by men who lisp and sin and make fools of themselves as they cry down sin and cry up the One Who possesses all authority in Heaven and on Earth.
If R2K and RHP men would stop condemning faithful preachers and begin to faithfully preach the Kingdom of God and its righteousness themselves, faithful preachers would be comforted by their repentance and maybe even spurred on to greater boldness themselves.