Embracing the Gospel

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 21, 2007

An interesting discussion has erupted online. Apparently, some folks have drawn a connection between Jesus Manifesto, New Monasticism, Catholicism, and Willow Creek. You can read about it here, here, here, and here. I should probably ignore it, but I’m hoping, naively, that somehow we can have some sort of meaningful dialog here. I welcome response, but please keep it gentle and respectful. I FIRMLY believe that you can disagree profoundly without calling someone names or making personal attacks. Let’s stick to the ideas.

Below is a response from the “curator” of “A Little Leaven:”


I sent you an email yesterday asking for some clarification regarding your beliefs. I have not seen a response from you yet. I’ll post my questions here in the hope of sparking a conversation with you. Here are my questions.

Exactly, what “gospel” are you trying to embody through monasticism?

Do you believe that Jesus Christ was your penal substitute and that His death on the cross was an atoning sacrifice for your sins and that it propitiated God’s wrath against your sins?

Do you believe that humans are saved by grace alone through faith alone?

If not then what do you confess and believe the gospel is?

Thanks Chris, I got the email (which somehow ended up in my spam folder). I started a reply this morning…but I’m glad you engaged me here.

I’m more frustrated by the WAY you challenge me and new monasticism than I am with the content of your challenge. You publically denounce it without sending a personal email first. And then when I try to respond online, you don’t publish my comments. Only then do you personally email me.

At any rate, I’d be more than happy to answer your questions. And I hope that we get some good dialog going. In fact, I’m moving this discussion to its own post.

When I say “Gospel” I don’t simply mean “atonement.” That is where we first disagree, I guess. For me, it includes the birth, life, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. And it also includes Pentecost. Yes, the atonement is the climax of the Gospel.

Jesus’ first proclamation of the Gospel is in Luke 4:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The rest of Luke/Acts is the outpouring of this proclamation (which I call the Jesus Manifesto).

So, by embodying the Gospel, my community (Missio Dei) is trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. We want to live the way Jesus lived. We want to take up our cross and lay down our lives for others. We want to turn the other cheek. We want to care for the poor and the “least of these.” We want to call people to repentance and new life. We want to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit. And we eagerly await our future resurrection.

I don’t have big problems with people that hold to the penal substitutionary view of the Atonement. I, however, don’t hold to it. The substitutionary atonement didn’t really emerge until Anselm…and the “penal” substitutionary atonement happened later still. It didn’t gain ascendancy until the Magisterial Reformers took it and ran with it.

There are many facets to the atonement. And while I believe that there is a substitution in the atonement (Jesus took the wages of my sins), there is more than that happening on the cross.

The fundamental change on the cross wasn’t with God and his attitude towards me. It wasn’t as though God wanted me in hell and then Jesus took my punishment. The real change happened with humanity. Jesus took on human nature and provided a way for us to be set free from sin and death. The “punishment” Jesus took was the full scope of humanity. God gave Jesus over to receive the worst of humanity. That is what “wrath of God” means in Romans 1.

I do believe that human beings are saved by grace alone through faith alone. It is not our efforts that save us. Paul is pretty clear about that.

So, am I a Christian, or a heretic?

for further reading . . .

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23 Responses to “Embracing the Gospel”

  1. Jordan Peacock on December 21st, 2007 12:43 pm

    Heretic, most definitely. ;)

    I have yet to meet a professing Christian who is not heretical in some sense or another. (by heretical I mean holding beliefs that even those in their closest denomination/group deride or completely illogical stuff like “God heals everything” and “God doesn’t heal AIDS”)

    Myself included, when that was still applicable.

  2. toddh on December 21st, 2007 2:09 pm

    Mark - nice response. I wouldn’t expect much of a dialogue with those who are dead set on a simple list of 3 propositions that explain what the gospel is, but kudos for trying.

  3. dave on December 21st, 2007 2:21 pm

    i have never seen people talk about something that they were more ignorant about.

    i love how they are so caught up with the idea of “monasticism” that they cannot get to the heart of what “new monasticism” is.

  4. James on December 22nd, 2007 1:57 am

    You know Mark, I spent a long time debating with people, pointing out flawed logic, and showing incorrect interpretations of Scripture, and in the end I was just wasting my time. I have read the posts you note in your article and my response is that far too often people on blogs address topics or groups that they really do not understand and more importantly are unwilling to truly learn about. If its not what they believe its bad. What I saw in those posts were more the presuppositions of the writers leading them to speak about things that they are ill-equipped to rationally discuss.

    Don’t worry about them. Just keep living the life of a Christ follower, preaching the gospel in BOTH word and deed.

  5. Dustin on December 22nd, 2007 7:28 am


    I must first say that I appreciated the tone of your response. I, all too often, am quick to reply back in anger and frustration, rather than in the cool, calm, collected way that you did.

    In addition, I like how you spoke about the atonement. I just finished reading Marcus Borg’s “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time,” and there is a section in the book where he deals with the ‘defining stories’ which shaped Jesus, as a Jew and his hearers. Borg draws out of those stories thoughts about what it means for Jesus to set us free, be our light and pay for our sins. It was quite fascinating and really opened my eyes to the broader understanding of it all.

  6. Chris on December 22nd, 2007 1:29 pm

    Mark, can I raise an honest fear I have about the “Jesus Manifesto” and like movements? I would appreciate your response on it.

    I fear that by focusing so much on the commandments of Jesus, given in the Sermon on the Mount and other gospel discourses, we make Jesus’ teachings into a new Law. And we become so intent on focusing on trying to follow this new Law that we forget to worship Jesus in the process. Jesus becomes, as He is so often referred to in “emergent” circles, a “Rabbi” and ceases to be our “Lord,” our “King” and the one whom we bow down before in reverence and awe. We forget to worship Him with the same intensity of the angels in Revelations 4.

    I simply fear that the Jesus Manifesto and like movements turn Christ into nothing more than a teacher–granted an exalted teacher, the best teacher–but a teacher nonetheless, downplaying His Divinity and His Lordship. We focus so much on the human Jesus of Matthew 5, that we forget the exalted King of Colossians 1, for example.

    Do you sense this tension? How do you resolve it? How do you guard against turning Jesus into nothing more than another Rabbi who gives us another list of things to do? How do you ensure that people who follow the “Jesus Manifesto” realize that Jesus is our LORD and SAVIOR first, and a teacher second (or third, or fourth, or…)?

  7. James on December 22nd, 2007 1:51 pm


    I just wanted to point out that when one calls him/herself a Christian or a disciple, then that person is claiming to be Christ-like or a student of Christ. How can we as Christians become more Christ-like? We follow the teachings of the Lord contained in holy writ. A lot of the discussion that goes on here is directed toward the Christian community, i.e. those who identify themselves as Christians and thus the focus is on what it looks like to follow Christ and what it means to be Christ-like.

    If you look at the writings of the New Testament, they all contain ethical and normative teachings for the Christian community. Is that works righteousness? No. Neither is what is being advocated here. I have not seen anyone write that following the ethical teachings of Jesus (or other New Testament writers) leads to salvation. Rather it seems the general spirit is that because we have been saved/redeemed through Jesus Christ we should desire to follow the teachings of our Lord as a way to honor His name which we attach to ourselves.

    Just my thoughts and observations as a contributor to this project.

  8. beyondwords on December 22nd, 2007 8:31 pm

    Chris, it is precisely that he is our Lord and Savior that we follow his teachings. How esle would one respond to a Lord? Maybe it’s hard for moderns to grasp this because we don’t have any concrete experience of being subservient to anyone. So it’s easy to understand how modern Christians have come to view Jesus Lordship as a spiritual abstraction.

    We worship him as Lord first, and that compels us to follow him and do what he commands.

    I was reading form Henri Nouwen’s book, “Journey to Daybreak,” today. He wrote about ministering to the caregivers in the L’Arche community who daily worked with the mentally handicapped people there. He said, “I must learn a new style of ministry. Few of those (there) need to be convinced of the importance of the Gospels, the centrality of Jesus…they have discovered Christ, they have made their decision to work with the poor, they have taken the narrow path.”

    That’s where some of us who write here are. We have discovered Christ, and made our decision to follow him.

    After we find Christ and turn utterly to him, we can move forward in grace to serve him. It is a narrrow path. But if we are so fearful of works righteousness that we never move forward on that narrow path to serve him, then we have become enslaved to a false grace. I think sometimes Christians worship grace and miss Jesus.

    For me, taking this path feels more like moving in him than in myself. I am hunkered down and very small, very vulnerable and dependent on him. I am learning where I am poor and he is sufficient.

  9. Defending “Jesus Manifesto” - Part 1 « Community of the Risen on December 22nd, 2007 9:07 pm

    [...] 2007 · No Comments I want to take a moment today to talk about a recent controversy against Jesus Manifesto and the site’s editor Mark Van Steenwyek. The controversy basically stems from his [...]

  10. Danny on December 22nd, 2007 9:09 pm

    Hi Mark,
    I am starting a series on Jesus Manifesto on my blog, and I was wondering if you could check it out to make sure I am being fair and representing your views correctly. Thanks so much.

  11. Danny on December 22nd, 2007 9:10 pm

    Whoa! How did your site know I was writing about you?

  12. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 22nd, 2007 9:34 pm

    Thanks for delving into this Danny. I’d be happy to check it out.

    When you link to one of the posts at JM, it notices and adds it as a “trackback.”

  13. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 22nd, 2007 9:56 pm

    Chris, I understand your concern that folks like me are turning the teachings of Jesus into a new Law. But all Christians believe, at some level, we are called to live a certain way…to follow a certain way of life as part of our recognition of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

    I don’t believe that I earn my salvation. Nor do I believe that I have to be obedient to Jesus out of some sort of fearful attempt to hold onto my salvation. I believe that he has graciously saved me…reconciled me to God. I believe that by faith. And I believe that I am called to obey him. I do so because I love him. If I don’t obey him, I don’t love him.

    I worship Jesus Christ as God Enfleshed. He is more than an exalted teacher. All things are made by him. I understand your concern. I think a lot of people read Jesus Manifesto and think: “here we go with that social gospel stuff again.” I don’t see why it is either “the Good News is a message that we must proclaim about God’s gracious gift of new life” or “the Good News is a way of life…a way of living our new life with God, in Jesus, by the Spirit.”

    I think the language of the reformation was too forensic (legal) and that got filtered through the uniquely American debates between social gospel liberals and fundamentalists. I think these debates broke up and categorized the Gospel into strange ways. The Sermon on the Mount is part of the Gospel…not just an explication of the Law. Caring for the poor is part of the Gospel (read Luke 4). All of the New Testament is explaining the Gospel: being reconciled to God and one another, we embrace new life…in this life and in the life to come. We are saved, but we are being saved, and we will be saved. We received it by grace, and we live it out by the grace of God.

    You ask “How do you ensure that people who follow the “Jesus Manifesto” realize that Jesus is our LORD and SAVIOR first, and a teacher second (or third, or fourth, or…)?”

    I don’t think it is my job to ensure that. I can only explicate the Gospel as best as I understand it. Let me ask you a question: “How do you ensure that people who read your blog are caring for the poor, are welcoming the least of these, are turning the other cheek?”

    I see these as fundamental parts of the Gospel? Why? Because I believe that we are not only called to PROCLAIM the Good News, but to EMBODY it. We are not only called to worship Jesus, but to be his Body. Here’s an old post that delves into some of this.

  14. Chris Rosebrough on December 23rd, 2007 9:33 am


    The sermon on the mount is NOT the gospel. The moral admonitions given by Christ was the law times 10. You are confusing the fruit of faith, the fruit of the gospel with the gospel itself.

    To someone who is not a Christian the Sermon on the Mount is nothing but law and nothing but a list of things to do and not do. But, to the Christian who has been spiritually raised from the dead through the proclamation of the good news that Christ died for their sins, the sermon on the mount shows them what a good work is and what the fruit of repentance looks like as their life is transformed by the Holy Spirit.

    You are mixing two things that must not be mixed otherwise you’ll end up with a bunch of ’social gospel’ judiazers and leftist-legalists.

    Jesus was most certainly right when he said that, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” That statement is 100% law. I can’t speak for you, but If I were to base my love of Jesus upon my obedience then I would have to conclude that I am not a Christian because daily I sin much. Even what few and feeble good works I can muster seem tainted by bad motives and desires. No amount of good works, commitment to social causes, reduction of my carbon foot print or contempletive prayer is going to comfort my convicted conscience.

    The only thing that will comfort me is the good news of Christ Crucified for my sins. That message is the center and substance of the Christian faith and the only true religion on our planet. That message alone sets me free from the bondage of the law and works so that I can now truly love and obey Christ from a clean conscience. Like a citrus tree I bear fruit because of what I am, I couldn’t stop bearing fruit if I tried because that is what I do by nature.

    Jesus Christ is the object of my faith, not my good works. When you mix the law and the gospel as you have done then you are teaching people to make their good works the center of their faith instead of Christ. Preach Christ Crucified and trust the Holy Spirit to produce fruit and good works. He will do it.

    The error of the Religious Right is their legalistic obsession with ‘right-wing’ good works. The error of the Religious left is their legalistic obsession with ‘left-wing’ good works. Many of the causes each side defends are good causes. But both are wrong when they turn their ‘good works’ into the Gospel.

    By all means preach against the social sins that are being committed by our society. Truly we all are guilty of not caring for the widow and the poor and standing for justice in the face of murderous injustice. We as a society and as a church must be made to see our sins. But then preach Christ Crucified for Sinners so that we may be comforted by the forgiveness offered to us in the gospel. Then through repentance of sins and trust in Christ we as a society can right these wrongs and fix these social ills.

    The reason why the religious left has struggled for credibility is because they deconstruct God’s Word and deny the authority of scripture while telling us to do good works. If you don’t want to be lumped in with them then maintain sound doctrine, defend the high view of scripture, make Christ Crucified for Sinners the center of your theology. If you do that, then when you rail against social injustice you will not be brushed aside as just another leftist liberal who denies the faith yet wants to hold onto social ‘good works’.

  15. Joel Postma on December 23rd, 2007 9:56 am

    While I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I would like to take a moment to answer your questions.

    For centuries during the Old Testament period, the Israelites angered God by making their worship of Him meaningless. They followed His commandments to the letter, but their hearts were elsewhere. They worshiped Him during their celebrations, but it had all become meaningless ritual to them.

    Christ gave us the example that God wants us to follow. He wants us to feed the hungry. He wants us to clothe the naked. He wants us to care for the needy. When we do this for others, we also do it for Him. When we attempt to model our lives after Christ’s, we ARE worshiping him. Worship is meant to be much more than merely attending church on Sunday and then doing our own thing the rest of the week. By caring for others and putting thier needs ahead of our own, we worship Christ in precisely the way he meant for us to. Merciful deeds will always be more important to God than any ritual could ever be.

  16. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 23rd, 2007 11:11 am


    I challenge you to read the Gospels and take notice of every time it mentions “gospel” or “good news”. As you do so, suspend your understanding of Paul via the Reformers.

    Here’s one example:

    Matthew 4:23-5:10

    Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

    Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
    Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called sons of God.
    Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    And another:

    Luke 3:10-16

    “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

    John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

    Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

    “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

    He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

    The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

    And, of course, there is also Luke 4…

    What is the “good news” in these passages? I agree, that the Good News isn’t something you do. But goodness man, you have your understanding of “Good News” all wrapped up in a tight package. It is the Gospel warped by the particular arguments Calvin and Luther had with the Catholic Church. It is the Gospel defined by snippets from Paul processed through a systematic theology that is foreign to the Gospels.

    If it doesn’t reconcile with Jesus’ (and John’s) understanding of the Gospel, then it simply isn’t the Gospel.

    I’m not saying that we have to earn salvation. But if our salvation doesn’t include following the Way of Jesus, then it isn’t salvation. If our Gospel isn’t liberty to the poor and marginalized, then it isn’t the Gospel.

    You say: “The reason why the religious left has struggled for credibility is because they deconstruct God’s Word and deny the authority of scripture while telling us to do good works. If you don’t want to be lumped in with them then maintain sound doctrine, defend the high view of scripture, make Christ Crucified for Sinners the center of your theology.”

    I do promote a high view of Scripture. And Christ crucified is at center of my theology. But we must also include the rest of Christ’s story in our telling of the Gospel…otherwise we’ll end up with an abstract, forensic, disembodied Gospel. A Gospel that can be boiled down to a tract and lacks the provocative power to transform our lives. My Gospel takes an entire New Testament to unpack. I don’t want to reduce it down. Not a bit. And while the Cross is at the climax of the Gospel story, it isn’t it in its entirety.

  17. Chris Rosebrough on December 23rd, 2007 3:16 pm


    1. I will not grant you your argument that I’m advocating an abstract gospel that lacks the provocative power to transform lives. My life has been turned upside down by the very Gospel that I am defending. The reason it has done that is because it is not my Gospel but THE Gospel.

    2. Your disdain for a gospel that can be reduced down to a tract is out of bounds and wrong. This is PRECISELY what the Apostles did. Are you not aware of the earliest Christian Creed that is recorded for us in 1 Corinthians 15? In that creed the Apostle Paul lays out the very Gospel that he preached and that Gospel is summarized in the creed that he received from the other Apostles.

    1Cor. 15:1   Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    1Cor. 15:3   For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

    The very men who sat directly under Jesus’ teaching, Not JUST PAUL, reduced the Gospel down to a very short confession of faith and Paul considered it to be of First, Primary Importance (protos) that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures. Therefore, your post-mod aversion to reducing the Gospel down to a tract is out of line, unbiblical and off base.

    3. There is no conflict between Paul’s gospel, Jesus’ Gospel or John’s. Jesus Christ himself taught Paul the Gospel that he preached and Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul and encouraged Paul to not be silent but keep preaching it.

    Gal. 1:11   For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

    Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you…

    Furthermore, your hermeneutic, lacks some very foundational understandings. I recommend this article to help you.

    Paul’s Gospel, which is the Gospel that he recieved directly from Jesus Christ clearly states…

    Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    As Luther correctly summarized, “Faith ALONE Saves, but Saving faith is NEVER alone.” Or as James says, “Faith without works (who ever heard of such a beast) is DEAD.” It isn’t even faith at all.

    So here is how it all plays out. (sans-narrative)

    God declares us Righteous in Christ, because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. When we are given faith through the hearing of the gospel we are made alive, made a new creation in Christ and we are created in Christ to do good works. These good works are the fruit of faith.

    Good works include the work we do with our hands in our vocation, caring for the poor, the widow and serving in our community as well as preaching, teaching and defending sound doctrine. The fruit of repentance listed by John the Baptist is a wonderful list, the Sermon on the Mount is a beautiful expression of the fruit of Christian repentance. But any who try to please God without trusting in Christ crucified for sins, and think that they can please God by living out the sermon on the mount is in error and darkness and they are false Christians.

    The flaws in your hermeneutics are causing you to draw unsound doctrinal conclusions that are taking you to the very borders of works righteousness.

    Also, if you hold such a ‘high view of scripture’ as you claim then I challenge you to separate yourself from the Emergent movement and the leaders in the movement who are attacking God’s Word, denying the Substitionary Atonement, deconstructing the scriptures, and undermining certainty and propositional truths.

  18. Joe on December 24th, 2007 10:41 am

    It’s first instinct for moderns to see bits and pieces of a ministry that is like none before and say it’s like….um….new monasticism, and catholicism, etc. The extreme need for a label. That’s why many people don’t agree, and won’t ever agree with some of these new movements.

    There is little recognition that each community and group is different and always changing, learning, growing, adapting, and probably making a lot of mistakes. Someone heres a label like new monasticism, and they immediately think of an article they have read or some heretical group in their hometown that was under that label for publicity.

    Every community is it’s own, and although labels serve a purpose, many people aren’t disagreeing with what you’re doing or even you beliefs but they simply can’t seem to get past your label.

  19. Joel Postma on December 24th, 2007 10:48 am

    If I may stray away a little bit from the original question, I would like to address something that you wrote about in your latest posting.

    I have a real problem with the entire concept of hermeneutics. I understand peoples desire to interperet the bible, but it is the entirely wrong approach. Hermeneutics is a scientific method for interpereting a message. It has rules and set guidelines. The problem with this is that the bible is so much more dynamic than that. But more important than that, we are instructed in the bible that the true message is made known to us by the Holy Spirit. I wonder how God would feel about having His gift to us, the Holy Spirit, replaced by human scientific method.

    Hermeneutics could not possibly interperet and reconcile the entire message contained in the bible by itself for there are too many verses that are potentially contradictory. Science attempts to take too narrow of a view. In my study of the scriptures, I have found the the message contained there-in to be incredibly dynamic. Many verses have multiple layers of meaning and are revealed through the Holy Spirit as needed. Many times I have read a familiar verse and have had revealed to me an entirely new message contained in it. That message never contradicts the core message contained in the gospel. It simply reveals a new angle to view it from.

    Human knowledge will never be able to completely comprehend the entire message contained in the bible. It is a bit like an enourmous onion. Each layer reveals yet another layer underneath. Those layers probably go on forever since God’s wisdom is limitless. Each of us has only portions of it revealed to us. By forcing others to adopt our small understanding of the message, we attempt to limit God.

    I think for many, the lack of being able to fully understand leads to fear, because we are arrogant beings. That fear leads us to take a narrow and simplified view of the message contained in the bible because to admit that we don’t completely understand it might call our faith into question. This is a self limiting cycle that prevents us from gaining any more understanding. It is only when we humble ourselves before God and admit that we don’t understand that we allow Him to reveal more of His message to us.

    So… now to get back to the original argument in this thread.

    Are we saved by works?
    No. We are saved by grace alone.

    Is faith alone a true and saving faith?
    No. As you have quoted, faith without works is dead.

    Have I witnessed anyone here on this forum claiming that they are saved by their good works rather than by faith in Jesus Christ?
    No, I have not seen it and I will not automatically attack anyone for holding that view until I have witnessed it.

    It appears to me that you automatically have called into question their faith in Jesus Christ because they have chosen to express their faith and worship of Him through good works. There is a different way for each of us to express our faith in Him. Some teach the gospel, some heal the sick, some care for the poor. Even Christ’s own apostles were unable to do it all by themselves as individuals and saw fit to divide up the responsibilities amongst one another.

  20. Casey Ochs on December 24th, 2007 11:13 am

    “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:4-6 NIV

    I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar here, but my reading of the above passage from Paul’s epistle to the Church in Galatia tells me two fundamental things. We are not saved by religious works of law, but we are saved by faith in Christ which expresses itself in love (the King James uses the word “worketh” instead of expresses. Also, I can’t help but note here that both “expresses” and worketh are verbs.) We can claim to have faith, but true faith must inevitably manifest itself through love: love of God and love of our neighbor (even if our neighbor happens to be our enemy). Paul says that faith without love is “nothing”; James asks the questions: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”

    One of the problems with the whole “faith vs works” debate (which is what I think we’re really talking about here) is that Christians often try to simplify the various arguments to the point where they become caricatures of truth. Even died-in-the wool devotees of Luther’s “faith alone” argument acknowledge that in order to be saved we must “accept” or “receive” Jesus Christ as our Savior (again accept and receive are action verbs, something we have to do) I mean, why else do we ask people to say the sinner’s prayer? And those who stress the importance of good works must admit that holy charity is the result of genuine saving faith and trust in Christ. I don’t think we’re all that far apart, really. It seems more a matter of defining what consititutes saving faith. Can we say we believe in Jesus and then ignore what He says?

    In any event, Paul tells us “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” I don’t know if I could adequately explain what Paul is saying here, I just know that I have experienced how this works in my own walk of faith.

    Merry Christmas!

    Casey O

  21. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 24th, 2007 11:47 am

    Joe: Yeah, labels have gotten me–and many people–into trouble. I would eschew labels all together, but they help in community building. The truth is, by claiming “new monasticism” it helps my community connect with other communities with similar commitments. And it helps those people who are interested in that sort of ministry easily find us so that they can join our ministry. But it certainly has its limitations.

    Casey: Good word, thanks.

  22. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 24th, 2007 12:05 pm


    1. I didn’t mean to imply that the standard tract-Gospel can’t transform lives. That was, after all, the message I first received (at Bible camp when I was 14). But it is only a start. It is just a beginning. It isn’t THE Gospel in full. It is only part of the Gospel.

    2. Hold on. I didn’t say that summarizing the Gospel is bad. And I know that Paul (and even Jesus) summarizes. But they never claim it is the full complete Gospel. My problem isn’t with tracts. It is when people point to a four-page document and say “this is THE gospel.” It isn’t. But its a start. Do you get my point? I suspect that there is some room for agreement here, if we try. I know you don’t believe that Paul’s summary of the Gospel captures all of the Gospel.

    3. I agree that there are no disagreements between Jesus’ and Paul’s gospels. But we don’t have a flat Scripture. In other words, it matters how you read the Scriptures and it matters how you prioritize themes and teachings and how you relate them to one another. I’m concerned that you’re falling into the mistake of placing all of the pre-crucifixion teachings of Jesus into the Law bucket and then putting all of Paul’s teachings into the Gospel bucket. No, they both proclaim the Gospel. And it is important to understand the nuances that the different NT teachers bring to the discussion so that we can have a well seasoned understanding of the Gospel.

    We’re clearly starting at things VERY differently. You say I lack foundational understanding of Scripture. I’d probably say the same about you. But let me assure you…I’ve studied Scripture a lot. Not just academically, but personally. My goal in life is to embrace the Gospel and make Christ known.

    Maybe the difference between us is that I am an Anabaptist. I am a Mennonite Pastor, linking arms with a 500 year old community that has faithfully embraced the Gospel and centered itself on following in the footsteps of Jesus.

    Come on, man. Don’t tell me to distance myself from my brothers and sisters in Emergent. Charging me with guilt by association is weak. How about I call you a heretic, because Charles Finney rejected original sin? Or, how about I call you greedy because of the many affluent evangelical megachurch pastors? What about a warmonger? Fundamentalists have been big supporters of the war. The Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements have had all sorts of controversies.

    I have cast in my lot with the emerging church movement because it is necessary and helpful. Sure, there are mistakes, but the last time I checked there were TONS of mistakes made during the Reformation (like the systemic drowning of Anabaptists by Calvinists and Lutherans).

  23. The Case for Communal Living : :: Jesus Manifesto :: on December 26th, 2007 3:32 pm

    [...] the recent hullabaloo about the new monasticism “heresy,” there has been some attention given to the [...]

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