Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

There Is No Middle Ground (Biblical Christianity vs. Liberal Christianity)

I was listening to Dr. Albert Mohler interviewing historian Matthew Bowman over his book, The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism.  The book focuses on the early 20th century and the showdown between conservative (or fundamentalists) and liberals in the heart of New York City churches.  It it worth listening to the interview.

What I found interesting was that Dr. Mohler points out that what we learn from the book is that there is no middle ground between biblical Christianity and liberalism.  Men such as Harry Emerson Fosdick (of Riverside Church in New York City) and Robert MacArthur (of Calvary Baptist in NYC) showed us that they can’t be unified when the Bible is cast aside.  Fosdick longed for the “spirit of fundamentalism” but he decried their doctrines.  MacArthur stood firm for the truth of God and would not give an inch in his preaching of the cross.  Riverside Church today is a liberal church in New York City that does not preach the gospel but instead is a liberal church focusing on liberal issues.  Riverside struggles whereas Calvary Baptist remains a strong church in the heart of New York City that is still preaching the gospel all these years later.

There can be nothing gained by trying to find middle ground between liberalism and biblical truth.  The emergents tried but they failed (as Fosdick before them).  Emergents wanted to find common ground between what they saw as the best of fundamentalism and the best of liberalism.  Yet one must choose sides.  The emergents (like those at Riverside church in NYC before them) have chosen liberalism.  And they should.  Like Fosdick, emergents were not biblically following the Lord.  They claimed to follow Jesus but in reality they viewed Him as nothing more than our example.  Few of them talked about saving from sin (after all we must save the world from humans who are destroying our “mother”) and they didn’t speak of Jesus as revealed to us in the Bible.  I know of no emergents who preached the death of Christ for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) nor did they preach His glorious resurrection (Acts 1:3) but instead they made Jesus and His work a “spiritual” work where we learn from it and apply it to our lives (as in “God wants to resurrect our dreams as well”).

Emergents followed Fosdick and Riverside church and embraced what they believed in: liberalism.

What we can rejoice in is that God will be vindicated.  Calvary Baptist Church is still preaching the gospel nearly 100 years after Fosdick and MacArthur.  The work of Christ is still saving sinners.  The gospel is still being preached in the heart of New York City.  Truth always wins.  The truth of God cannot be stopped.  Jesus said that nothing would be able to conquer His Church (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus said that He would always be with His disciples (Matthew 28:20).  Nothing has changed that.  For 2000 years the Church of Jesus Christ has stood firm.  We have seen countless false apostles arise (Revelation 2:6), we have seen people turn from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1) yet the truth of God still goes forth.  Faithful men and women of God have taken the truth of God from the time of Christ and it comes to us still to this day in the pages of the Bible (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We it comes to the truth of God, there can be no middle ground.  We cannot hold hands with those who want to “change the world” but without preaching the gospel of saving sinners from their sins (John 3:3).  We cannot preach good works apart from preaching that good works do not save us but flow from a truly saved heart (Ephesians 2:8-10).  We cannot preach in some impersonal God when we believe that we can know God through His Son (John 17:3).  We cannot join hands with those who deny the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23), the sinless life of our Lord (1 Peter 2:22), His miracles (Acts 10:38), His death on the cross (Mark 15:37), and His bodily resurrection from the dead (Luke 24:38-39).  We must stand firm for the truth that Jesus shed His blood for sinners (Ephesians 1:7).  This is why He came (Luke 19:10).  Jesus didn’t come to just give us an example (1 Peter 2:21) but He also came to save sinners from their sins (1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus said Himself that He came to do the will of Him who sent Him (John 4:34).  Jesus finished His saving work on the cross (John 19:30) and God raised Him from the dead to prove His saving work was complete (Romans 1:4; 4:24-25).  We are now saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11) and not by works (Isaiah 64:6; Titus 3:5-7).  Jesus said that the work of God is to believe in Him (John 6:29).  When a sinner believes the gospel, they are justified before a holy God (Romans 4:5; 5:1; 10:9-10).

We must not lay down these precious truths of God’s Word.  We cannot join hands with those who do not believe (James 4:4).  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).  The gospel alone will transform the world (Psalm 110:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  We can preach the goodness of mankind all we want to but it will not save sinners.  We can feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and provide money for them but we will not be saving sinners from hell.  We can pray for peace and fight for peace but until the gospel of peace is preached, we cannot know true peace (Romans 5:1).  Until we see our depravity before God and see our miserable state, we will know the blessing of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 7:7).  The work of Christ on the cross becomes glorious when we see it in light of our sinfulness.

We must preach Christ and Him crucified.  This was the motto of Robert MacArthur and Calvary Baptist.  The gospel is what saves sinners.  It is what saved me.  Christ is the One who is worthy to be preached.  Christ is the One who is worthy to be glorified.  Paul said that he preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).  This was the great Apostle’s message and must be our own.  The glory of Christ.  The wonder of Christ.  The work of Christ.  The priestly work of Christ.  This is our passion.  This is our duty.  This is our delight.  This is what will endure (see Fosdick as an example when it does not).

May the truth of God go forth in the name of Jesus!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2015 at 12:35 PM

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  1. I was listening to that very same podcast couple of days ago and thinking the same thing. I am a Wesleyan-Arminian and I can agree to disagree with a Calvinist and still fellowship. I can agree to disagree with a Dispensational Baptist and still fellowship but I cannot agree to disagree with a liberal, once you go in that direction you might as well be a different religion.

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