Friday, November 22, 2013

The RCs and the LCs

Evangelical Christians fall into two broad categories, it seems to me. Neither of them are necessarily wrong, but they differ on points of emphasis, and I do think one of these groups strikes the right emphasis, and the other, not so much. As I've said here before, you have your Righteousness Christians (RCs), and you have your Love Christians (LCs).

This has been a useful way for me to think about faith-presentations. Key words in the RC presentation are righteousness, holiness, and conversely sin, wrath, and damnation. These latter are the things people need salvation from. I have known RC parents to pray for their unbelieving children that they would know the wrath of God toward sin so that they might be saved from it.I find that kind of prayer rather mystifying, and would rather God drew me to himself with love than with wrath (but that's just me!). For RCs, the Gospel is essentially the doctrine of justification. It's what their songs of praise are all about, and its in that direction that they carry off almost every verse of Scripture.

Well, I suppose my bias is showing. I would consider myself and LC, not an RC. LCs are not necessarily oblivious to the wrath of God toward sin, but their prayers for a lost child would be that the person know the love of God, because the love of God is the most beautiful and transformative thing for people to know and it is the most essential thing one can say about God. Keywords for LCs are love, forgiveness, restoration, relationship. Their songs are about God's unrelenting love. For them, the gospel includes the doctrine of justification but it is far more than that.

John MacArthur is an RC. Eugene Peterson is an LC. Manly Mark Driscoll is an RC (judging by this). [To tell you the truth, I haven't watched that video, not being a proponent of self-inflicted mind mutilation, but Andrew Arndt gives a profound reading of Driscoll's, ummm, "preaching," here]. Indeed, I'm guessing that men gravitate toward the RC perspective, women toward the LC, although not by huge margins. RCs tend to think that the LC perspective is fruity, namby-pamby, emotional. LCs might think that the RC perspective tends toward the judgmental, and could result in fear-driven legalism. I think they may both be right, and both have spotted the potential dangers of the other's perspective.

But I'm an LC at heart, no doubt, and I've even noticed that long-time Christians as they grow older sometimes grow more toward the LC perspective. Some do, anyway. I haven't noticed the opposite trend, LCs moving toward the RC perspective as they get older. I think a Christian's heart softens gradually over time. That's what some might call sanctification: the gradual softening effect of the Gospel on the human heart. I have seen Christian men falter tragically over these matters: struggle with the Christian concept of meekness, or that Biblical concept of the soft heart as a primary descriptor of the Kingdom man that God is developing in us.

In the Andrew Arndt blog post cited above, which is really fine and deep and you should read it, Arndt says the following.
To give the benefit of the doubt, it’s likely that Driscoll and Platt [referring to a couple of video excerpts of their preaching] and others like them don’t necessarily intend to paint a picture of God as a moral monster, but from where I stand, I don’t know how one can see that god as otherwise.  When John declares that “God is love”, he doesn’t feel the need to give us a caveat–”yes, yes, yes, but you should also understand that God is righteous wrath too!”  He simply says it.  And he’s a sophisticated enough theologian (as the rest of the Bible writers are) to understand that God’s righteous wrath emerges out of a basic coherence of character and intent that lies at the core of his being: the Good God of Scripture is love, and anything in God’s world that doesn’t line up with his Good Love he will one day exorcise from his Good World–and if we human beings choose to cling with all our might to the sin, evil, and rebellion we’ve been working, then (this is my reading of Scripture) we’ll be exorcised too.  That’s wrath.  Emerging out of love.  Love is what he is and does.  Wrath does not “trump” love.  Neither does love trump wrath.  There is no competition.  Wrath is what happens when love pursues the beloved into the outer darkness to drive the demon of depravity out of her and bring her back.
That's it. But there's much more over there, so go read the whole thing. Arndt is profoundly right here, and what he says is important.

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