Recently, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) site posted a blog entry entitled – “Lent Is About Jesus: A Free Devotional Guide.” No, I did not make that up. You can read the whole thing here. As I read the post and thought about it a bit, I concluded I would like to respond to it. So, as many of you do on various blogs, I sent a comment to that post. Before sending the comment, however, I sent copies of my response to a few friends, just to make sure I was responding correctly and clearly. They encouraged me to post my thoughts. Here is (below) what I sent to TGC’s site, which is still awaiting moderation, even though there has been at least one comment posted after I sent mine, I received notice of that post via email, and there were, at one point this afternoon, 25 comments and now there are only 24, as of 2:41pm Pacific time. I hope that changes, but in case it does not (which will not be the first time my comments at TGC have been deleted, if, in fact, that is the case), here it is…
This is not helpful to me as an individual or, especially, as a pastor. It creates more work for me.
Though there are many, many problems I have with this post, I will share but two.
First, moralizing John’s preparatory ministry is terrible–hermeneutically, theologically, and practically. Your post says:
“At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, John announced his coming in fulfillment of Isaiah 40: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” This is the cry of Lent: Prepare the way of the Lord! Make room for him in your thoughts and activities and affections.”
This goes against, for example, what Dr. Carson’s Commentary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament advocates (and I think rightly). The Gospels narrate these kinds of things for us because they are telling us what happened in fulfillment of the OT and in relation to John the Baptist and the incarnation and ministry (i.e., His sufferings and glory) of Christ. Drawing these kinds of “practical” applications from these types of texts is simply wrong. The Epistles are God’s theological commentary upon and ecclesiastical applications of some of the events depicted for us in the Gospels. Nowhere do we see John’s preparatory ministry interpreted and applied as your post does in the Epistles (or anywhere else in the Bible). The fact of the matter is this: The way has already been prepared for the Lord by John and in fulfillment of God’s Word via Isaiah. We don’t “Prepare the way of the Lord!” John already did that. We can certainly gain confidence in the veracity of the Word of God due to this and connect the dots between the OT, John, and Jesus; but to tell people “Make room for him in your thoughts and activities and affections” based on John’s preparatory ministry is, at best, naive and at worst, a moralizing/allegorizing of a text that ends up creating new laws for God’s people–laws invented by man. “God alone is Lord of the conscience.”
Second, the following words are very troubling to me:
“The practice of giving something up for Lent is a way of entering into the wilderness with Jesus. Don’t worry about whether your sacrifice is a good one. It’s not a contest. Just make your aim to know Christ more fully, and trust him to lead you.”
“…entering into the wilderness with Jesus”? What does that mean and where has God revealed that it is His will for us to enter such? The fact is that Christ already entered the wilderness for us and won! This statement betrays a hermeneutic that is too horizontal, allegorizing, and misses the point of Christ’s wilderness experience. He was driven there to be tempted as our representative and win; unlike Adam in the garden and Israel in the wilderness, Jesus does not give-in to the devil.
TGC brothers, this post makes more work for local church pastors. It is destructive. It erodes confidence in those involved with TGC. Recently a Mark Driscoll interview was posted on TGC blog where he gave somewhat of a “pass” to Joel Osteen. Check this out by Mark Dever. This is what we need from TGC; a clear sound for truth and against error.
I hope you will consider these things in the spirit they are intended. I think this post should be deleted and a humble apology posted in its place.
[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Richard Barcellos, originally published at Reformed Baptist Fellowship here, re-published by permission]