Back in late June, I had the great joy of being at the Founders Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Frank and Phil.
One of the best of many excellent addresses was that by Dr. David Wells, in the 6:30pm session on June 27. The title was "Preaching the Truth of the Cross for the Modern Age." M'man Frank Turk live-blogged it, and you should read his notes. What follows is from mine own.
Wells painted a vivid picture of the breakdown in our moral world. He pointed to four major sign-posts, indicating changes that hasten people out of the moral world that the West long inhabited. Thinking has shifted from the objective and/or transcendent, to the subjective and culturally relative. The sign-post shifts are:
- from thinking about virtue, to thinking about values
- from thinking about character, to thinking about personality
- from thinking about nature, to thinking about self; and
- from thinking about guilt, to thinking about shame.
And Wells made this very powerful statement, as my notes have it:
Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is, no longer have the categories to understand it, no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories in their non-moral universe — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty.Then he said that this is why the Bible does not begin with John 3:16, but with Genesis 1. Again, from my notes:
What we see at work between those two points is the patience of God who, bit by bit and stone by stone, lays the foundation and builds an edifice of understanding, which corresponds to what is there. Only when this long work of preparation had been completed, when the last stone had been put in place, God sent His Son, born of a woman, to redeem those under the Law. Cross is a message of substitution – Him, for us. It is not just a formula, nor a product to be sold. It is to be anchored in true truths. God’s enduring character of holiness has been established long before John 3 was written.Doing, not just talking. I found this all very incisive and thought-provoking. But regular readers will know that I grow a bit impatient with discussions about "how we ought to" do this or that, which don't themselves issue in doing it. I read so many wonderful debates and expatiations about how we ought to "do" apologetics, but none of them issued in a "Here, let me show you." So I attempted one myself.
From that previous revelation, we know about ourselves, made in the image of God, a people who are willingly sightless. So when John 3:16 was penned, this message of the Cross was positioned to connect with these other foundational truths, without which the message of the Cross is incomprehensible.
So our question to our PoMo neighbors and colleagues, is (or should be): which of these points do you not understand, or do you reject? But often we don’t have the patience to do this. We want instant results, now!
So between Gen 1 and John 3 is a long, patient work of God, so that people can understand the Cross. Can’t we learn something from God’s slow, long, patient work? If we did, we might end up with disciples, instead of simply converts.
Well similarly here, what Wells said really lodged in my brain, and excited my thinking.
And so on August 5, at Soaring Oaks, I attempted to do just what Wells suggested. The sermon I preached is titled, "Why Does It Matter That Jesus is a Ransom?"
You can listen to it HERE. My intent was, and my hope is, that it could find its way into the hands of just some such folks.