Recently I finished the book "Gospel People" by Michael Reeves. Here are 20 items that stuck out to me from the book.
Looking around at the phenomenon of evangelicalism today, it often seems a mile wide and an inch deep. As Mark Noll famously put it, ‘The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.’
Evangelicals are "gospel people," or people of the evangel... To be evangelical, by definition, is not to be of a race or of a party, but of the gospel.
…true evangelicalism has a clear theology, and … at its heart lie three essential heads of doctrine, out of which flow all its concerns:
1. The Father's revelation in the Bible
2. The Son's redemption in the gospel
3. The Spirit's regeneration of our hearts
…evangelicalism seeks not only to be plain, biblical Christianity, but creedal, catholic Christianity.
Any human reasoning or tradition (which is human in origin) is subordinate to Scripture, and we must reject any thinking or tradition that is in conflict with Scripture, and not vice versa. The word of God and the words of mere creatures are not and cannot be equal authorities. Thus, when the divine word conflicts with human words, it is Scripture that must be heeded and tradition that must be rejected.
‘For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated.’ (Augustine)
Any man who puts himself above God's word is putting himself in the place of God. After all, the church has not brought the word of God into being; it is God's word that has brought the church into being, just as God's word first brought creation into being. God's word comes first.
Too often, self-confessed evangelicals have veered toward an anti-intellectual "me and my Bible" biblicism that rejects all wisdom found elsewhere. But sola Scriptura is not the same as the view that we should have "no creed but the Bible!" That is a subevangelical position.
the Reformers did not reject all tradition or insight from outside of Scripture. They wanted to renew the church, not invent a new one from scratch, and were eager to emphasize their continuity with the early church and so learn from it. For them, reforming involved retrieving.
…reason and tradition have a ministerial authority. It should therefore trouble us when we go against established Christian precedent. Such precedent, however, does not have a magisterial authority. Only Scripture does.
You may be a Christian and still believe the Bible faulty, but it is not evangelical to say that Scripture is untrustworthy.
…our failures to read Scripture aright say nothing about its actual trustworthiness; they only tell us that to have even the highest view of Scripture is not yet to be biblical. It is not our reading of Scripture that is totally trustworthy: we can hold the highest view of Scripture and use bad interpretation, bad harmonizing, bad apologetics, and bad theology.
Authentic evangelicalism depends upon our submission to God's word as our supreme authority. Where God has spoken, we obey.
To be faithful to the gospel means treating Christ and his redeeming death and resurrection as matters "of first importance"
‘If any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two,—the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: The former relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature.’ (John Wesley)
True catholicity does not require a monolithic institution. There will always be denominational differences reflecting differences among evangelicals over matters such as baptism and church polity. But the evangelical spirit seeks to follow the wisdom of J.C. Ryle, who counseled, "Keep the walls of separation as low as possible, and shake hands over them as often as you can."
When our eyes are opened to the love of God for us sinners, we let slip our masks. Condemned as sinners yet justified, we can begin to be honest about ourselves. Loved despite our unloveliness, we begin to love. Given peace with God, we begin to know an inner peace and joy. Shown the magnificence of God above all things, we become more resilient, trembling in wonder at God, and not man.
While we are considering our unity in the gospel, it is worth reflecting on the criticism that evangelicals do not stand in unity with the historic church down the centuries. I have argued that that is unfair: evangelicalism is historic, uneccentric, catholic Christianity. However, modern evangelicalism has often displayed an unevangelical individualism that has failed to care about our unity in the gospel with the creeds or with great theologians like Athanasius, Luther, and Edwards. It is not that we should ever replace Scripture with them as our supreme authority. Never. But we would be decidedly foolish to ignore them and fail to heed their wisdom. Without their insights into Scripture ringing in our ears, we will far more easily be swayed by our culture, "bliss-fully unaware of how faddish our beliefs are." Without a keen awareness of where the church has always stood, the mood of our age and how we might succumb to it will be far harder to see.
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