The Centrality of the Gospel in Preaching 5

What are some philosophies undermining the centrality of the gospel in preaching? I submit to you three major perspectives that are attacking the preaching of the gospel: rationalism, materialism, and experiential emotionalism.

Rationalism is the belief that human reason is supreme. The 18th century Age of Enlightenment advocated reason as the primary source of authority. For many within the church today, man’s reason supersedes and replaces God’s revelation as the final authority in all matters of life. Reason takes precedence over biblical doctrine, other ways of acquiring knowledge, and correspondingly impacts how one lives in light of their rationalistic conclusions. Sin is no longer sin, hell no longer exists if it ever did and life is about “seizing the day” but not about giving glory to God; that is if there is a God who exist and to whom humans can give glory.

In responding to the question of what he thinks will be the greatest crisis that will face the next generation of Christians, Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington recently replied:

The trouble always begins with the erosion of confidence in the inerrancy, authority, sufficiency, and cross-cultural timelessness of Scripture. Once that dam is breached, there is no way to determine where the ensuing flood of error will surge. Still, for many younger people who comprise the next generation of Christianity, the early indicators are that we will see an ongoing increase of support for sex outside of marriage in all forms (gay, straight, and bisexual) as an acceptable Christian practice, with the endorsement of pastors who put cool before Christ. In the name of “love” and “community,” there is a trend away from preaching and practicing personal repentance of one’s own sin while only addressing institutional sins of others. This is what happens when we think too little of Scripture and too much of our own reason, which Martin Luther rightly called the Devil’s whore. (Tabletalk May 2011, 76)

Secondly, there is the issue of materialism. The centrality of the gospel in preaching has changed for many from the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and its corresponding impact in the believer’s life for a message in which the believer amasses as many material possessions as he/she can acquire. The church’s emphasis has centered upon “having your best life now” as it pertains to health, wealth, or personal peace and affluence. The gospel no longer is about the imputed righteousness of Christ upon the sinner’s behalf by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but whether you possess a Rolex, a Rolls Royce, and a retirement condominium in the Caribbean. These latter so-called blessings from God are viewed as equal to or superior than the eternal blessing of justification by faith alone.

Experiential emotionalism as an end in and of itself is also attacking the centrality of the gospel in preaching. Emotionalism in worship and having a weekly adrenaline rush has replaced the expositional preaching of the gospel along with the abandonment of the aforementioned concept of absolute truth. This is not a new phenomenon. Colleagues of mine expressed concern about this trend when I was a student at Detroit Bible College over thirty years ago. What was a unique characteristic of the Charismatic or Pentecostal denominations a generation ago has now become conventional.