Bayern, USA, Deutschland

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Heilsgeschichte, Part 3

Heilsgeschichte is the understanding that God does redeeming acts throughout history. Numerous examples could be given, but the two big acts were: the Exodus and Calvary.

S. G. De Graaf writes in his four-volume set, Promise and Deliverance: ,,We must not tell chiefly of people, of their faith as an attracting example and of their sins as a repelling example, but we must tell of the revelation of the grace of God in Christ” (Horton, Modern Reformation May/June Vol. 5 No. 3 1996).

Sadly, we don't find this kind of preaching in American churches; Europeans don't find this in their churches either. One of the reasons Europeans have left the churches vacant is because many of the pastors don't preach Christ crucified and risen. Strangely, I've noticed that in America the churches that preach Christ crucified and risen seem to be small and sparsely attended, while churches that preach a different gospel, a gospel of prosperity and positive self-image seem to be large and filled to the max. I know there are churches full of Christians where they hear Christ crucified and risen. I'm not sure why churches that preach a different gospel are so attractive and filled every Sunday. Perhaps American Christians haven't reached the depth of despair that our European brothers and sisters in Christ have reached; or perhaps our general attitude toward ,,me" as the most important person in my life is naturally attracted to the kind of preaching one can find on any Christian TV channel.

I am so glad that Issues, Etc. is back on the air. That show is focused on Christ crucified, and that is nothing other than Heilsgeschichte.

The Bible isn't about me and how I can succeed in life. Yes, there are directives in holy Scripture that tell us to trust in God who will bless us. But the real theme and core of the Bible is about God redeeming His fallen creation from sin. He redeems us in history. The saving acts of God are historical activities; other historians mention them in their histories. The crucifixion of Christ is mentioned by other Roman historians of that era. When we realize that God acts in history (He is immanent in, not transcendant from, our lives and from history), then we realize that He acts in my life. When Christ crucified is preached, then the proper doctrine of the Bible is being proclaimed. God is concerned about me; God died for me; God rose from the dead for me. That's Jesus who did that for me! Christ crucified and risen for my justification is the fulfillment of Heilsgeschichte, and so He is to be the focus of preaching. Jesus just can't be tacked onto a sermon, but Jesus must be permeate the sermon. Walther said that the gospel must predominate the sermon.

I just watched about a half an hour of an American Christian preacher having a crusade in Uppsala, Sweden. I recently read an article that said Sweden is one of the most secularized countries in the world and has the worst church attendance. The Church of Sweden (which is officially Lutheran) has essentially collapsed because Heilsgeschichte is not being preached from the pulpits. Well, this American preacher was going on and on about God. He tacked on the name of Jesus a few times, but he never got down to the real message of Christ crucified. The Swedes don't need a prosperity/positive self image gospel proclaimed to them, but they need a Christ crucified for their sins preached to them. Then, and only then, will the Swedes come to faith and seek out those few churches that actually preach the gospel in all its fullness and sweetness. And when more and more of them clamor for pure gospel preaching, then the Church of Sweden will (hopefully) get back on track and take Heilsgeschichte seriously.


John said...

Thank you for this series. Heilsgeschichte was a difficult term or concept for me to understand, but you have cleared it up for me. (I had to define it for some seminary research and will be citing you!)

By the way, I agree with what you have said-- particularly concerning the preaching of Christ crucified!

Peter said...


I am glad the series helped clarify the term for you.