Christian Authenticity

I heard Tim Keller speak at the recent Evangelical Ministers Assembly in London. The theme of the conference was ‘Defining the Times:What is an Evangelical.’ If you were not there get hold of the recordings as his talks were excellent. He was wise, gracious and had a real cutting edge.

Given the theme and its current profile the Emergent Church movement was mentioned on several occasions. I was especially struck by one comment of Keller’s. That the emergent church in its quest to be relevant and authentic had undermined the gospel of penal substitution and in doing so it was in fact cutting people off from the simplicity of the gospel. Keller noted that for those who are broken by sin the message of grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ alone was one that they understood. But one that was being obscured in the emergent church movement with its emphasis on the kingdom.

Another of his key themes was that of the need for repentance in the Christian life, echoing the first of Luther’s 97 theses. That the whole of the Christian life is one of repentance. That even our repentance needs repented of! I was reminded through this theme, as with other EMA addresses that what our world cries out for is not our attempts to be relevant but our need to be real. What we truly need in our day is Christian authenticity.

As John Chrysostom, the 4th century bishop, once remarked, ‘There would be no more heathen if we would be true Christians.’

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