Loosing relevance by seeking to be relevant!

John Fonville, at ‘The Gospel-Driven Blog’, (a favorite of mine), posts this important reminder:

Running after a train

“It was Karl Barth, I believe, who said that trying to make the gospel relevant to the contemporary age was like running after the train that has just left. ‘The World’ that we are supposed to address with the gospel, that is, is a moving target. By the time we think we are finally getting to understand it, it is too late…When a historical, tragic accident occurs we investigate the causes. We search the wreckage for the ‘black box.’ We understand, if at all, when it is too late…

“The most serious mistake of theological attempts to understand the age is the assumption that the gospel could somehow be made to appear relevant to old beings.”

The fact that many churches – even of our own – do not seem to have learned the simple but apparently hard lesson is no doubt the reason for the transformation of many churches into service organizations, social reform clubs, and support groups, rather than proclaimers of the coming reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Seeking to be relevant to the age, they just succumbed to it. Claiming to be wise, as St. Paul put it, they became fools. The most serious mistake of theological attempts to understand the age is the assumption that the gospel could somehow be made to appear relevant to old beings.

‘The unspiritual’…, Paul tells us, ‘do not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to them, and they do not understand because they [the gifts] are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor. 2:14)- always a favorite passage used to caution against being overly optimistic about appeals to relevance.”

(Gerhard O. Forde, The Preached God, “Speaking the Gospel Today,” pp. 165-166)

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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