Monthly Archives: June 2013

Believe in the Trinity or you will go to hell

A good friend asked me a simple question that is good to always think through: How exactly is it that someone who believes in modalism (or anything other than the historic doctrine of the Trinity) is definitely not a Christian? In other words, how do we know for sure that the doctrine of the Trinity is a first-order, absolute essential to the Christian faith? How is anything but the Trinity a heresy?

Before I answer, modalism specifically is a heresy made most popular in the 3rd century by a man named Sabellius. It is the teaching that the Father, Son and Spirit are not three distinct Persons, but simply different modes of the same person, who reveals himself in those three ways at different times. And that heresy has showed up in slightly different forms ever since.

Also, my friend who asked the question already believed the Trinity to be essential; he simply was looking for clarity on how to articulate this answer. So that’s my hope here.

Here are two ways I would explain why you must believe in the doctrine of the Trinity or you will go to hell:

1. the easy answer: The doctrine of the Trinity is a summary of some of the clearest teachings in Scripture. As many great preachers have said, “Trinity” simply affirms seven undeniable truths: there is one God, the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. If you deny the Trinity, you are denying at least one of those things, which simply means you refuse to listen to God’s clear revelation. If you do not believe the Trinitarian teachings of Scripture, you may as well chuck the whole Bible; you are not a Christian.

2. the more complex answer, but perhaps more convincing answer: to deny the Trinity is to deny the gospel. The gospel is the good news that the Father sent the Son into the world to save sinners for all eternity. The Son obeys the Father, by the Spirit’s power, in the place of sinners. The Father puts the Son to death. The Spirit raises the Son from the dead. The Son is exalted to the right hand of the Father, and the Father and the Son sent the Spirit to be the ultimate blessing to all believers. Without the Trinity, there is no gospel event. Without the Trinity, there is no salvation.

This is why we must pray for men like Benny Hinn and T.D. Jakes to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Anyone who fudges at all on the Trinity simply does not understand the gospel. This is why you can be confident that there are zero Christians in the Unitarian church down the road from you, and why you must engage them with the gospel. “Believe in the Trinity” is another way of saying “repent and believe the gospel.”

How to preach the gospel

I would challenge Christians to preach the gospel like John Piper.

Take note of what he says is the “best gift of the gospel” at the very end. Whether you take 60 seconds to summarize this to someone, or 15 years to summarize this to your children, this is the gospel of the Bible. This is the substance that God uses to make people alive together with Christ.

3 of the worst arguments Christians use when talking about homosexuality

Kevin DeYoung probably writes at least one “everybody-needs-to-read” blog post every week. This is one of them. Let me re-hash and highlight his arguments. He says Christians and non-Christians use four very faulty lines of thinking very often when trying to attack how evangelicals often approach homosexuality. Here are three of the worst arguments you will hear, plus one faulty way of arguing:

1. “Jesus Never Said Anything About Homosexuality.” Here is a great paragraph from DeYoung that blasts a hole in that line of thinking: “an evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize instructions in the gospel (narratives) more than instructions elsewhere in Scripture…homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans…has no less…authority or relevance than if we read it from the lips of Jesus in Matthew. All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the red letters. God’s gracious self-disclosure comes to us through the Word made flesh and by the inscripturated word of God…When it comes to seeing God and his truth in Christ and in Holy Scripture, one is not more reliable, more trustworthy, or more relevant than the other.”

2. “We Are Hypocrites Because We Aren’t As Passionate About Divorce.” DeYoung says that is like comparing apples and oranges. For one, many Protestants have understood some cases of divorce to be acceptable. That automatically makes the two issues different. Then he says “Furthermore, many evangelical churches are just as staunch in their opposition to unbiblical divorce. I know we take it very seriously at our church. The reason we are not fired up on the blogs about it is because there are no denominational groups I’m aware of rallied around the central tenet that divorce is a blessing from God.” LOL!

3. “This Is Why Evangelicals Have a Bad Reputation.” DeYoung is not sure how true this statement is. For one, he shows how evangelicals may not have that bad a reputation as the media might portray. He says “most non-Christians probably get along just fine with the evangelicals they know personally.” And at the end of the day, bad reputation cannot be a driving motivation, because ” Jesus never taught us, nor did he demonstrate, that something must be wrong when people revile us in the first place.”

4. The Use of Imprecise Language: regardless of the issue, those we disagree with often use language that sounds good on the surface, but is misleading (I wonder if purposely misleading). DeYoung picks out the arguments of another Christian, Peter Wehner, who says things like “people flocked to Jesus not because he preached moral rectitude but because He was willing to love them, to listen to them, and to welcome them,” and, “Jesus’ main mission was to convince them of God’s love and invitation.”

DeYoung responds: “These are the sort of sentences that sound the right evangelical notes, but I worry are playing a different tune. There’s no problem saying Jesus loved people, listened to them, and welcomed them. Yes and Amen. But to be accurate, most of the people flocked to him because of the wonders he performed. Others came because he called. Others because he came to seek and save sinners. And others because he spoke with authority. Jesus demanded much of the world, and it’s terribly wrong to pit the preaching of ‘moral rectitude’ against love and welcome. Jesus did both unashamedly. He made it harder for people to follow him. He told people to be born again. He demanded they hate their parents, cut off their arms, tear out their eyes. It’s not faithful to the gospels to paint a picture of Jesus the good listener who eschewed edges and the preaching of moral rectitude. What is the Sermon on the Mount if not, at least in part, a lesson in moral rectitude for the people of God?”

DeYoung also says “it’s just not true that Jesus’ main mission was to convince people of God’s love. [It] was to lead people to the conclusion that he was the Son of God and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 15:39; 10:45). He came out in public ministry to preach the gospel (Mark 1:14-15, 38-39). Jesus told people of God’s mercy for repentant sinners and the new life and new community that could be found in Christ, but he did not travel through Judea and Galilee trying to persuade people that God really, really loved them.”

All in all, read Kevin DeYoung as much as you can if you want to know and enjoy good writing. And prayerfully dig down deep in the Scriptures. Don’t just make truth assertions about life and godliness that are not anchored in the actual text of Scripture. Those who know their Bible and theology best are the ones who make the best (and most loving) arguments when talking about homosexuality, or any other issue.

Grace is not the same as being nice

As a pastor, I am constantly demonized for not having grace. For example, when I explained to people at the church a few years ago that God’s Word says that women should not teach men in the church; the teaching office is reserved for men. A few people said “that might be true but you should have grace.” Is that really how the word “grace” is meant to be used?

If that is your definition of “grace” you are defining “grace” as “let people disobey God.” How does Scripture define “grace”? When John says “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”, did he mean “the willingness to let people sin and truth came through Jesus Christ”? Or when Paul says “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” did he mean “it is by God letting you sin that you have been saved, through faith”?

Grace is more like Ephesians 4.32: be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ forgave you. I’m forgiven, so I will forgive others. I’m a sinner, so I will love other sinners. I sinned against God, and He loved me, so I will love those who sin against me. And at the same time, “the grace of God…trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2.11-12). The grace of God does not let me keep being disobedient, but helps me out of it. God does not show grace to me by simply being nice to me, but by dealing with my sin on the cross and really loving me fully.