This weekend, I was given a little, but powerful book by Walter J. Chantry on the modern American “gospel” which, as Mike Horton points out in his book Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, is little more than “therapeutic, moralistic deism.” Chantry’s book, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?, is short and to the point. Here’s a powerful excerpt:
Much of modern preaching anemic, with the life-blood of God’s nature absent from the message. Evangelists centre their message upon man. Man has sinned and missed a great blessing. If man wants to retrieve his immense loss he must act thus and so. But the gospel of Christ is very different. It begins with God and his glory. It tells men that they have offended a holy God, who will by no means pass by sin. It reminds sinners that the only hope of salvation is to be found in the grace and power of this same God. Christ’s gospel sends men to beg pardon of the Holy One.
There is a wide difference between these two messages. The one seeks to blaze a trail to heaven for man while ignoring the Lord of Glory. The other seeks to magnify the God of all grace in the salvation of men. The first would give a technical answer to, ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’, ‘without an adequate foundation.
The last says,
“Wait a moment. The God with whom we have to do is thrice holy, alone good, unapproachable in brilliant holiness! We will return to your question in its subordinate place. But now take your eye from yourself and behold the God of the Scriptures. Then you will see yourself as you truly are – a creature in rebellion against an infinitely pure God. You are not yet prepared to discuss yourself and eternity.” [quotation marks added by me]
…Preaching on the attributes [of God] is essential to the conversion of a man. Without a knowledge of God, a sinner does not know whom he has offended, who threatens him with destruction, or who is able to save him. Apart from some clear apprehensions of God, there can be no approach to God, and ‘personal Saviou’ becomes a hollow phrase.
Jesus lifted the egocentric eyes of the wealthy ruler to One whose holiness caused Isaiah to cry, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone’ [Isa. 6:5]. Is that a secondary part of the gospel? If you think so, you don’t understand the first things of the faith. The rich youth had come running because he understood that he might not inherit eternal life. But he didn’t understand why. Whom had he offended? There was no remorse for having offended a holy God. He was prepared to talk of religion; but he was ignorant of God. He was anxious to ask for the joys of salvation; but he could not confess as David, ‘Against thee, thee only, have I sinned; and done this evil in thy sight’ [Psa. 51:4]. He was not acquainted with the Lord.