Root of all Spiritual Problems is Our Shift from God Centered to Self-Centered Gospel

The doctrine of universal redemption is unscriptural and destructive of the gospel-JI Packer [1]

This is an earth shattering statement that I hope to cover later, and I will.

Reading JI Packer’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, I was blown away how crisp incisive he is and convicting in how we all have espoused some half-truths of the gospel in our church upbringings, and pastoring. As someone who has pastored a few churches over ten years, coming from largely Arminian charismatic movement, listening to JI Packer is a real eye opener, and that should be as # 1 on our reading list. Not only that I really am blessed to see how JI Packer nailed down the gospels truncation and the world manipulating with the gospel, distorting it, that the root of all these Christianity problem is that we have received a different gospel.

Problem of lack of deep repentance and holiness

Packer writes, “The problem of holiness, our evangelism, pastors dealing with the flock, are all part of this complex problem in our days. A substitute product that doesn’t reproduce the old authentic gospel. It doesn’t produce a sense of deep repentance, holiness, a spirit of worship and a concern for the church. The reason is the character of the gospel.” [2]

The question that we need to ask ourselves is if we find ourselves having a sense of deep repentance, holiness, a spirit of worship and concern for the church? I believe we don’t have problem for the last two generally, however, we are problematic on deep repentance, holiness. Why? Because of what Packer calls it that we shifted the gospel from ‘God centered’ to ‘self-centered’. This is subtle, and not as obvious and blatant as prosperity doctrine; however, it causes all kinds of problems, spiritually, and therefore emotionally, communally ethically and culturally. Because men have been trying to put man as the center, with the gospel as supporting it.

What’s man-centered Gospel?

Packer writes, “It seeks to be helpful to men, to bring peace, comfort, satisfaction, but too little concern to glorify God. The old gospel’s first concern is to always give glory to God, proclamation of God’s mercy, sovereignty, bowed down to him for his goodness.”[3] Its center is always God. In the new gospel, the center is man. Calling the old gospel as religious, the new is not.

The Root Cause of Man Centered Gospel

This boils down to the problem of Arminian theology. Basically Arminian theology says Jesus came and died for everyone in the world, and it’s up to us to make a move to come to Christ and believe in him. In that sense, Packer writes, “we depict that God the father and the Son are not sovereignly actively drawing sinners towards themselves, but merely waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in.[4] Can you imagine how weak God is with that theology? God waits in quiet impotence at our hearts, waiting for us to open the door to let them in. Wait! God has impotence, lack of power, vigor?? Our God is omnipotent, the almighty God.

Nahum 1:5 The mountains quake before him
    and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
    the world and all who live in it.

The helplessness of God sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly how Arminian Christians believe in salvation. Because we major in the free will of men, ultimately for us to accept Christ into our lives, it will have to be us pulling the trigger. Not God. It’s like I am in charge, not God. That’s the beginning of the  shift from God centered gospel to man centered gospel. Gospel of God is merely to “help us”, not to glorify God and put him right in the center of our theology and lives. Many evangelical Christians following Arminianism has no clue about this very intricate and nuanced centrality of God in the entire theology of soteriology (salvation), and it is such a blessing to have such gifted theologian like Packer to unpack that for us.  

Consequence of rejecting the absolute sovereignty of God

I believe Arminianism Christians are genuine believers in Christ, and they are for sure our brothers and sisters in Christ, just like majority of Catholics. I don’t believe they intentionally ‘knock’ God out of his central throne per se, or centrality of salvation, but it’s the side effect of it by teaching that men have the free will to finally decide to receive or reject Christ. This sounds noble and making a lot of sense of individual choice society we live in today, but when we deal with the all-powerful sovereign God, there is no such thing, anything to take the sovereignty of God away in any sense or way, has just diminished who God is. And that’s very dangerous, treading upon heresy. You touched God, you touched the holiness of God, and it capsized the whole boat. What we see in our world today, the evangelical world, there is lack of deep sense of deep repentance and holiness, is directly caused by our lack of understanding of the absolute sovereignty of our Almighty God. Therefore, in effect, we truncated the mightiness of God, reduced his divinity, a huge repercussion on our state of spirituality, is we reap the consequences of it all. We can’t seem to get to the deep repentance because we don’t see that it’s all in the hands of God, as we see we are also responsible for our final process of salvation. Therefore, we can’t deeply repent to God, as we say to ourselves, we should be sorry to ourselves for letting us down. But in actuality, we don’t even sense that deep repentance need anymore. Talking about holiness, once you reduced the sovereignty of God, his holiness just been truncated, in our perception and understanding. We no longer can approach him with such holiness life anymore, because we don’t see God holding that absolute power and glory anymore, as some success will have to be attributed to man, to ourselves. Holiness has just been truncated by our self-driven will power and choice. That’s the result of going for complete free will of men, and rejecting the absolute sovereignty of God.  

[1] JI Packer’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

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