September 21, 2020

Ortland: Reduced to Jesus Only

From Ray Ortland’s blog, by way of 9 Marks.

Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. It is the Galatian impulse of self-exaltation. It can even become a club with which we bash other Christians, at least in our thoughts, to punish, to exclude and to force into line with us.

What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart — toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one — in Christ alone.
There’s a lot of things I’d like to say, but this is so good that I’m just going to leave it alone…which I’m pretty sure some quarters of the blogosphere won’t be able to do.


  1. Long ago when I was in Bible Study Fellowship, my group leader was an extremely Reformed fellow. He was every bit the stern, dry intellectual. What I remember about him was how much he took “Unconditional Election” to heart. He completely ascribed every virtue in his life to the glory of God. I don’t mean by words. He was as humble a man as I’ve ever met. He was as generous a man as I’ve ever met.

    I’m not a Calvinist, but if I were, I would want to be one like that.

  2. This is good. Thank you for posting this. I hope more Reformed folks will be like this man, myself included. Oh, what am I saying, I mean, ALL Christians, Reformed or otherwise will be like this, humble and deep in Christ.

  3. I honestly don’t even know what Reformed means in this day and time.
    I really don’t know what post-evangelical means unless it means like myself I have a lifetime gutful of JesusWorld.
    Whatever group this man Ortlnd belongs to he has stated a powerful truth.
    We preach Christ and Him crucified.
    Anything less is a stench in the nose of God.

  4. This is absolutely a wonderful post. This post highlights biggest things that I try to keep at the forefront of my thinkology and the major highlight of my BLOG.

  5. Steve Rowe says

    A lot of ink (or maybe pixels) are spilled on this blog and others over a kind of internet based Hyper Calvinism. It has been my experience that you’re typical PCA or CRC church is a lot more tolerant and ecumenical than our “truly reformed” friends would lead us to believe. The difference between abstract theoretical theology and down in the trenches pastoral work is often vast. I have worshiped in four self-consciously reformed churches in the last 20 years (three of them very prominent Christ community in Nashville, Little Trinity in Toronto and Redeemer Presbyterian in New York) and I honestly have never encounter the kind of chauvinisms you find so often on the web. In the last few years I have been moving towards a more sacramental vision of Christianity and frankly the main problems I have is with the “Closed communion” practices of the LCMS, the Greek Orthodox and the RCC. I have never felt unwelcome in a Reformed Church but the fact that I am not welcome at the rail these “sacramental” churches drives me around the bend.

  6. After spending quite a few years studying theology and trying to find the “right” church, I realize the Corleone Family had the right idea: “Take the cannoli, leave the gun.”

    There’s something to be gained from most theological perspectives that proclaim Jesus as Savior. Learn from the good, let the rest lay.

  7. Hutchens writes, on Touchstone blog, about Losing God the Father:

    ….In the paths I travel I have heard from time to time some muted remarks about the tendency of Evangelicals to direct their worship to Jesus rather than the Father. This never seemed to me much cause for concern because the Son and the Spirit are to be worshipped with the Father, and Evangelical churches are by definition trinitarian.

    Lately, though, it has struck me that the hymnody of churches like the one we attend are indeed very heavily weighted toward the worship of the Son so that the Father, who is greater than the Son and Spirit, and who is to be the Principal toward whom worship is directed, actually is given a place inferior to that of the Son, in a way similar to the elevation of the Spirit among Pentecostals. Perhaps this has always been the case with this form of American pietism and I am just beginning to notice it, but it bothers me that most of what we sing in church could be just as readily be sung in those modalist congregations–and we have a number of these “Unitarians of the Second Person” in our area–which blend the Persons of the Trinity into “Jesus.” But if it is an old problem, certainly things haven’t become any better in this regard during my lifetime….

  8. Only Jesus?

    What will I do with all my time and energy? No more endless debates about predestination, Eschatology, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, charismatic gifts, denominational distinctives?

    You might think he was promoting “mere Christianity” or something. Doesn’t he know that real Christianity is all about Jesus Plus –?

  9. I found this in my old files. I can’t remember who did it:

    I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! don’t do it!”

    “Why shouldn’t I?” he said.

    I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!”

    He said, “Like what?”

    I said, “Well…are you religious or atheist?”

    He said, “Religious.”

    I said, “Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?”

    He said, “Christian.”

    I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?”

    He said, “Protestant.”

    I said, “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”

    He said, “Baptist!”

    I said, “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”

    He said, “Baptist Church of God!”

    I said, “Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”

    He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!”

    I said, “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”

    He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”

    I said, “Die, heretic scum”, and pushed him off.

  10. Dan Smith says

    That second paragraph should be engraved into stone and worn around every Christian’s neck as a constant (and weighty) reminder of what counts.

    I sent the entire entry to all my readers, reminding them that when “Church of Christ” is substituted for “Reformed,” it fits them perfectly.

    Welcome back from the sabbatical. I wonder if the students and staff will notice any difference in you.

    Blessings, brother,

  11. thomas dunbar wrote”
    Lately, though, it has struck me that the hymnody of churches like the one we attend are indeed very heavily weighted toward the worship of the Son so that the Father, who is greater than the Son and Spirit, and who is to be the Principal toward whom worship is directed, actually is given a place inferior to that of the Son, in a way similar to the elevation of the Spirit among Pentecostals.”


    My bible says that all worship is directed toward God, in toto, not just the Father.
    If anything, the Father and certainly the Holy Spirit direct all worship to the Son.

    Regardless, all are equal. There is not a hierarchy.

    Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All One. All distinct.

    We want to frame the Trinity in terms that we can grasp.

    It is beyond human understanding. It is a faith belief.

  12. Amen.