November 24, 2014

Rod Rosenbladt on Evangelicals and Assurance

hamwhlGuest blogger Ted R is one of the good guys at New Reformation Press. Our discussion on the struggles of some evangelicals with assurance brought up some of the very helpful teaching available through that fine IM sponsor. See them on the sidebar if you like this post.

I thought I’d post a small sampling of Dr. Rosenbladt’s presentation which iMonk mentions, The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church, since it’s so timely in discussions regarding justification, sanctification and assurance. It’s hard to cherry-pick the presentation, though… it’s essentially one big cherry. I still listen to it regularly.

For your consideration I submit this sample of the PDF version of Dr. Rosenbladt’s presentation:

If the Ten Commandments were not impossible enough, the preaching of Christian behavior, of Christian ethics, of Christian living, can drive a Christian into despairing unbelief. Not happy unbelief. Tragic, despairing, sad unbelief. (It is not unlike the [unhappy] Christian equivalent of “Jack Mormons” i.e. those who finally admit to themselves and others that they can’t live up to the demands of this non-Christian cult’s laws, and excuse themselves from the whole sheebang.) A diet of this stuff from pulpit, from curriculum, from a Christian reading list, can do a work on a Christian that is (at least over the long haul) “faith destroying.” You might be in just this position this evening.

Many of us have friends whose story is not a far cry from this. We all regularly rub shoulders with such “alumni of the Christian faith” who are sad that the Gospel of Christ didn’t (for them, at least) “deliver the goods,” didn’t “work.” In a Christian context, the mechanism of this can be, I think, a very simple one:

1. You come to believe that you have been justified freely because of Christ’s shed blood.

2. Freely, for the sake of Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death, God has forgiven your sin, adopted you as a son or daughter, reconciled you to Himself, given you the Holy Spirit, and so on. Scripture promises these things.

3. Verses like “Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” seem now – at first read – to finally be possible, now that you are equipped for it. Or you hear St. Paul as he writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Same thing.

4. You realize that you might have had some excuse for failure when you were a pagan. But that’s over. Now you have been made a part of God’s family, have become the recipient of a thousand of His free gifts.

5. And then, the unexpected. Sin continues to be a part of my life, stubbornly won’t allow me to eliminate it the way I expected.

6. Continuing sin on my part seems to be just evidence that I’m not really a believer at all. If I were really a believer, this thing would “work!”

We start to imagine that we need to be “born again again.” (And often the counsel from non-Reformation churches is that this intuition of ours is true.) Try going again to some evangelistic meeting, accept Christ again, surrender your will to His will again, sign the card, when the pastor gives the “altar call,” walk the aisle again. Maybe it didn’t “take” the first time, but it will the second time? And so forth.

How do I know this one “from the inside?” (You might be able to tell that I don’t have to search for words? And you’re right.) I was brought up in a pietistic Norwegian Lutheran church. For those of you who haven’t heard the term, “pietism,” it began with certain Lutherans (Arndt, Spener, and others) who wanted a more “living Christianity” than seemed to be taught and encouraged in their Lutheran parishes in Germany. But it was as close as Lutherans in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and America ever came to being just like teutonic or Scandanavian outposts of Biola or Wheaton College! The Reformation emphasis on Christ outside of us, dying for us, and on the justification of sinners “gratis” was de-emphasized. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were de-emphasized. Instead, the emphasis shifted to the individual’s experience of conversion, and to the victorious life of the true Christian day-by-day.

One of the reasons Dr. Rosenbladt’s words are so powerful on this subject, beyond his credentials, is that he has actually walked this walk. He’s traveled this path and come out on the other side.

This presentation was written and presented, by Dr. Rosenbladt’s own admission, for those many, many people who would hear or read the presentation later who couldn’t attend the live event and for whom this material is so crucially important.

Very few are able to offer real Christ-centered comfort to the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks as Dr. Rosenbladt.

If you find yourself struggling on these subjects at all, I can not recommend this presentation enough. And it’s priced low enough so that just about anyone can pick it up with a minimum of financial strain. Don’t miss it.

Comments

  1. Scott Eaton says:

    I have listened to “Rad Rod’s” fine talk many times. It never gets old.

  2. What struck me as interesting here is the similarity between the pietistic movement and Wesley’s theology. Though Wesley was less focused on proving justification by works and more about the scope of sanctification, there is a greater focus in both on works than the Reformation theologians. I wonder if the pietistic movement had Wesleyan roots at some point?

    • Yes. Wesley was influenced by Zinzendorf and the Moravians; however, it is through the Moravians that Wesley heard the words of Luther’s introduction to Romans, to which he had his famous “strangely warmed” experience. Both John and Charles Wesley credit the writings of Luther for leading them to saving faith in Christ.

      But John Wesley is an extremely complex individual. He was well-read and was influenced by many writers. Prior to his exposure to Luther, he fell into despair due to the heavy-handed morality of William Law’s teachings on Christian perfection. He credits Jeremy Tailor (an Anglican bishop) for his own teachings on entire sanctification. Wesley remained an Anglican minister. I highly admire Wesley and think he is misunderstood and mis-quoted. Calvinists write him off due to the Arminian label placed on him-although he never was an Arminian. It’s a good example of why we can’t believe everything we hear but do the harder work of doing our own reading and research.

  3. I never felt assured about salvation, not in the evangelical movement nor when I was a Catholic, and not now.

    Maybe God doesn’t want us to feel assured…