There is a church down the road from my house advertising the gospel as “Love That Transforms.” This slogan is the modern Protestant (NT 2.0) view of salvation, where the sinner hears that God loves her unconditionally and in response to this news she begins to love God back, shape up her moral life and read her Bible. This is the same gospel that Billy Graham preached, always centering his message around John 3:16.
There is something seriously wrong with this gospel of love. It relies on the natural emotional response we call love that has nothing to do with goodness. It is easy to see how love does not produce goodness when people enter into harmful or unsuitable romantic relationships based on this natural human response, or abandon their marriages when the natural response fades. We must not ennoble the emotion of love, since emotions in and of themselves are valueless and meaningless without a right basis. Even in the context of family, the emotion of love can often lead to ruined lives: a mother who dotes on her son and never lets him grow up from under her influence, or a father who neglects discipline in order to be on friendly terms with his children, are two examples of love gone awry.
NT 2.0 has adopted the gospel of love that sees salvation as being accomplished through our emotional response to God. Maybe you are one who has had enough of this high fructose corn syrup religion. The disingenuous smiles, the la-la-land mentality where love conquers all. Where the church collects money to help children half a word away, so that they feel they have done their part to extend that love, without actually having to do the hard word of loving the people you are with: paying attention to them, thinking about them, and finding the best, most constructive way to help them. This kind of love is far removed from mere warm thoughts.
In NT 3.0, the process of salvation does not begin with an emotional response. The focus is on “righteousness,” which I put in quotes, because it’s not the same concept that NT 2.0 teaches. It’s not about getting right with God, or doing right, but about being right. You have to forget everything you have learned under 2.0 and start over. Amazingly, that is exactly what Paul was teaching in Romans and Galatians. Just drop your old ideas about trying to follow the Law. If your kid is misbehaving, don’t just punish him and hope he learned a moral lesson — you’re just kidding yourself. Righteousness is not moral vindication, and can’t be taught through punishment. We have over 1,000 years of documented evidence in the Old Testament to prove that. Lots of sinning, rebelling, punishment, atonement, forgiveness, that ended in failure for the Jews. But we don’t give up on righteousness, because Paul says in Romans, “but now the righteousness of God has been revealed …” Not until Jesus died and rose from the dead did anyone understand this new righteousness and how to get it. It is a new consciousness that we receive through faith.
Modern Evangelicalism tries to achieve this new consciousness through emotionalism. Nothing new there — many of the pagan religions tried the same thing. Real Christianity is unique, and its road is very narrow, because this new consciousness can only be reached through deep understanding of scripture, without any religious gimmickry. So get rid of the gimmicks, like “God loves you just the way you are,” “Have a relationship with Jesus,” and “We are all wretched sinners.” There’s no righteousness in wretchedness, nor in mere self-acceptance or having an imaginary friend to talk to. NT 3.0 is simple, not fanciful, yet it is powerful.