This article originally appeared on November 12, 2021 at Baptist News Global.
The majority of my adult life has been spent within the conservative evangelical Calvinistic world of Desiring God, Grace to You, Ligonier and The Gospel Coalition. Having grown up in the rules-focused world of the independent, fundamental Baptists, these ministries provided a much-needed relief for me from the guilt and fear that so permeated every moment of my life growing up.
However, as I’ve deconstructed my theology and have left conservative evangelicalism, I’ve come to see how the theology of their flagship ministries is built on five pillars that are fundamentally incompatible with love.
Pillar One: God seeks self-glory
Our theology said that God’s primary concern is self-glory. John Piper put it this way: “God’s great aim in creating and governing the world is that he be glorified.”
We viewed salvation within the context of God’s self-glory. Salvation wasn’t primarily about saving humans from hell, but about glorifying God. The churches I led worship in wouldn’t even allow us to sing the song “Above All” because the lyrics say that Jesus “took the fall and thought of me above all.” Instead, we countered, “Jesus thought about God’s glory above all.”
“Salvation wasn’t primarily about saving humans from hell, but about glorifying God.”
In order to maximize God’s glory, we believed salvation is accomplished by faith in the life of Jesus earning a righteousness we had to but never could earn and in the death of Jesus paying the penalty we deserved to pay so that all the glory would be God’s. We also said our faith was breathed into us by God, given to a select number of people God predestined to go to heaven so that even our expression of faith would bring glory to God rather than to us.
Pillar Two: God is infinite wrath
The overflow of God’s self-glory, according to these men, is God’s wrath. David Schrock writes for The Gospel Coalition: “God formed humanity to bring him glory. Yet, because we rebelled against his holy standard, the perfect judge of the universe has declared he will pour out his wrath upon those who have sinned against him without repentance or faith in his Son.”
Piper adds, “The wrath of God is owing to our sin, which exchanges the glory of God for the glory of man” and that God has “eternal wrath and fury.” In other words, according to these men, God’s wrath doesn’t last for a moment, but forever. It is never satisfied.
Pillar Three: God punishes every moment of every life
In the American Gospel: Christ Alone documentary, John MacArthur says: “Every sin ever committed by every person who has ever lived will be punished. That is required by divine holiness and divine righteousness and divine justice. It will either be punished everlastingly in the life of the sinner or that punishment will be borne by Christ.”
Consider for a moment what MacArthur means by “every sin.” These men believe that sin is any moment that is not thought, said, or done to the glory of God. So what does that mean for our everyday lives?