There is a lot of debate about my previous post concerning the massively viral "Jesus > Religion" video. The spectrum of responses runs from warm appreciation to accusations of "theological nitpicking". Although I completely fail to see how a debate over the meaning of the cross qualifies for an exercise in theological nitpicking. There are also those who are trying to defend Jeff Bethke by claiming that he is not a theologian and that this is not meant to be a "John MacArthur" sermon. Again I would respond that everyone is a theologian - the question always is whether you are a good one or a bad one. I was never looking for the expository depth of a MacArthur sermon as is evidenced by my willingness to post another video of similar style but greater Gospel accuracy. I am not against the style and innovation but I remain biblically convinced that we must be clear and accurate when it comes to the meaning of the cross - it is the epicenter of the Christian faith. Please hear me on this, I am not against Jeff Bethke or looking for a target to shoot at. I responded to this video because of the massive number of people being influenced by it, and because of the confirmation of my fears evidenced by the number of websites and people who oppose the biblical Gospel but love Bethke's video. The ambiguity has clearly stretched its appeal beyond the boundaries of service to the Great Commission.
I would also like to elaborate on another point that, in the light of recent developments, is worth expanding upon. Bethke's video gets a lot right about the Gospel. This is a video that could be easily improved into an outstanding Gospel centered statement full of redemptive value. If certain terms were defined much more clearly, and the cross defined correctly, it would eradicate the wrong affirmations many lost people have found in it. Bethke is tapping into the very real modern evangelical plague of moralism and rightly pointing out that our justification depends fully on the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. And, it would seem, Jeff Bethke is a humble man who can receive a solid biblical critique and alter course.
Kevin De Young also recently posted a critique of the video and was also able to engage in email correspondence with Bethke. What transpired is very pleasing and gives me great optimism that this situation can be redeemed and utilized for God's glory. Bethke's email response, not only affirms the validity of the criticism, it is also a very positive story of the Body of Christ behaving like it should:
I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man. It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%. God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church. For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings. Grace and Peace, Jeff
Kevin De Young responded again and wrote:
Thanks for your email. It confirms my impression of you—humble, sincere, a real love for God and the gospel. I can’t remember ever receiving such a teachable response to criticism. I’m grateful for you and your courage in taking time to write me a note. Really grateful.
I know that criticism can be hard. You are probably getting it from right, left, and center, from Christians and non-Christians. I’m sure you are getting a lot of affirmation too, and that presents its own challenges. I tried to my write my post as a friend, not as a hater. I am rooting for you, not against you. I wanted to approach this like Acts 18:26. Thank you for receiving it in that spirit….
What can I do to help you? Have you thought about posting a clarifying follow up to the video? Or maybe writing something on “what I wish I had said differently?” It could be a powerful example of the things you were talking about to come back and say, “Hey, I didn’t get everything right here. I don’t want people to take this in the wrong direction.” Do you want me to post some of your email to me on my blog so people can see your heart in this? Let me know if there is something I can do. Your friend, Kevin
Later Jeff wrote back. This is part of his reply:
Wasn’t expecting such a quick response. I appreciate you a ton, and your words really hit home…My biggest fear is that I will say something and it will be out on the internet forever. But already quickly learning all praise goes to Jesus, and same with critique…Feel free to share parts of my email on the blog if you’d like! The tone is already gracious enough but it’d be cool to show that we have had some correspondence and it’d mean a lot.
The only suggestion I would make that differs from De Young's would be to reshoot the original video because a small amount of alteration would make a massive amount of difference!
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There Are No Neutralities in Religion
19 hours ago