17th November 2011

Blog :: Counterfeit Gospels (Chapter 2 Response)

My wife and I are co-blogging our way through Trevin Wax's Counterfeit Gospels. See my recap of Chapter 2 here and the rest of the posts in the series in related articles at the bottom. Stephanie responds below:

In Chapter 2, Trevin Wax pairs falling into the trap of the Therapeutic Gospel with misunderstanding the gospel story. (Trevin Wax pictures the gospel as a three legged stool of Gospel Story, Gospel Announcement, and Gospel Community, with each counterfeit being a particular misrepresentation of one or more legs of the stool). So, if we have an improper understanding of the Gospel story – the work God came to do, is doing and will do in the future - we could be susceptible to this counterfeit.

How does the therapeutic gospel spring from a mistaken understanding of the Gospel story? I would like to suggest that it is the narrowing and improper emphasis of the gospel story that leads to this counterfeit. The narrowing occurs when we equate the gospel to justification (the penal substitution model) and the improper emphasis manifests itself when the focus is Me. Specifically, me being happy and fulfilled!

For example, a variant of the Fill-er-up Gospel commonly preached in today's churches is the 'how to' sermons – How to have a better marriage, How to raise godly children, How to manage your finances/stay out of debt, etc. These topics are not the gospel story, however they may be implications of how the gospel story works out in our lives. Should one only preach the gospel story on Sunday mornings? I don't really know the answer to that question. But I do know anecdotally, that some pastors have made a mishmash of the above “how to” topics and the gospel, resulting in belief among their listeners that the good news is that if they are following God, everything will work out in marriage, family and all personal areas of life.

What the therapeutic gospel does is take the focus off God and His kingdom and places it on human self actualization. The aim then becomes to sand off the “rough edges”. Have a problem with gambling? There is a gambling anonymous group you can join. Going through a rough patch in your marriage? Sign up for marriage counseling from our pastor. Feeling unfulfilled and generally apathetic? Come join our small group Bible study on …. Under the therapeutic gospel, sin becomes a problem, confession becomes accountability, repentance doesn't get emphasized and grace gets taken for granted.

If the point of your life is to be happy the therapeutic gospel will find its way into your theology. Trevin Wax wants us to understand that “God loves us too much to only give us comfort and prosperity....He is forming us into the image of His Son”.

Food for thought: What is the role of suffering in the therapeutic gospel and what is the role of suffering in the Christian life?

Posted on November 17th 2011, 09:39 AM

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