Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Further Thoughts on Frank Turk's Open Letter

It has been a little while since the Frank Turk/White Horse Inn question cropped up. In my defence, my brain mulls over things slowly at times. To remind any possible readers, the letter in question is here.

Mulling it over, I realised that the major problem underlying this letter is one of communication. In fact there is a category error being committed here.

The first is this: Following John MacArthur and others in the early stages of the 'Lordship Controversy', it seems at times that Turk wishes to make necessary consequences of the Gospel into parts of the Gospel. The non-lordship teachers said that repentance and a changed life were not required of Christians. In response some of the 'lordship' teachers made these part of the Gospel. It seems to me (and I may be mistaken) that Frank Turk is tending the same way. The fact is that Horton and Co. believe that the Gospel has consequences, and these consequences are necessary, they are just concerned to distinguish the consequences from the Gospel itself. Even in the quotations that Turk gives, the White Horse Inn hosts talk about the Gospel affecting how we live. So I ask: Do we agree that the Gospel has necessary consequences for our lives? If so, are we in fact arguing over a category mistake?

What the Gospel results in is not the Gospel, or part of the Gospel. Now, you may think I am straining out gnats here, but I am not. You see, if we confuse the results of the Gospel with the Gospel, we start preaching them as though they were the Gospel. In the 19th century temperance was regarded as a necessary consequence of conversion by many groups. At that point you can argue about what Temperance means, but the point is that it was regarded as a result of conversion. But then people began to preach for temperance, not conversion! The result was preached - not the Gospel that leads to the result! So it is today when you have Churches preaching life-change as the Gospel. No, the Gospel is Christ crucified for me - life-change is the result! We need to be crystal-clear on this fact.

Billy Sunday was an American evangelist, and one of Billy Graham's models. Whatever we may think of him, he makes a good case study here. When Sunday began his ministry, he called people to believe in Jesus. As time went on, however, he began to add various aspects of life-change to that call. In the opinion of Homer Rodeheaver, Sunday's music director, this led to a situation where "Very rarely does he give a definite, clear invitation for people to forsake their sins and come and publically accept Christ as their Saviour" (Quoted in Lyle Dorsett: Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America [Eerdmans, 1991] P. 135).

The two must be kept distinct. Time and again failure to understand this has led to legalism. On the other hand, failure to understand that the consequences of the Gospel are necessary has led to antinomianism.

The White Horse Inn is not a Church, and it seems to me a little odd to tell people off for, on the one hand, being treated by some people as if their radio broadcast were the Church, and then to tell them off for not acting more like the Church! But we are all inconsistent, after all!

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