God touches different people according to their needs.
Readership: All; Christians;
Below is a quote from an article exploring differing understandings of original sin.
“It is suggested by those in the Orthodox Church that the doctrine of ancestral sin naturally leads to a focus on human death and Divine compassion as the inheritance from Adam, while the doctrine of original sin shifts the center of attention to human guilt and Divine wrath. The image of an angry, vengeful God haunts the Western Church where a basic insecurity and guilt seem to exist.”
Having in addition been brought up in a Calvinist church whereby the doctrine of total depravity is emphasised, to me it seems little wonder that I have had trouble listening or trusting my heart. Learning about the orthodox teaching of synergy between God’s grace and our wills is helping me understand my connection with God. I never thought the doctrine of original sin was just and now I find that it is in fact a heresy contrary to early church teaching. I really wrestled with believing the gospel as it was taught to me because it had been presented as penal substitutionary theory, now I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that is another heresy. I am not sure whether my spiritual intuitions are more on point than the average person or if being an independent minded thinker caused me to so uncomfortable with many Protestant heresies I had grown up with, but in any case I praise God for revealing to me the truth and beauty of Orthodox theology.
I tend to believe that the modern church has gotten distracted in all the discussion of ancestral sin vs. original sin, monergism vs. synergism, free-will vs. predestination, and so on. These philosophical exercises have all produced continual schisms and divisions within the Body of Christ, leading to Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, Armenianism, and so on, and resulting in a thousand different sects and denominations. I do not mean to say that any of these are false heresies, but that they are merely academic models of Christianity as a religion. These concepts may help one understand and communicate what they are experiencing in their own spiritual lives, but seldom does a theological argument convince anyone to believe in Christ. (Wintery Knight might disagree.) Notice what the scriptures say.
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”Romans 10:10-17 (ESV)
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Notice in verse 10, it does not say, “For with the mind (or by maintaining intellectual fidelity and integrity) one assents to cognitive agreement and is justified…” No, it says, “with the heart one believes (or trusts) and is justified (by faith)”.
Two chapters later, Paul goes on to explain that after the heart believes, the mind must be renewed.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.Romans 12:2-3 (ESV)
In sum, attention to the heart must come first, followed by the readjustment of the mind. This is the crucial point that many modern iterations of Protestantism have skipped over entirely. To emphasize any kind of theorology, and ignore the exposition of a heart-based faith in Jesus is a heresy in itself.
I’ll continue on with Jeff’s comment.
I relate to this: “I’ve always known that I’ve been led by something deep and quite different from those around me. I’ve always known that there was a disconnection between what was and what ought to be…” In my view, that is typical of someone with introverted intuition as their dominant cognitive function or at least in a valued position.
I also see the giant discrepancy between the vision Jesus lays out for us and how the average Christian acts. And those that see they fall short, often fall into the sin of despair and then label it humility, (I got that from someone else, and I think it is a bit of pithy brilliance.). To me Jesus most defining trait, or the one most impressed on me was his virtue of humility, and if I look at myself and others our greatest sin tends to be pride.”
I do believe that most all Christians in the West have been exposed to the gospel as a “penal substitutionary theory”, as Jeff and I have. I do not view it as a heresy, but rather, it is just one perspective of the Gospel that would especially resonate with someone who has a lot of guilt and shame, and who might question how God can remove that burden. While it is true that everyone has a spiritual deficit such as this, not everyone perceives this as an acute spiritual need, and it therefore fails to touch their hearts and lives as the gospel should.
The way I see it, the shortcoming in how the gospel is presented in the modern Church today, is that it focuses too heavily on Jesus as a Savior (the penal substitutionary exegesis), and it fails to outline any of the other equally valid perspectives of the Gospel which would resonate with others who come from a different background and who perceive themselves as having different spiritual needs.
To iterate this idea further, I’ll offer the following examples.
- Someone with a poor or absent father figure would most appreciate a gospel that frames God as a loving Father.
- Someone who has been neglected or abused needs to hear about God as a provider and protector.
- An unpopular or disadvantaged person needs to know Jesus as a friend.
- A person who is proud, distrustful, or fearful needs to know how humility, sacrifice, and forgiveness can generate life, love, and joy.
- A person who grew up in a dysfunctional or broken home needs to experience acceptance and fellowship in God’s family of believers.
- Someone who grew up in an emotionally and spiritually dead environment needs to experience the joys and blessings of shalom.
And yes, there is a new market niche for the gospel since the advent of 4th Wave Feminism.
- Feminist wives need to learn about Jesus as an authoritative husband who offers genuine fulfillment but who also demands obedience.
- Soyboys need a gospel that focuses on Jesus as a powerful conqueror and a victorious overcomer.
- Incels need a Christian “Red Pill” gospel to give them confidence, hope, and a sense of purpose in life.
I’m sure there are many other perspectives of the Gospel that I have not included in this list. But my point is that what each person would consider to be the redemptive element of the gospel is a message containing the aspect of God that gives them what they are missing the most in their spiritual life. In other words, the gospel is best presented as that which arouses a person’s heart to trust in God. The heavily toted fire and brimstone gospel only reaches the most hedonistic of individuals, and only at the moment they are ready for it.
Ed Hurst has written a series of posts about the nature of a heart-based faith.