Friday, September 7, 2012

A thought from 150 years ago for today's church

Have you ever stumbled on a great book when you haven't even been looking for one? Not long ago I saw that a book became free for the Kindle (via Gospel eBooks) and I downloaded it. The book is "Theology Drives Methodology: Conversion in the Theology of Charles Finney and John Nevin" by Karl Dahlfred. Although I've highlighted almost 20 sections and I'm only halfway through, I read something Thursday that I knew I should blog.

During the discussion of John Williamson Nevin's theology of salvation, Dahlfred offers this quote from Nevin (from his book "The Anxious Bench"):
The Bench makes conversion "to be the all in all of the Gospel economy,
and the development of the Christian life subsequently a mere
secondary interest" that might be "safely left... to take care of
Although "The Bench" is not something specifically used in churches today, the reasoning behind its use by Charles Finney is still widely promoted within churches today. Nevin is pointing out here the extreme error of focusing so much on the conversion event in a Christian's life without the church following through with true development of a believer's Christian walk.

This is exactly what the author of Hebrews wrote about in Hebrews 5:11-14 and Hebrews 6:1. Our savior, Jesus Christ, did not call us to make converts. But, rather, he has called us to make disciples. In Jesus' day, disciples would basically sit at the feet of their Rabbi and soak in his teachings in order to follow them.

Further, this is not just something that is an academic matter, but it has many practical implications for us. You can actually find popular pastors today saying things along the lines that they should not have to spiritually develop their flock (or even worse that they shouldn't personally take an interest in "pastoring" them - Nevin speaks about that as well) but that Christians should just be doing that on their own. This is the "taking care of itself" that Nevin wrote about above. Dahlfred goes further to point out that Finney's "Systematic Theology" does not even contain a section on The Church or her functions!

Church has become a numbers game (one could argue that much of that ties back to Finney), but that should not be the case. A great man I know says that we don't come to the church, but we come as the church! What are we missing if we only go to church for some good music or preaching? Please, don't allow your sanctification to be something that's "merely secondary interest."

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