Sunday, December 7, 2008

Everyone needs to be converted

Darryl Dash interviewed Tim Keller about "Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture" and asked him, among other things, "You've said that we need to change significantly—beyond ordinary approaches like new programs or staff.... What are some of the deeper issues the Church needs to face?" Part of Keller's answer:
...Lloyd-Jones, of course, believed the need was for spiritual revival. The trouble with naming this is that, unfortunately, in many evangelical circles, especially charismatic ones, "revival" is always said to be the cure-all for our ills. But Lloyd-Jones was thinking of the historic revivals and of a theology of revival of Jonathan Edwards. This means we must, as in all the revivals, recover the gospel of grace.

I agree with Lloyd-Jones on this, but this is a very unpopular view right now in much of the evangelical world. In parts of the Reformed world, Edwards' view of revival is under attack as individualistic and inimical to the importance of the Church. Oddly, in the emerging church Edwards' view of revival is unpopular for the same reasons, because of its emphasis on the "individualistic" views of substitutionary atonement, forensic justification and so on.

I think these attacks on (or indifference to) the importance of revival are very wrong. We live in a society in which revival is necessary. As Peter Berger shows in The Heretical Imperative in contemporary pluralistic societies, everyone who believes a faith has to make an individual choice to believe it. There are no longer inherited, authoritative faith traditions. Whether you raise a child Lutheran, Muslim or Baptist the child at some point will have to choose to make the faith of his parents his or her own. In other words, they will have to have a conversion experience.

When revival breaks out through a recovery of the gospel, three things happen:
  1. nominal church members realize they'd never been converted;
  2. sleepy, lethargic Christians are energized and renewed;
  3. outsider non-Christians are attracted into the beautified worship, community and lives of the converted and renewed church members.
That's how it works. We need it. [more]
Thanks to Justin Taylor for the reference.

Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture: An Interview with Tim Keller - Darryl's Blog

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