In the latest Stand Firm podcast, the usual three clerics, in discussing the new Facebook group Anglicans for the Gospel, wrestled with the task of being just not against Critical Theory and other false teachings, but of being for the Gospel. I wish to add some brief thoughts.
There is no question we, particularly me, should avoid being so negative that we distract ourselves and others from the glories of the Gospel of Christ. So if I get overly cranky, then mea culpa.
At the same time church history shows us that to be for the Gospel we have to be against some things. That has been the case from the very beginning. Jesus excoriated the sterile legalism of the Pharisees. St. Paul assailed a different variety of legalism in his Epistle to the Galatians and those dismissing the Resurrection in I Corinthians 15. Both opposed these and other false teachings in ways that make us, even me, look winsome in comparison. Read for yourself if you dare. Read the letters of John, Peter, and Jude, too.
Three centuries later, one of the most needful events in church history was the adoption of the Nicene Creed, a very positive statement of the Faith. Yet a chief purpose of the Creed at the time was to oppose the Arian heresy. Hence the negative statement within it that Jesus Christ was “not made.” If it were not for the determination of the Nicene fathers to oppose Arianism, it is an open question just how we would have received the Creed that is so vital to our Faith. Later on, the Athanasian Creed places even more emphasis on what Christ is not and what the Trinity is not.
The church fathers could be quite negative at times. The writings against heretics and heresies from Irenaeus and Tertullian can make for fun reading. St. Paul and the church fathers realized the Gospel is so important that it must be defended fiercely from false teaching that would negate or pollute it.
While God does not require perfect theology to be saved (Thank God!), it presumes on his grace to be lax about the Gospel and allow it to be polluted or even replaced with whatever deceptions and lies that happen to be fashionable. We should no more presume to give people a polluted gospel than to give them polluted water. Both can be deadly.
So, yes, we will follow the good example of the Apostles and Fathers and be against “another gospel” whenever it rears its deceptive head and against polluting the Gospel. Really, given that the Deceiver is always seeking to use false gospels to deceive and destroy, being for the Gospel demands opposing and banishing false gospels from the church. We intend with God’s help to do our part in that.