I want now to say this in a stronger form: I would contend there is a minimal difference in correlation between evangelical 7 children and teenagers who make a decision for Christ and who later become genuine disciples, and Roman Catholics who are baptized as infants and who as adults become faithful and devout Catholic disciples. I am fully aware of the pointedness of this accusation, directed as it is at us who have for years contended that we are saved while Roman Catholics are (or may) not (be), but I am trying to make just that point. I’m not convinced our system works much more effectively than theirs. I am happy to be proven wrong, but being wrong here won’t change the central challenges of this book.
John Piper, one of America’s most influential pastors and authors— and deservedly so—at a big conference in April of 2010 asked this question: “Did Jesus preach Paul’s gospel?” To answer it, he examined the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, where we find one of the few uses of the word justified in the Gospels. Then John Piper concluded that, yes, Jesus did preach Paul’s gospel of jus- tification by faith. I would defend the legitimacy of Piper’s question, and I would also agree that the makings of justification by faith are indeed found in that parable of Jesus. So, it is entirely fair to ask if Jesus preached a gospel like Paul’s. But ... to begin with, there’s the problem of order and even of precedence: Isn’t the more important question about whether Paul preached Jesus’ gospel? Moreover, there’s another problem: Piper’s assumption is that justification is the gospel. The Calvinist crowd in the USA—and Piper is the leading influencer in the resurgence of Calvinist thinking among evangelicals—has defined the gospel in the short formula “justification by faith.” But we have to ask whether the apostles defined the gospel this way. Or, better yet, when they preached the gospel, what did they say?
It is interesting that I have read this while I have been reading Building a discipleship culture. In this book, Mike Breen says the biggest question that keeps pastors awake at night is "Am I or have I answered the call on me and every Christian to make some disciples?" We do tons of things in our churches but have we actually made any followers of Jesus who live lives even a little bit like the life Jesus lead. The fact is we now live in a post-Christendom world. I love Breen's baptism observation about the debates of Christendom vs the debate of post-Chirstendom. I would contend that most people in the Church, certainly the C of E, have NOT YET realised that Christendom is over and this might start to explain why we are making so few disciples of Jesus. Anyway, I am sure the debate prompted by McKnight's book will be a good one and it is one that needs to be had.
"We're the minority and we have a message to change the world. Let's have a go at it. " Mike Breen