In the first post of this interview with Liam Goligher we focused on the distinctives between our backgrounds. In this post we discuss important doctrinal challenges facing the church today which should prompt confessing evangelicals like Liam and myself to stand together. Tomorrow we will address the atonement and Liam’s book on the subject.
To Liam, unity is not everything. He reported receiving strong criticism from some prominent evangelicals over his stand on some of the issues we will spend the rest of this article discussing. He was told that he was “creating trouble,” and in his own words, some evangelicals are “crying unity.” Liam became fired up and his Celtic passion was very apparent when he said, “You cannot sacrifice truth for unity!” Liam believes that because of some of the current debates, the word “evangelical” has already become devoid of meaning and significance. He believes that the whole house of evangelicalism is coming tumbling down around us whilst we are doing little about it. Much of our activity is, to Liam, nothing more than rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Liam believes, “The only substantial resistance to the breakdown of evangelicalism will come from reformed confessing evangelicals, whether they be charismatic or not charismatic, for they are the only ones with the strength and conviction to stand against the assault.”
There are several lines of assault in what Goligher feels is a battle for the very survival of the Gospel. He believes that our children will be left with nothing if we do not boldly defend and declare the Gospel with which we have been entrusted. We briefly discussed each major battle he feels we are facing:
THE DOCTRINE OF GOD
Attacks on the nature of God are occurring on two fronts. Liam is greatly concerned by those who say that God is surprised by events as they unfold. Open Theism denies the essential nature of the biblical God by saying that God is acting without a script. There are also some who claim that the notion of God as almighty or omnipotent is a Greek idea. Liam urges us to go back to the Bible where we see God clearly described as knowing everything and being totally in control of everything. Romans 8:28 really is true – it is not wishful thinking!
For Liam, any accommodation with those who promote the “New Perspectives on Paul” is nothing short of “redefining what it means to stand right before God.” Justification becomes something that happens in the future and is dependent on our works. Liam is concerned that the works of these theologians are overly complex, and that it seems it simply isn’t possible to popularise their teaching. To him, theology should be capable of a simple explanation that even a child can understand, whilst, of course, it can also be explored and discussed at much greater levels of complexity. Liam feels it is highly suspect that many of these writers constantly claim that their critics simply cannot understand them: “It smells of gnosticism, that is, having a secret knowledge available only to a few.”
THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE
To Liam, this doctrine — and particularly the sufficiency of Scripture — is undermined by those who propagate the “New Perspectives on Paul.” This is because there is almost a recreation of a “priestly class.” Ordinary believers are told they can only understand the Scriptures if they read the complex writings of certain scholars. This is, according to Liam, counter to the view that Scripture, whilst benefiting from careful study and scholarship, is also simply understood by ordinary people. To Liam, this process is almost a reversal of the Reformation — “We might as well become Roman Catholics,” he said.
Continued in part three . . .