26 June 2012

Why Must We Keep Saying the Gospel is for Christians?

One answer I don't hear articulated often:

Because of the faulty premise widespread in the evangelical consciousness that believing the gospel at conversion sets a permanent, invariably sustained trajectory of gospel-believing for the whole of one's life. 

Following conversion, do we believe the gospel, looking to Christ alone for our righteousness and joy, the rest of our lives?

Yes and no. We need to discern a distinction.

At conversion, we trust in Christ, believe the gospel, at two levels: the doctrinal level of mind-assent, and the existential/psychological level of heart-trust (what the old saints called fiducia). The snare is that we naively collapse the sustainability of the latter into that of the former. We think that because we believe the gospel doctrinally the rest of our lives, we believe the gospel psychologically the rest of our lives. But au contraire! One belief-level is static, the other dynamic.

I'm a soteriological Calvinist. At the most fundamental level, I am an irreversible 'believer' the rest of my life, by the grace of God. But at another level I move from believer to unbeliever (from faith-in-Christ-exercising to faith-in-Christ-forsaking) dozens of times, hundreds even, each day. At the doctrinal level we look to Christ with sustained, consistent permanence. But at the existiential level we keep faltering, keep swiveling away from Christ and looking to other saviors--even Christian saviors like theological erudition or Bible memory or service in the church or spiritual reputation.We can forsake heart-level gospel-trust in the very moment of defending it theologically. (Haven't you ever heard an evangelical theologian defend atonement or some related subject with self-justifying defensiveness? What's going on there?)

If we discern this distinction--if we perceive that while on one level we see the gospel in a once-and-for-all way (doctrinally) but that on another level we keep lapsing time and again into gospel blindness (existentially/psychologically)--we find one more reason the gospel is for Christians.


David said...


I was reading your post today describing my oscillating heart, and thought, "This guy (you) has no idea how helpful his blog has been to me since I first started to trust Jesus about 2 years ago. I want to tell him."

So here I am, telling you.

I attend Southwood Pres. in Huntsville, AL. My pastor, Jean Larroux, mentioned your blog once and I started following it in Google Reader. I so often have enjoyed and been sobered by your posts and quotes. So...thanks.

Dave Clark

Anonymous said...

Dane. Super helpful. Thanks, friend.

- Drew

Kipp said...

Two things:

First, any blog that has Drew Hunter commenting on it must be good.

Second, this post is very helpful and edifying. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

Timothy (浦天明) said...


Fantastic post! You just described my walk. Agree with what has been said above. Your blog drips with grace... like a refreshing brook beckoning me back for more. Thank you!

In the light of this post, I would really be curious as to what your thoughts are on the 'Lordship salvation' issue?

your bro,

Dane Ortlund said...

Hi Timothy. I believe that if one receives Jesus Christ as Savior but not as Lord, one has not in fact received him as Savior.