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All head no heart? [repost]

Do you ever hear of people or institutions described in the following way:

"Don't get me wrong, their theology is straight down the line. They're faithful, biblical, solid, orthodox, sound as a pound. You couldn't fault them on their teaching... It's just... Well, they're not very loving. In fact they're pretty closed. Cold even. Harsh actually. Come to think of it they're some of the most hard hearted people I've ever met."

It's quite common to hear, isn't it? What do we think is a good response?

My immediate reaction is: Where are these total-gospel Christians with diamond-hard hearts? What kind of gospel must this be? How could 'solid, orthodox, faithful' theology produce loveless believers? Do we really think they've got their theology right, they just happen to be bearing no gospel fruit?

And what remedy would we propose for such cool-headed, cold-hearted Christians? Do we assume that they already know the gospel and therefore need to be inspired to love via other means? What means?

No. Next time you hear someone say "He/She/They are solid theologically, they're just not loving", say "Pish, Tosh, Codswallop, Bunkum and Balderdash!"

They cannot be solid theologically. Maybe once they were. But our gospel is revealed far more clearly in our lives than our credal subscription.

I'm not saying that in depth study of the Athanasian creed guarantees warm-hearted gospel love.  I am saying that we should question the common-place label of 'cold but sound.'  What do you think?

 

16 thoughts on “All head no heart? [repost]

  1. Cal

    Right on!

    Philosophical Scholasticism which starts in decrees, essences or some such is not understanding the Gospel.

    When we start in the flesh and blood man, Jesus, who is both Christ and Lord, Son and Annointed, the Incarnate Word and Holy One. Then we can live!

    Jesus is Lord is an exhilarating statement of theology, of world-view, of ethics, of revolution!

    Cal

  2. Rich Owen

    Loved your comment Cal! That goes right to the heart of the opening piece.

    It's all about Jesus! Always. In every way. Without apology. He is All.

    You know what they say - we become like our gods. Or should that be, the imagined god's are defined to be like us.

    Jesus is LORD won't allow that! Praise Him forever!

    Rich

  3. Paul Huxley

    I wholeheartedly agree - appropriate, given the topic. Just wanted to point out the pastoral possibility that the coldness is perceived rather than real.

    When's the King's English single volume coming out? Thinking of buying it as a Christmas present for someone.

  4. Brian Midmore

    And what preceeds the power ? : it is weakness 1 Cor 2 v3. Many preachers (have you ever watched God TV?) seem too strong for their own good.

  5. Howard Nowlan

    I've been seeking to frame a reply to this post for several days, but an early walk this morning really clarified the matter for me... Watching the sun rise on a winter's day is illuminating. For the first hour or so, there was nothing but naked, almost blinding light, but there was no heat, no warmth in that brilliance - it relentlessly removes any shroud of hiding or darkness, and strikes upon the mist as violently as any seasonal frost, entirely unforgiving in it's intent - to expose the world to its radiance. That is the Law, and when it is preached well (as by Paul in Romans) it leaves us all concluded beneath its condemnation, but the 'work' of the sun does not end there - as the great light rises, the earth is warmed and freshly adorned by its beauty, allowing us to delight in the splendor of what surrounds us. This is the essential goal of the sun and of preaching - to lead us to the riches of the Gospel of Grace.

    In many stands of ministry, the aim is to focus upon the cold, harsh light of the imperatives - what WE should do or should feel (depending on if you're Reformed or Charismatic) rather than the 'warmth' of the Gospel's indicatives - what has BEEN done FOR US in Christ - that is why we can evaluate all manner of 'preaching' as 'sound' but nothing more than a burden - like the sun in its full brilliance, it can 'burn' and even blind, but it does not warm our hearts to the wonder of the saving work of Jesus Christ.

  6. Jonathan

    Great post, Glen. Our real theology reveals itself in practice as surely as the pudding is proved in eating. Love Cal's comment. Have to lament that most systematic theologies don't start with Jesus. Howard's comment that the problem is law without gospel, isn't true to my experience. Some of the most loveless churches I've known have been hypercalvinist, and would only talk about 'what has been done for us in Christ'.

    I think it's a bit harder to remain cold and hard if your theology has a healthy emphasis on the Spirit present in the church, bringing about the new life of Jesus in our lives. If all the important stuff goes on in a higher sphere (election, justification etc), then what we do down here doesn't count for so much. But if God's kingdom is arriving...

  7. Howard

    You clearly went to a different set of Calvinist churches to me, Jonathan. In the many years of attending that I did, I only heard the Gospel message (Christ for us) once from a visiting speaker (which is why it remains so clear in my memory) - the emphasis was that such folk were the elect because they submitted to the great truths and those who taught them.

  8. Cal

    Jonathan:

    Maybe the problem is instead of 'what was done for us IN CHRIST' it is rather 'WHAT is done for US in Christ'. Changing the emphasis makes all the difference in the world.

    When I was rescued by Christ a couple years back, I started off a Southern Baptist congregation and eventually I started feeling lifelessness in Christ's sacrifice as the "Great Exchange" getting a Righteous check to fill my account.

    Instead of preaching Christ's work in Christ's life, and the union with Him, it made grace a thing by which Christ was a mechanism.

    I felt like I was in a box, wanting life, until I discovered 'the mystery hidden for ages, that is Christ in you, the hope of glory' (Col. 1:28)

  9. Steve Martin

    It's not easy getting the right balance in preaching. The law needs to be there. But not in any effort to make better or to 'progress' the Christian. It needs to expose the Christian. Not a lot of preachers do this (very well) because people in the pews do not care for it. It is uncomfortable...not "positive".

    But of course, then the gospel is handed over freely, to all. No strings. The pure, sweet gospel for the ungodly (everyone in the room - including the preacher).

    Hard to do. But that's the job.

  10. Brian Midmore

    Surely the test is whether Christ is preached. And by preached we mean proclaimed. And by proclaimed we mean incarnated in the lives of his people. To be orthodox you need to learn orthodoxy. To demonstrate the risen Christ requires a cruxifixion.

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