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The Word on the Week

Conversion-less Christianity 2nd July 2011

All through the history of the Christian Church the offence of the cross has been a problem. There have been many ingenious ways to get around it, the most usual by removing the Bible’s game plan and substituting a sacramental system which, ironically, places the work of salvation into man’s hands. The week we have the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Church’s statement encouraging churches to reflect on their current practices in witness. The document, produced after 5 years work, claims to represent 90% of Christians on earth. It is long on how acts of service and justice, as well as Christian behavior are a witness and short on the necessity of the verbal expression of the gospel. There is also the notion that the God of other religions is the God of Christianity, and that’s something evangelicals cannot accept. It refers to “changing ones religion” as if it was a commodity and one could get a better fit. There is an attempt to equate this with conversion to Christ which is a supernatural work of the triune God in revealing sin and enabling the sinner to truly repent and trust the Saviour. What has all this to do with the task of making Christ known? Well it made it easier yesterday for the Authorities at Waterford to exclude any verbal expression of the Gospel at their superb “Tall Ships” Festival. The leaflet outlining John Newton’s testimony was distributed and no doubt some explanation would be given to anyone who asked what such “Amazing Grace” was all about.  St Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1Pet.3:15-16) The Offence of the Cross is the stumbling block for many, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1Corinthians ch.1 v23-4.)