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Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Semper Fidelis, Jul 7, 2014.
What motivates our obedience in heaven?
We are so prone to errors of overstatement and understatement. There is NOTHING wrong with gratitude as a central element of Christian obedience. Indeed, the very structure of the Heidelberg Catechism reflects this:
I. The Misery of Man
The natural condition of man,
God's demands on him in His law.
II. The Redemption (or Deliverance) of Man
The need for a Redeemer
God the Father and our creation (Lord's Days 9-10)
God the Son and our salvation (Lord's Days 11-19)
God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification (Lord's Days 20 - 22)
The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper
And the keys of the kingdom of heaven The Preaching of the Gospel and Church Discipline
III. The Gratitude Due from Man (for such a deliverance)
Conversion (Lord's Days 32-33)
The Ten Commandments (Lord's Days 34 - 44)
The Lord's prayer (Lord's Days 45 - 52)
Rhetorical misstatements and polemical efforts to win points often bury good and sensible statements of truth in battles over words. Much of the argument over grace and good works suffers from this phenomenon, in my opinion. How can you read the Bible without sensing the force of the admonitory/hortatory material?
Our holy wills. Action is controlled by our will. We will only be motivated to glorify God in all that we do for our natures will no longer battle indwelling sin.
Indwelling sin currently wars against us and so our wills are mixed. The issue of how we resist temptation and choose to glorify God is what's at hand in this case. In Christ's own case, it is said that "...zeal for God's house will consume Him...." In Christ's case, it was not necessarily gratitude for redemption but zeal for God's house that motivated Him. Insofar as Christ's humanity had to live by faith, we see an example of one who was motivated to obedience by zeal and not by gratitude per se.
By the way, let it not be said that I'm downplaying the critical role of gratitude in the believer's life. I'm only pointing out that we need not make it the sole motivation. We would have to put qualifications in the writings of many texts.
Thank you, Rich. I am sorry to have hijacked your thread. It was not my intention. However, the discussion has been very edifying.
It will be a strange thing in that day to be motivated solely by the zeal for the glory of God. I can't help but think there will be a tinge of gratitude as well since glory and thanksgiving seem to have at least some relationship to each other. (Luke 17:15,16; Rom 1:21; 1 Cor 6:20; Ps 92:1 etc.) After all, ingratitude makes the glorification of God hypocritical. (Isa 1:3)
I guess I would say that the phrase "Gratitude is the only proper motivation for obedience" seems the least offensive and dangerous of all the phrases you put forth.
Thanks for your patience as always, Rich.
We'll be eternally grateful.
I didn't mean to imply that all were equal. I think what I was driving at is something that I've been wrestling with for a little while.
Without being too philosophical, the issue of what drives our decisions is rooted in our nature. It's why we have an inability to not sin in our fallen condition. Our natures are fallen. Romans 1 says that the wrath of God is poured out on us both because we do not glorify Him nor are we grateful. We do not because we do not want to. We do not want to because we are slaves to sin. I do not want to underestimate gratitude toward God because at the root of everything must be gratitude. Not even just gratitude for being saved but for breathing, for having the talents we do, the vocations we have, and the many possessions He has given us. Even if the doctors who saved my daughter's life do not glorify God, I glorified God for the gifts He gave them and was thankful to Him for their talents even as I thainked them.
Now, that all said, I believe that when we are regenerated we are set free from sin's slavery and made slaves to Christ (Rom 6). We are no longer not able to not sin. In Christ we have died to sin and its power and, in Christ, we are united to His indestructible life in His resurrection.
Now, am I grateful?
When I am tempted, however, the thing that strikes me as more potent in my battle against sin is not an internal sense of gratitude but the fact that I am united to Christ and the power of His resurrection. In other words, the source of power to overcome temptation is the Spirit Who indwells me and unites me to the power of Christ's resurrection.
I think when one says that we are to be motivated by gratitude, one can properly think of being united to Christ. It's sort of like saying we're saved by faith. In reality, faith isn't what saves us but Christ and faith lays hold of that power so we can say we're saved by faith. We can say we believe in the power of prayer but in reality we believe not in prayer, per se, but the object of prayer.
What I *hear* very often from some (not all) who speak about the only motivation being gratitude is that somehow our own thoughts about what Christ has done are sufficient, in themselves, to cause us to obey. I don't believe that. I believe that because we are united to Christ we are grateful and have the power to obey.
I also believe that there are many times that because we are united to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith will sanctify us BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. What I appreciated about Derek Thomas' recent lecture at the PCA GA was that he pointed out that we have to put the word "Gospel Infused" before everything we say. We stop and apologize every time we give an imperative as if we've become legalists the moment we dwell on some portion of Scripture that calls us to action or holiness. It's not enought that Paul has spent the first 11 chapters of Romans talking about what Christ has done, we have to further qualify every imperative thereafter to avoid seeming like we're acting on our own steam.
I am thankful to a woman in my Church who recently reminded me that I was doing this an awful lot in Sunday School: almost "apologizing" for my teaching when I would point out how slothful or sinful we all continue to be.
What I've been working on this week is collecting my thoughts for a sermon where I'm trying to get us to collectively stop feeling as if it's something bad when God tells us to stand at attention and puts a finger in our chest and tells us to stop acting childishly. I'm trying to get us to stop thinking that when God gets out a great big wooden spoon and disciplines us that it's not a good thing that we were corrected. I'm trying to get us to stop thinking that it's better for us to sin than that God would use even the fear of damnation to keep us from shrinking back.
Yes we should be constantly grateful but that stems from union with Christ and we are forgetful. That's the point of the author of Hebrews to remind us. In those intervening moments - when we have spiritual amnesia - when we are not grateful and we are shrinking back - is Christ just throwing up His hands and waiting for us to be grateful again before He can do anything for us? I think not. I think He's too good a Savior for that. As a Father will not wait for the gratitude of a child to kick in for obedience when he's about to run into traffic, so our God will grab us by His strong arm and rescue us from our stupor.
This is what I've been trying to drive at. Not that gratitude is not a proper and required response and ought to characterize us but that God uses many, many means in addtion because it is ultimately the power of Christ in us that impels us and gratitude is the fruit and not the root.
One of the ones that I heard the most when I was in college was, "We are no longer under law, but under grace." Sadly, I might have even used it myself. As I have gotten older, I have been horrified that it was ever used to justify sin, because it was the very opposite of what the Apostle Paul used it for in Romans 6.
The best answer to that one comes from the Apostle Paul: "Shall we continue to sin because we are not under law but under grace? God forbid! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" (Rom. 6:15ff)
Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Rich. From whom are you 'hearing' this sentiment? Is there a particular denomination or school that is using this phase in order to gain more 'wiggle room' in obedience?
Rich, when I see you say that, I think it is not much different than being motivated by gratitude. You are looking to Christ and believing in his work, either for you or in you, as the foundation for your obedience. Gratitude for justification or confidence springing from spiritual power are both inherently Christ-reliant compared to a self-reliant performance-for-God mindset, which is the real dividing line.
Even warnings against disobedience, if taken as discipline from a loving Father toward those who are his children in Christ, can be a "gospel" motivation. And gratitude can be a legalistic motivation if it's served up with a helping of guilt, making one feel like he has to conjure up certain grateful feelings toward God for his obedience to have any value.
Christ-reliant effort in sanctification will make use of all the blessings that are ours in Christ. The comfort and godly gratitude that come from our justification are foundational in this (and much is lacking if we don't have them), but they are still only part of the full, exhilarating experience of abiding in Christ.
I think that there is a school in current conversation that speaks of believers as still totally depraved - as if nothing in their state has changed. They speak of the Law as burdensome. They recognize that Christ has fulfilled all righteousness for salvation and so any passage on obedience has to be re-cast to allow us to be grateful for what Christ has done because we are still impotent to do anything about sin. In other words any imperative is yet another thing we'll just end up sinning in our attempt to obey it. There is thus nothing that a believer could look to as a fruit of progress in his life. Any injunction sort of get re-treated as an imposing burden that can only result in failure if I try it and I need to fall back on realizing that Christ accomplished everything for me on the Cross.
I know this is a gross over-generalization. The problem is that when you don't ever spell out what sanctification is supposed to actually produce or you truncate the power of Christ's resurrection in the believer's life then it can take many strange twists and turns.
I don't agree. I'm not speaking of confidence springing from spiritual power but a reality that is the power of Christ's resurrection. My gratitude or apprehension of the reality may wax or wane but it doesn't change the reality of the power of Christ as the author and perfecter of His own. I didn't state that I was impelled by my apprehension of being united to Christ and the power of His resurrection. I stated that what was potent is the fact that I'm united to Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Yes, I agree. What I've been trying to drive at is that we can view sanctification as a matter of getting an A+ on how we apprehend things. Our motivations have to be aligned just so or we have to always have the right thoughts in our mind for God to save us. I think part of the reason people fear of talking one way or the other too much is because they lose sight of Christ as the Mediator. The issue of my motivation then stands on a razor edge. I have to be thinking the right things or I drop off a cliff into legalism or antinomianism and Christ is powerless to sanctify until I regain my balance.
Okay, the power is in Christ, not in how well you apprehend this fact or how deeply you bring yourself to meditate on it. I agree with that (and thought I said that). But surely you have some mindset as you apply your efforts to fight sin. You are not oblivious to Christ's work, nor should you be. You cooperate willfully. And since growth in holiness is fundamentally by Christ's power, your conscious effort to obey includes a strong element of reliance. You must continue practicing faith along with repentance. Although you are in Christ, in some sense you still can live in ways that are more or less reliant on him, and part of the work you must do (all by the Spirit's power in you, of course) is to keep believing and trusting. God uses this in your growth. He gives faith a role in your sanctification. Agree?
Sometimes I equate some of this as natural having been regenerate. Just like breathing is natural (God set this in action and we depend upon him to allow us to keep breathing). Some of it is a volition of the will that has been regenerated as we have an inclination prone to sin also. We have to mortify. So in answer to your question of whether or not this gives faith a role in our sanctification, I would say yes and no (maybe). Some of it comes natural as a process where I don't necessarily have to exercise any faith. I just operate within the perimeters that have been set. Some types of sin I am not prone to. Some have been put away and changed inclination wise when I became regenerate. I think there are a lot of answers to this type of question concerning Faith's role in our sanctification. There are different degrees (levels of cognitive active faith) of faith that might need be considered. It is all of God. Even our natural physical motions as well as some of our cognitive inclinations in sanctification. For in him we live, and move, and have our being;... Acts 17:28 There is a new law (principle) in me. I might not even recognize it.
Certainly. I don't disagree with what you wrote here. I was simply responding when you wrote:
Insofar as I was drawing a distinction between the root (Christ) and fruit (gratitude as well as many other things), I didn't agree that there was "not much difference". Perhaps I misunderstood your point.
Conversion (turning from sin in repentance and unto Christ in faith) is not simply for justification but is the lifelong practice of a Christian. A man who has no experience with regular repentance and faith is in danger of being a whitewashed tomb.
My take on it is that it is much more like being in a constant war against the flesh, the world, and the devil. It is in my redeemed nature, Yes, but the battle is so fierce that I don't ever perceive the ongoing battle as something that fades into the background.
The illustration I've used a number of times is that I'm an American. I never had to be constantly reminded that I was an American and I never had any desire to betray my country and join forces with our enemies or sell them our secrets. My citizenship came so natural to me that I never had to be reminded of it.
The nature of citizenship in the Kingdom of God is real but we are also prone to forgetfulness. If we stripped all the parts of the Epistles out where the authors told us to remember who we are then we would be left with a greeting and a close for almost all the letters. The Epistles are literally soaked with reminders about who we are.
To put it another way... I see remembering who we are in Christ as a key component of faith, and faith as the constant companion of repentance. That's what makes remembering who we are in Christ vital, as the Epistles bear out. Sometimes we are prone to twist this into thinking "I'll grow if I just hunker down and meditate more on the gospel." I admit I've made that error on occasion. But that really isn't a faith attitude. We must remember that faith too is received, not worked up by ourselves.
Whether remembering who we are in Christ brings gratitude, or comfort, or love, or confidence, or hope, or even a sense of duty is not the chief concern for me. Being joined to Jesus entails such wonderful and diverse blessings that we can expect it to lead to all of these motivations in some measure. We might profitably discuss which of them are higher motivations, but I'm not inclined to pooh-pooh any of them. In my mind they are similar provided they flow from faith in Christ, because Christ and faith are key.
This really rings a chord with me. I can't tell you how many times (daily) I have forgotten who I am as a purchased one of Christ. This, for me is a constant battle and I wait for the day of no more battles........
"The law drives us to the Gospel to be saved and the Gospel sends us back to the Law to know how to live"
The reason we may be prone to forget who we are--that is, what our true identity is--has very much to do with the fact we have switched our allegiance, but remain within the bounds of the country that seems oddly both strange and familiar.
So imagine if that description fit you only in terms of earthly citizenships. I suppose it would be very natural--when going about one's daily business and conversation today, with little practical difference between yesterday when the former citizenship was renounced, and the day before when it was frankly accepted--to need reminders of the change of heart.
Everything about the man otherwise reminds him that he is "at home," and even owes his local masters untrammeled devotion. And if those pressures go on unrebuked, the most reasonable expectation would be for the conversion (such as it was) to revert. And this is (unless I miss my guess) actually what happens with disturbing frequency.
Many persuaded with an early zeal, like seed in shallow soil or choked by weeds, continue not in those devotions. They are like tepid folk drawn casually into a political rally, where they are infected with the show of enthusiasm for the candidate or cause, and where they publicly subscribe to the party. Returning to their homes, these same people quickly fade back into a disinterest of civics; they cannot be bothered to vote (if there is something more pressing like watching paint dry); they refuse to contribute in any way.
If asked whether they be believers in the system, they dutifully reply in the affirmative, and may produce their card-of-affiliation. There it is in ink: indubitable proof (don't question me) of undying fidelity to the current platform (whatever that is...) and belief in the system. "Now leave me alone."
The above example is cultural politics. Cultural religion is it's counterpart. Inertia is the default condition of everyone. Friction is built into the universe. So, inertia is death, even when it is described by motion. Nothing is more vital than motive. Nothing is more necessary than direction.
Who are you? Where are you going?
Well put Rich. Thanks.
Jack I think you have made some good points here but the scriptures do seem to tell me to add to my faith diligently and vigilantly. At the same time please allow me to comment on the part of the phrase, "not worked up by ourselves." Abiding in Christ is work. Sure anything that we do by ourselves is going to be vain. But when Christ gives command it is to be recognized that He goes with us in the endeavor. I really appreciate 1 Corinthians 10:13 concerning the issue. He provides a way of escape but we have to take it.
We are also encouraged to stir up the gift within us as well as to work out our salvation.
It also seems that diligent meditation does come with a promise of growth and fruit as Psalm 1:2,3 state.
Maybe I am not fully understanding your thinking on this and what you are trying to say Jack. But it does seem that there is fulfilment of promise to be expected for laborious focusing in God's word.
I'm not against work, effort, diligence, or vigilance. These are good things. But I'm against undertaking them on our own rather than in a depending, trusting, cooperative way that draws on Christ's power and goodness. "By ourselves" is the problem part. The Christian life is not something we go at alone.
The meditation thing has been a particular problem area within some of the "grace-centered" circles I know. Some teachers, in their (admirable) attempts to avoid legalism, have been left with little to tell people to do except to think more about God's goodness and let it soak in. That isn't a bad thing to do in itself, but it sometimes leaves people trying really hard to meditate on God and then feeling guilty when this doesn't produce more feelings of gratitude or life change. Rich seemed to be alluding to that, and I affirmed it can be a problem. Meditating on God is good, of course. But even that can turn into a my-effort-alone burden if we aren't careful.
I think that's part of the problem.
I think there's also an inherent problem with the idea that the only appropriate thing we can ever exhort people unto is to look to Christ. Any exhortation beyond meditating on what Christ has done is inherently legalistic or at least it's presented that way. Don't look at evidences of sanctification in your life. Don't ever threaten Hell. Don't ever tell people to stop being lazy.
Making all the necessary points about union with Christ by faith and the Spirit enabling us, we need to be prepared as preachers of the Word to reprove and rebuke. There are times when a man needs to be told: "Stop cheating on your wife. Adulterers shall not inherit the Kingdom of God."
A rebuke where the Law's demands and consequences are given is not legalism and, used in the hands of God, will heal the wounds of His people properly.
Thus, in addition to freeing the Saint from needing the perfect level of gratitude to make progress, the minister is also freed to stop worrying about being a legalist when He trusts the Spirit to apply the Word and divide between joint and marrow. Whatever the text teaches, we proclaim with boldness and without making it die the death of a million qualifications to avoid the charge that it has no sanctifying power unless we say: "Stop cheating on your wife with Gospel-driven motivation. For you are a glorious ruin and until you learn to look at what Christ has done for you then you will never stop what you're doing because the Law of God is impotent to change you."
I know I'm being dramatic here and a bit hyperbolic. I'm not saying that anyone would necessarily counsel someone like that but I do believe we fear to let the full measure of God's methods of motivation take their course because we don't exegete His Word and want to soften the disciplining Hand of God or even deny altogether that the Law can sanctify. I think too many are really convinced that, despite what Deuteronomy 8:5-6 says, the Law is really not for discipline but only for condemnation.
I guess my next question then would be how does one recognize between the differences you are making? Personally from where I sit it is never a bad thing to do what the scriptures say to do. I keep hearing the word legalistic a lot now days and wonder if it is being misapplied in most situations. I think Dr. Derek Thomas mentions something similar about legalism in this lecture. Start listening at point 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
I love this passage....
Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Psa 19:8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Psa 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Psa 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Psa 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Psa 19:12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Psa 19:13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Psa 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
"A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer." (Prov. 29:19)
Even if we understand our failures on a certain level of knowledge, our conduct won’t be corrected just by that. It seems to me that in order for us to take things seriously we need to be afflicted by God somehow, be it physical or mental.
"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes." (Ps. 119:71)
"This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." (Ps. 119:50)
"The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Prov. 29:15)
This brings me to a question that has bothered me for a long time,
Can afflicting yourself make you appreciate the affliction of Christ more?
I've seen far more cases where people are seldom or never exhorted to look to Christ, so my main interest is in combatting that problem. But that said, if there really are significant numbers of teachers claiming that's the only thing we may exhort, and practicing such, then I agree that would be a problem too.
This one needs to apply both ways. I've been hounded for talking about the free forgiveness that's our in Christ without making that die the death of a million qualifications with repeated assertions that we still have to work really hard at fighting sin. Of course we do. But do I really have to say it every other sentence?
But is it really softening to include a strong emphasis on all Christ has done for you? I find that being "gospel-driven" allows a teacher at the same time to be much more forceful about commands and warnings... because he doesn't have to worry his teaching might be taken as legalism, because there's a culture of openness in confession of sin, and because the contrast between godliness and sin has been made stark. Contrary to softening anything, a strong emphasis on all Christ has done sharpens everything. At least that's how it worked for the Puritans, and how it has worked in the best "gospel-driven" churches I've known.
Those are picky points though. In the main, I have no disagreement with what you wrote. I suspect we mostly just see different problems in the church today.
Yeah, I've listened to Dr. Thomas's talk (wanted to attend in person, actually, but was too late to get a spot). I think he made good and reasonable points. The only quibble I have is that there was an implied concern that lots of PCA pastors are asserting that gratitude is the only proper motive for obedience and that the law is useful only to convict of sin. I simply haven't seen that in any widespread way, and I travel in the more "grace-centered" circles, so I wonder if the hullabaloo isn't being overstated.
He defined legalism well, I thought. I was glad he acknowledged that proper motivation is part of avoiding legalism, yet I thought he was right to say that obeying God simply because he is God is not legalism. Then again, I'm not inclined to go around calling people legalists. I just remind them to keep teaching Christ when they teach the law. So maybe I'm easy to please.
It often isn't easy to separate self-effort from faith-filled effort. We're fallen and inclined to be do-it-yourselfers. We should never hold off on just obeying, hoping to get our motivation or faith-approach right first. Those things will never be fully right in this life. So there's some wisdom in the just-do-what-the-Bible-says approach... though I do believe we are significantly more effective, and have a more robust obedience when it comes to motive and love for God, when we stay well-grounded in Christ's work both past and present.
I have to question where you have experienced this so much. I am seeing way too much of an over emphasis of justification by faith alone being the Gospel. In fact I have read elsewhere that you see that is a problem.
In the same thread where you stated the above you said this.
I keep seeing you make these kind of statements with qualifications that I have not seen unless they are coming from Pelagians or Roman Catholics.
So much of the teaching I have seen in (even the fundamentalist camp) has to do with abiding in Christ. I have not experienced any teaching that says you have to do this stuff in your own strength. Where are you hearing this teaching? Why are you so focused on this as though it is common place in biblical Churches? Have you seen this anywhere on the Puritanboard? What Confessional Church has been doing this? You keep making accusations that this is a big problem and one that needs to be addressed but I have not seen any examples nor experienced it in the past decade. I do admit that Gothard might have been accused of this stuff but even he would say that the power to obey comes from abiding in Christ as I understood his teaching 30 years ago.
I do have many examples of where the teaching of grace is overemphasized and leading to antinomianism, even in my own Church. I believe Mark Jones does a really good job explaining something that a lot of Christians are confused about. The Love of God and pleasing God.
When the type of things that Tullian Tchividjian are as easily accepted and defended by a large majority of the Church I would say that there are more examples of a poor understanding concerning grace and love. And he is being defended and largely supported.
A few years ago I had a discussion with a young man in my congregation about how God punishes and chastises us. He didn't like that. He said Christ paid the penalty for all of his sin past, present, and future and that when God looks at him he only sees Christ. He failed to see that we can be displeasing to God and that we can as Christians be delivered over to the Devil even for our sin as the man in 1 Cor 5 was.
This is something that I see more and more of than what you are seeing. And I have seen it for my whole Christian life on a consistent basis.
This is what I have seen more of and the accusation of legalism mostly comes from this camp as I have experienced.
I whole heartedly recommend Mark's book Antinomianism. The quotes I posted come from the chapter 6 Amor Amor.
Just one more interjection here.
I have been dealing with this stuff since the 80's. Bob George wrote a book called "Classic Christianity" that was totally antinomian and well excepted in many Churches across America. It was published by a major Christian book publisher Harvest House. His radio program "People to People" had a big following as it was promoted on many Christian Radio Stations nationwide. I was constantly bombarded with having to deal with this type of stuff and still have to deal with this teaching today as you can see. I have not had to deal with the legalism you are noting. I find that odd. It is the varying degrees of antinomianism that I have had to deal with based upon a truncated definition of grace. That is why I wrote the paper I wrote on Grace 20 years ago. Know God by His Majestic Grace
I'm not talking about stated doctrinal error or direct statements from the pulpit. Relatively few confessional churches or even broadly evangelical ones make those kinds of errors on this issue, in either direction. But I do see lots of Sunday school classes where kids are reminded they better share because God is watching. I see teenagers taking chasity pledges grounded in Christian peer pressure. I see moms handed books that give them ten steps to being the kind of parent God wants them to be. It all seems okay at first, but it seldom works and then I wonder... where is the role of prayer and fellowship with Christ, or any theology at all that reminds them who they are in Christ? In many cases it's barely there or missing altogether. Few of those people could answer the Francis Shaeffer question, "What is the present value of the blood of Christ in your life?" With prompting they might say Jesus is around to help them, but in practice they have little sense of how Christ is part of the equation as they try to obey, other than that he is watching to see that they get it right. It's as if Christ were mostly uninvolved. Such omissions don't make it into stated doctrine, but they very much exist in real life.
So it's no surprise to me that some of the most important, firm research of the past ten years identified "moralistic therapeutic deism" as the dominant departure from the gospel in American churches. There's a vague sense of needing to do right (moralism) coupled with a sense of bettering oneself while God remains largely distant (therapeutic deism). I do believe that's a pressing problem, and a return to the gospel is necessary if we're going to help people out of it. If you haven't seen it, you maybe haven't been working with the same population (churchy and semi-churched Bible camp kids, youth groupy teens, guilt-ridden soccer moms) that I have. These are people who confess to be believers but are starving for any sense that Christ really can do anything much for them except maybe take them to heaven one day.
Side note: It seems an overstatement to say that Tullian T.'s thinking is "accepted and defended by a large majority of the church." Whatever one may think of him, even those who lean in his direction will usually identify him as being on the edge of the spectrum, far from the large majority. I mean, isn't that why you pick him to rail against, because his voice is one of the more extreme ones?
No, that is not why he is picked. He is picked because he is writing on a popular level. Not because he is extreme. There are much more extreme examples out there. I use a lot of Dr. R. Scott Clark quotes to prove my points. It isn't because Dr. Clark is one of the extreme guys. It is because he writes and publishes his views on a very popular level. Tullian Tchividjian and Clark have made themselves very accessible by their popularity and volume of writing.
Will look more intently at your post later. Have a good Lord's day Jack. Be Encouraged.