Christology in the 21st Century: A Discussion

Justin Taylor posts:

Below is a panel hosted by Ligonier at the 2013 PCA General Assembly, with Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Ligon Duncan, Richard Pratt, and R.C. Sproul, moderated by Steve Nichols. They talk through the following:

  • What is the biggest theological battle today and for the next generation? (00:00:00)
  • What advice would you give to the next generation of pastors, especially church planters, as they try to address contextualization, Christology, and similar issues? (00:08:30)
  • What might we learn from history about the parallel rising of Christianity and Islam? (00:11:35)
  • What role does Christology play as we see the needs of the global church? (00:16:00)
  • How do we guard against the various distortions when it comes to the person of Jesus? (00:22:40)
  • Discussion on the work of Christ pertaining to justification and imputation. (00:30:45)
  • The panel shares thoughts on substitutionary atonement, and how it is going to be an issue in the next generation. (00:41:52)
  • Is the church in danger of reductionism when it comes to the gospel? If so, how do we guard against it? (00:48:45)
  • Sinclair Ferguson, how has John Owen shaped your pastoral ministry? (00:51:32)

This is well worth an hour of your time!


Jesus dies on the cross, but not of the cross

“To use the magnificent words of B.B. Warfield, ‘Jesus dies on the cross, but not of the cross.’ The cross was the means by which He died, but not the reason why He died. He died through being crucified, but not because He was crucified. He was nailed to the tree, but that wasn’t the cause of His dying.

The cause of His dying is precisely because He is there as the substitutionary atonement for the sins of His people. He dies bearing my sins in His body to that tree, so that I might live; so that through His condemnation at Calvary, the Judge in heaven will say to the sword of justice as it hangs over my head for my sins, ‘Do not slay my son. Jesus has been crucified. He has been put to death’; and I am now pardoned through His dying, justified by His blood, saved from the wrath to come.”

— Iain D. Campbell, “The Children of Abraham Walk in Abraham’s Faith”

(HT: Of First Importance)

What are the most dangerous threats to the gospel today?


It’s impossible to answer what’s “most” dangerous to the gospel today without God’s knowledge of everything. But here are some prominent threats that loom on the horizon:

  1. The prosperity “gospel.” The belief that the gospel is about God making us rich is a lie. Jesus came to save us from sin and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10-111 Pet. 3:18), giving us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and promising us suffering in this life and glory in the next (Acts 14:22Rom. 8:18).
  2. The attack on penal, substitutionary atonement. Many people reject the idea that on the cross God punished Jesus for the sins of his people. But to reject this is to reject the heart of the gospel itself (Rom. 3:21-26).
  3. The rejection of the wrath of God. People today are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a holy God who will punish sin. But if we reject the wrath of God we lie to ourselves about the fundamental problem the gospel saves us from (John 3:36Rom. 1:181 Thess. 1:10).
  4. The rejection of sin. Some argue that sin is just an idea that people in power use to make others behave the way they want them to. But the Bible presents sin—and especially God’s wrath against sin—as humanity’s fundamental problem. Reject sin and you’ve rejected our only Savior who “died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3).
  5. A man-centered view of the universe. We like to think that we run things around here. We like to think that no one can tell us what to do or believe—after all, we have rights! But the Bible presents exactly the opposite picture: we live in God’s universe (Rom. 11:36). He made us (Ps. 100:3). He rules over us (Dan. 4:34-351 Tim. 6:15-16). We either worship him or hate him—and face the consequences (Rom. 1:18258:5-8). A man-centered view of the universe is the opposite of the gospel and leaves no room for the gospel.
  6. “All paths lead to God.” People like to think that whatever anyone believes is fine so long as they’re sincere. People like to think that God will accept everyone in the end. After all, isn’t he a loving God? But the gospel is a radically exclusive message: Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).
  7. Other threats: widespread belief in a brand of “tolerance” which, in fact, is not very tolerant but is fundamentally a rejection of universal truth; cultural materialism; nihilism/philosophical unbelief/radical skepticism; the ever-continual attacks on Scripture, even from within the church.