In his book “For a Continuing Church,” PCA pastor and historian Sean Michael Lucas notes that in the middle of the 20th century, liberals in the church believed in social and ethics reform and wanted to address these matters in the culture. But this good desire, Lucas said,  “came at the expense of the gospel.” Progressives neglected the truth that people are lost and going to hell apart from Jesus Christ and replaced it with a false gospel that claimed people were ignorant and needing salvation through education and “training in the proper ethical response to the world,” Lucas said. Conservatives in the South rightly rejected this false gospel, but in reacting against the theological compromises of progressives, the conservatives also discarded some important social applications of the Bible.

For 45 years the PCA has stood for the gospel, and in the past decade the denomination has begun thinking seriously about applying the gospel to social issues. In doing so, Lucas is concerned that we might follow the path of progressives in the previous generation and lose the gospel.

Lucas is the senior pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Memphis. His remarks were recorded at the 44th General Assembly in 2016.

9 Responses to The Risk of Losing the Gospel

  1. Cindy Rearick, New Covenant Fellowship, Mechanicsburg, PA says:

    Praising the Lord for your defense of the Gospel, brother. As one who watched the PCUSA in its decline affecting my stepfather’s faith, I wholeheartedly affirm your conviction. I fled to the PCA 35 years ago for these very reasons.

  2. Delbert Freeman says:

    This narrow path we walk is always a balancing act and most revivals only last 75yrs. Those who say, “Well bless God, in my day we . . . ” cause as much problem as those who want to wander off the reservation, in that they set up such a restrictive climate, the more mentally active fell smothered.

    The whole thing comes down to the various presbyteries and their willingness to “know” the candidates and not just pass them on through because they gave the correct answers. After all, the committee with oversight of the candidates are, in fact, their mentors. To which, its a simple fact, you cannot mentor someone without knowing both how they think and where their heart is.

  3. Jerry Keen says:

    I was never a part of the PCUSA, but coming from the CRC, I saw the same pattern in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Splits and losses have resulted. Great losses to the body of Christ

    • Jean Punt says:

      Our family was also caught up in that struggle, the most difficult decision we have ever had to make was leaving the ‘new’ CRC, the great Biblical teachings were indeed compromised n those troubling days. the historic teachings of the CRC gave a firm foundation, I thank God for the teachings our children cling to, and pray discernment for the next generation.

  4. Nick Carraway says:

    I appreciated this video by Dr Sean Michael Lucas. However, perhaps our misapplication of the Gospel during the Civil Rights movement was due to our own subtle rejection of parts of the Gospel that Dr Lucas states our denomination was “firmly” for. My fear isn’t that we’ll “lose” the Gospel as we engage issues like racism. My fear is that we’ll find it too hard to engage the sanctification of our selves and our denomination in regards to issues like race. In regards to our faithfulness to the Gospel and the mission of the church, Karl Barth doesn’t scare me more than our turning a blind eye or rejecting men, women, and children who were attacked by fire hoses, dogs, and worse.

  5. Amen. Social action (out in society) by the Church, as its mission (with a distinction from social action by individual Christians) seems always to have been, through Church history, a gateway to a loss of the gospel shortly thereafter. Reasons, perhaps: 1) our sin natures prefer to redefine “faithfulness to God” to be not in terms of faithful responses of repentance and faith to God’s Word, but in terms of visible actions that don’t necessary involve the heart (think Pharisees), and 2) unbelievers in the Church (who profess faith) are “all for” social action, because it let’s them feel religious & justified before God apart from an admittance of personal sins and the need for Jesus to save them.

  6. Why can’t we do both? Cannot we learn from the mistakes of the past and make sure we always keep the gospel at the center, while applying the gospel’s message to social issues. We should show our thankfulness for God’s overwhelming grace by helping and loving those in need.

  7. Kevin Simpson says:

    Thank you for your ministry, Sean!

    The gospel is, and always will be, about Christ. When we muddy the waters by addressing this or that “social injustice” in exclusion of Him, we take away from the gospel message – that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Do justice (interact with one’s fellow man with unbiased, proactive love), love mercy (stand for those who are unable to stand for themselves), and walk humbly with God (worship Him in spirit and in truth, and love on His children). Do this, and social reforms will follow the path God had intended.

  8. Greg Knight says:

    Start with the Gospel, end with the Gospel. This is the only solid ground a Christian can hold onto in a fallen world. When we say we have the answeres and follow our own determination of what we must do we lose faith because Jesus Christ is the only answer we can have.