Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Therapeutic Gospel-E. Oberholzer

    On an Easter Sunday in 2011, the speaker at this service delivered a very encouraging, inspiring message about how coming to belief in Jesus will transform the listener’s life from average to successful, joyful, and fulfilled. He stressed that everyone would like some change “at least here and there in our life.” While he most successfully described the beneficial advantages of coming to Christ, he unfortunately did not tell his listeners about who the Bible says God is, describe the depth of mankind’s sin, nor the necessary, righteous judgment of the holy Creator. Instead, he talked mostly about how human life would be better with the fruits of the Spirit and free from guilt.
    Before listing the fruits of the Spirit, the speaker asked the audience to raise their hands when he got to the fruit that they would not like to have in their own lives. After listing them, he asked, “Whose relationship with other people wouldn’t be better with the fruit of the Holy Spirit?” While he did correctly quote “In order the change the fruit, you must change the root,” he did not explain the reason for changing the “root” beyond that it would lead to an enjoyable, fulfilled life. According to Trevin Wax, this view and presentation of the Gospel could be called a therapeutic gospel because it answers the question “What are we here for?” with “a more fulfilled life” (Wax, 44).
    The speaker also suggested that many people unnecessarily hold on to guilt, which hinders them from “moving forward.” He said that “We need the power of the resurrection to release us from our guilt.” Even though he acknowledged that man has failed to meet God’s standard, he only mentioned guilt as the consequence of sin. Scripture describes a much more disastrous effect of humans’ sin than simply guilt; because of sin, humans have spiritually died, been separated from their Creator, and have become subject to God’s judgment and eventual wrath. This shallow view of sin is another reason this message could be classified as a therapeutic gospel; the sermon pictures sin as merely a hindrance to humanities’ quest for a better life. Instead of emphasizing the gift of repentance, the speaker told his audience that Jesus would forgive any sin and never remember it, thus relieving everyone from their guilt and shame.
    The humanistic emphasis of this message is the main reason it can be viewed as therapeutic presentation of the gospel. When listening to the speech, a listener may get the idea that God exists to make life better for humans. The idea of man existing for the glory of the Creator was not mentioned, and while the speaker made a life in Christ sound quite attractive, overall, he failed to communicate the Biblical reason for repentance and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.    

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