Ligon Duncan on How the Pastorals Help Us Avoid Two Huge Errors

Justin Taylor writes:

I want to take to heart this exhortation from Ligon Duncan’s TGC message:

ligIf you take one thing home from this conference let it be a determination and commitment to read, re-read, live in, and live and minister out of the Pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus).

I was especially helped by his section on how Paul’s material in these letters helps us to avoid two errors from opposite sides of the spectrum:One of the reasons that it is hugely important that we let the Pastorals influence our mode of ministry and the shape of our church life is that two huge errors have bedeviled the Western church for closing in on two hundred years now.

  • The first error says that the message must be changed if we are going to reach our culture.
  • The second error says that our methods are the key to reaching the culture and our methods are not essentially related to our message.
  • The first error is the error of classical liberalism.
  • The second error is that of modern evangelicalism.
  • The first error says: The church can’t be built unless the message is changed.
  • The second error says: The church can’t be built unless our methods are changed.

But the Bible teaches that God will build his church, that he has given us Gospel message and Gospel means, and the Pastorals shows us how our methods flow out of and are connected to that message and those means.

Does this mean that all creativity in ministry is bad? No! There is no such thing as an “unsituated” or “uncontextualized” ministry. We are all situated.

Traditionalists and Progressives both make mistakes in this area.

  • Traditionalists tend to assume culture and unwittingly impose their cultural assumptions.
  • Progressives tend to adopt culture and unwittingly impose their cultural adoptions.

But we [should] want neither an ossified traditionalism nor a faddish progressivism. Our contextualization must be consistent with our theology or we will subvert our own message.

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

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