Friday, December 23, 2011

Gospel, Ecclesiology and Kevin DeYoung's post

In my previous post, I have posted some critical thoughts on Pastor DeYoung's post regarding the challenge to the YRR movement. In this post, I would like to elaborate further on the issue.

DeYoung focuses on the issue of ecclesiology as one of the challenges facing the YRR movement. He wrote:

Evangelicals have never been known for their robust theology of the church. Previous centuries could boast of many learned, almost comprehensive volumes, on the polity, powers, and purpose of the church. We could use more of that today ... The folks at 9Marks have done a lot to expound a practical, theological doctrine of the church. But some of our biggest disagreements have to do with the church: multisite, worship, governance, the place for denomination, the place for parachurch organizations, the place for trans-denominational entities, the role of the church in society, the relationship between the church and the kingdom, the nature of the offices, the role for ordinary means, and the list goes on. Underneath it all is the question of whether the Bible even speaks to most of our church questions. Maybe our ecclessiology is thin because the Bible is very flexible. Or maybe we have more work to do.

That by itself is of course an issue of concern, and I would certainly concede that. The New Evangelical Calvinists are still New Evangelicals at heart, and ecclesiology is oftentimes not even on their radar.

The issue I have is not that these are not legitimate concerns, but that these are secondary concerns compared to the primacy of the Gospel. Ecclesiology while important takes second place behind the Gospel. People are saved, then they join the Church. Even for infants born to believing parents, they are logically brought into the external aspect of the Covenant of Grace (by God) before they join the Church (which is another way to say that God accepts them therefore we baptize them, not the other way around). The Covenant of Grace is primary; the Church flows out of the Covenant of Grace which brings salvation to Man.

In the bid to get away from the radical individualism of modern day Evangelicalism, we must not swing to the extreme of some form of collectivism where ecclesiology becomes primary rather than the Gospel, as has happened in the Federal Vision. The biblical view starts with the individual responding to the Gospel (or the individual baby accepted as a member of the external aspect of the Covenant of Grace). They are then brought into the Church body. The individualists are right in speaking of the individual aspect of salvation, as nobody can believe on behalf of another. The collectivists are right in emphasizing that Christians are to be in a Church as one body.

DeYoung's blindness therefore stems from the refusal to see the rot of the Gospel message within the YRR itself. If the Gospel is lost, there is no need to speak of the rest of the challenges of ecclesiology, missiology and sanctification.

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