The “New Model” of Evangelism: Has God also leveraged forgiveness out of his vocabulary?


In his article “Evangelical Megashift” (Christianity Today, 19 Feb 1990):12-14), Robert Brow advocates a friendly “new model” of evangelical thinking to replace the “old model” of classical evangelicalism. John Macarthur contrasts Brow’s two models:

In the “old model,” Brow sees God, Macarthur says, as “a stem magistrate whose judgment is a harsh and inflexible legal verdict; sin is an offense against His divine law; God’s wrath is the anger of an indignant sovereign; hell is a relentless retribution for sin; and atonement may be purchased only if payment in full is made for sin’s judicial penalty.”

In new-model theology, however, the God-as-magistrate model is set aside in favor of a more congenial model-that of God as a loving Father. New-model thinkers want to eliminate the negative connotations associated with difficult biblical truths such as divine wrath and God’s righteous retribution against sin. So they simply redefine those concepts by employing models that evoke ‘the warmth of a family relationship.’ (Brow’s words). For example, they suggest that divine wrath is really nothing more than a sort of fatherly displeasure that inevitably provokes God to give us loving encouragements.”

Another critic of Brow is Lewis Johnson, who devotes three of his five messages of his series on “New Time religion” to an examination of Brow’s “new-model.” Johnson shows how modern Christian thinking has replaced biblical evangelical terms with other terms that do not offend the feelings of “seekers.” Johnson says (in the third message) that “crucial semantic shifts in meaning” have occurred in such terms as “wrath,” “hell,” “sin,” judge, “church” and even in the term “Son of God. ”

In this piece, I try to answer the question: Has God also leveraged forgiveness out of his vocabulary?

In 1894, Hesketh Lever of Lever Brothers launched a lifebuoy to the unwashed world. This red lifebuoy may have indeed saved some lives and disinfected many more, for the lifebuoy I’m talking about is, arguably, the world’s most famous disinfectant soap: Lifebuoy. In 2010, Lifebuoy remains a popular brand. It’s the only soap that makes you sing in the bathtub:

Singing in the bathtub

Singing for joy

Singing the life of Lifebuoy

Can’t help singing ’cause I know

I’m Lifebuoy fresh from head to toe

Tooooo tooooooe.

(The song appeared in a radio advert on the now defunct South African “Springbok Radio”).

In the Bible, we read about washing as a means of disinfection, as a sign of purging oneself of evil deeds, and as a sign of regeneration.

Washing as a means of disinfection:

Whoever sleeps in the [leprous] house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes (Leviticus 14:47). “And anyone who touches his ]the leper’s] bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening (Leviticus 15:5).

Washing as a sign of purging of evil deeds brought about by man:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14).

Washing as a sign of purging of sin or regeneration (new birth) brought about by God. Both purging and regeneration imply forgiveness:

– Purging

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).

And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name’ (Acts 22:16).

– Regeneration

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Regeneration implies that the believer is washed, sanctified, and justified (made righteous) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).

When (someone points out) we need a good bath, Lever is standing ready to throw us his Lifebuoy. When God regenerates a sinner, however, He does far more than throw us a lifebuoy. A lifebuoy may be of use to a drowning person but of absolutely no use to a drowned person. God has to bring a drowned person back from the dead. Bringing the dead sinner back to life is what Ephesians 2:1-3, the normative passage on regeneration, is all about:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV).

A significant part of bringing the sinner back to life is, supernaturally, forgiveness.

Every human being, nor matter what they believe, knows what “forgive” means. And every human being also knows what “sin” means, even if many reject the Bible’s core teaching that they are sinners. What should be beyond dispute to a Christian is the glorious truth that God forgives sin.

I came across the strangest word to describe to “forgive” sin; the word “leverage,” contained in the sentence , “God leverages our sin.” I’m not sure whether “leverage” was intended as a synonym, a euphemism or an evasion. I shall shortly disclose where I encountered this “leverage.” But first:

Previous to the encounter with this novel connection between a lever and sin, I’ve come across only three kinds of “levers; two literal, one metaphorical:

Literal meaning One: “Lever” is a term used in mechanics to describe a rigid bar that pivots about one point and that is used to move an object at a second point by a force applied at a third. Compare machine. (Dictionary.com).

Literal meaning Two: Hesketh Lever, the Lifebuoy man.

Metaphorical meaning: “A means or agency of persuading or of achieving an end; for example, Saying that the chairman of the board likes the plan is just a lever to get us to support it. (Dictionary.com).

The verb “leverage” has the metaphorical meaning of “to exert power or influence.”

Let us now see how “leverage” collocates with “sin.” In the second video of the Louie Giglio series “God is so great,” Andy Stanley says the following: ” “He will have leveraged your sin for his glory’s sake. He (God) will not be undone.” This means, according to the dictionary definition of “leverage” that God will have exerted a power or influence over a person’s sin for His glory.

Stanley uses the term “leverage” repeatedly.

As creatures, Andy Stanley says, who were created with more potential to reflect His glory than anything else in creation, it is our role, it is our duty, it is our opportunity to reflect the Glory of God who invites us to call Him ‘Father’” even as a race who has abused the privilege of our freedom. It means that in the middle of your wealth, your pain, of gain of loss… you can ask God ‘how can this be leveraged for your glory.’”

Then follows a few more questions asking God how whatever in one’s life can “be leveraged for your glory”:

At the end of the day, we can say ‘God, if you can leverage sin for your glory, certainly you can leverage this (my life’s situations), and I make it available to you. It’s for your glory. It is for your glory. It is for your glory.’ And when that happens life begins to make sense, for suddenly we are living our lives in the context of life, which is the glory of God – the Father.”

God’s “leverage” of sin seems to resonate well with the “new-model” of God, who, says Macarthur, “never demands any payment for sin as a condition of forgiveness. According to the new-model view, if Christ suffered for our sins, it was only in the sense that he “absorb[ed] our sin and its consequences”—certainly not that He received any divinely-inflicted punishment on our behalf at the cross.”

In his review of Andy Stanley’s book The Grace of God, Scot McKnight raves: This book “is unlike any other book I’ve seen of his. This is a biblical theology of grace — a splendid march from creation — a gracious God who creates — to the missionary task of the church.”

I haven’t read the book. I must confess I’ve been put off by Stanley’s “leverage” of sin. But that’s not all that I find disturbing. There’s also Stanley’s knee-jerk interpretation of Philippians 2:6-10.

In every course correction there must be a turning point – a place where you grab the steering wheel and crank it around – a point where you throw the lever that reverses the engines. Repentance is that point. It’s the line in the sand where you make up your mind that you’ll go no further on your present course and you turn around.” http://preacherstudy.com/members/sevenchurch-6.html

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