If you still think that this reimagined and repainted inclusive squishy social gospel of good deeds preached by postliberals like Rob Bell is something new; you’d better think again.
Here’s J. Gresham Machen from his book Christianity & Liberalism written in 1923:
But if Christianity be directed toward another world; if it be a way by which individuals can escape from the present evil age to some better country, what becomes of “the social gospel”? At this point is detected one of the most obvious lines of cleavage between Christianity and the liberal Church. The older evangelism, says the modern liberal preacher, sought to rescue individuals, while the newer evangelism seeks to transform the whole organism of society: the older evangelism was individual; the newer evangelism is social.
This formulation of the issue is not entirely correct, but it contains an element of truth. It is true that historic Christianity is in conflict at many points with the collectivism of the present day; it does emphasize, against the claims of society, the worth of the individual soul. It provides for the individual a refuge from all the fluctuating currents of human opinion, a secret place of meditation where a man can come alone into the presence of God. It does give a man courage to stand, if need be, against the world; it resolutely refuses to make of the individual a mere means to an end, a mere element in the composition of society. It rejects altogether any means of salvation which deals with men in a mass; it brings the individual face to face with his God. In that sense, it is true that Christianity is individualistic and not social.
But though Christianity is individualistic, it is not only individualistic. It provides fully for the social needs of man. (Online source, 152, 153)
The key to understanding what’s happening to the evangelical community right now is to note a recent shift in the Emergent rebellion against Sola Scriptura to an even more centered of the self religious faith e.g. Peter Rollins And Phyllis Tickle On The Emergence Of A Brand New Religion.
Within that piece you will hear Peter Rollins, a friend of Rob Bell, and Phyllis Tickle talking about their dream of remaking Christianity, which they refer to as Emergence. However, this is really not new; no, it’s the exact same repudiation of the Biblical doctrines of grace Machen is writing about.
It’s the same mystical man-centered musings Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989) addressed in his lectures on what he called “the cult of liberalism.” Men and women, liberal theolgy was also known as “modern theology” because they tried to marry modern thought to their alleged demythologizing of the Scriptures.
Well, today we have postmodern theology trying to marry postmodern thought to their own making Holy Scripture mysterious and ambiguous. And so we have postliberalism, complete with their a;lso being involved with Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism. This is why Marcus Borg fits in so well with Rob Bell’s teaching; he adheres to the very same view of man as the liberal theology Machen was writing about.
That’s why what Charles Spurgeon, who also battled the original cult of liberalism in what is known as The Downgrade Controversy, says in this short message to follow is so crucial. It’s eternally important now that gellatinous man-pleasers occupy the chairs of authority within evanjellyfish now embracing postliberalism in this New Downgrade No-Controversy:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1, KJV)
Spiritual life is not the result of working; how can the dead work for life? Must they not be quickened [i.e. regenerated] first, and then will they not rather work from life than for life? Life is a gift, and its bestowal upon any man must be the act of God. The Gospel preaches life by Jesus Christ.
Sinner, see where you must look! You are wholly dependent upon the quickening Voice of Him Who is the Resurrection and the Life. “This,” says one,” is very discouraging to us.” It is intended so to be. It is kindness to discourage men when they are acting upon wrong principles.
As long as you think that your salvation can be effected by your own efforts, or merits, or anything else that can arise out of yourself, you are on the wrong track, and it is our duty to discourage you. Remember that God’s declaration is that “whosoever believeth in Jesus hath everlasting life.” If, therefore, you are enabled to come and cast yourselves upon the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, you have immediately that eternal life which all your prayers, tears, repentance, church-goings, chapel-goings, and sacraments could never bring to you.
Jesus can give it you freely at this moment, but you cannot work it in yourself. You may imitate it and deceive yourself; you may garnish the corpse and make it seem as though it were alive, and you can galvanize it into spasmodic motion, but life is a divine fire, and you cannot still the flame or kindle it for yourself; it belongs to God alone to make it alive, and therefore I charge you, look alone to God in Christ Jesus. (At the Master’s Feet, January 22)