The Old Gospel and the New
While reading through J.I. Packer's book A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, many of Packer's thoughts have impacted me. One of the impacting passages is from Chapter 8: 'Saved by His Precious Blood': An Introduction to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Here Packer details the depth and weight of Owen's writing for the modern church. At one point, Packer makes special example of the difference between what he calls the old gospel and the new gospel; the old gospel being the whole truth of Scripture preached faithfully, and the new gospel being the revised, shallow version of the gospel preached today, mostly to make people feel better, rather than to make them better. Packer writes,
There is no doubt that evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor's dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It [the therapeutic gospel] fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. Whereas the chief aim of the old [gospel] was to teach people to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.
It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe. But it needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical gospel. The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this matter. To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need. And it is at this point that Owen's treatise on redemption can give us help.- J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 125-127.