A watered-down gospel

positivegospeltrash.jpgSo prevalent is the post-modern, cultural directive to not offend, that many of our churches have adopted the philosophy and, as a result, completely compromised the Word of God — though they would deny this claim. “Oh no,” they would say, “We merely present a ‘positive gospel.'”

A “positive gospel.”

This is a gospel designed not to offend the sinner. One that doesn’t really confront a sinner with their sinful nature and true standing before a holy God. People don’t like to hear that. People don’t like to hear that they are helpless to save themselves and face an eternity in hell for having transgressed against a holy and just God. Instead, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is characterized as something other than a necessary atonement for our sin. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, characterizes it as our opportunity for a “do over.”

He’s careful not to offend.

I am convinced this “positive gospel” is no gospel at all. It is a false gospel and contrary to Scripture. The gospel is inherently offensive. And if we want to preach and teach God’s Word in it’s entirety we need not be concerned with the delicate sensibilities of sinners and dare to offend them.

The late Paris Reidhead, a pastor and writer of some note, was convinced we had allowed humanism to influence our presentation of the gospel and said the following about what current church leaders call a “positive gospel”:

“If I had my way, I would declare a moratorium on public preaching of ‘the plan of salvation’ in America for one to two years. Then I would call on everyone who has use of the airways and the pulpits to preach the holiness of God, the righteousness of God and the law of God, until sinners would cry out, ‘What must we do to be saved?’ Then I would take them off in a corner and whisper the gospel to them. Such drastic action is needed because we have gospel-hardened a generation of sinners by telling them how to be saved before they have any understanding why they need to be saved.”

That about sums it up.

Thideology News of the Day:

The Iowa Caucuses are today and the 2008 presidential race will finally have it’s first official vote. I continue to be a staunch supporter of Ron Paul. However, those who characterize themselves as evangelical Christians are getting behind Mike Huckabee in large numbers. Bill Barnwell has written an excellent essay on why this is a mistake and makes the good case as to why Christians should be supporting Ron Paul instead.

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

5 Responses to A watered-down gospel

  1. underdog says:

    I have a bag of stones…..

    would you like to be the first???

  2. Jason says:

    It certainly offended you 🙂

    I don’t know about Warren. I don’t much keep up with him. The question to be asked is this: is the atonement for sin ultimate or penultimate in our Christian theology? Is there a greater “theological truth” that derives from the atonement?

  3. underdog says:

    the notion of what must ” I ” do to be “saved” implies action on my part.


    I must have missed something about the cross and resurection if I still have to work so hard to save myself.

  4. Chip says:


    I assume, in your first comment, you are referring to John chapter 8, when the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. It appears as though you are applying to me Christ’s challenge to them — “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” If that is the case, your application does not really apply.

    I’m not bringing Rick Warren before the Lord and asking that the full weight of the law be brought upon him. Nor would I — I recognize I am every bit the sinner Rick Warren is and just as deserving of God’s wrath. I do not seek to stone Rick Warren.

    What I am doing, however, is holding his teaching up to the scrutiny of Scripture which is the responsibility of every believer, lest he or she be led astray by false teaching. The warnings in Scripture against false teachers are many — Matt. 7:15, Matt. 24:11, Matt. 24:24, Mark 13:22, 2 Corinthians 11:13, and on and on. Furthermore, we are told to test the spirits to see whether or not they are of God (1 John 4:1) and to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). So, how do we do this? By comparing the teachings of anyone against the Scriptures and see if it measures up. All I am doing is holding Rick Warren’s teaching up against Scripture — in my opinion it is inconsistent with Scripture and therefore false.

    Also, I believe you have misunderstood Paris Reidhead’s quote. He is in no way implying action on the part of the sinner is necessary for regeneration. In fact, what he is doing is quoting from Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were praising God in prison and God shook the prison with an earthquake. The guard came in and was prepared to take his own life when Paul called out and told him not to because the prisoners were all there. The guard asked Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

    This doesn’t imply a requirement on the part of the guard for regeneration, it merely points out the perspective of a sinner. When confronted with our standing before a holy God we cry out (in our ignorance) for a course of action, but it is God, and only God, who saves.

    If you read Thideology long enough you will realize I do not advocate a cooperative salvation but subscribe whole-heartedly to the doctrines of grace (reformed theology).

    Thanks for your comments. I truly appreciate it.

  5. underdog says:

    very well.. thanks for the opportunity to chime in.

    this is the 21st centry. beating people up with fire and brimstone… is probably an unpersuasive tool. (well there are a few people crawling around the mountain caves of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq who think that is a good way to keep “the faith” or at least instill FEAR in the hearts of infadels so they convert or die)

    A scared and lost teen in trouble, an alcholic on the egde of suicide, a drug attick waking up in the gutter, or the pastor of a church caught in embesslment or other unseemly acts… do not need the LAW thrown at them. I rather guess they are well aware of their status in this world.

    They need couciling in the free grace of God, and in the knowledge that the price has already been paid. That they are free, forgiven, and loved by God.

    as Wayne Watson would say…. “It’s a Fine Line”…..

    But I choose to walk that line, lest I miss someone in need.

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