Sons in the Son of God

September 21, 2017

by David Garner

Familiarity. Preachers and psychologists warn us about it, spouses fall prey to its tantalizing trap, and children get blindly sucked into its vortex of ingratitude. So sweet and so welcome, familiarity easily plummets into presumption. Aesop put it this way, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” His time-tested saying is no mere fable: despite its known risks, we persist in presuming upon our nearest and dearest.

Self-love leads the charge. We covet whatever benefits we glean from our family; how quickly a mother’s meals, dad’s wheels, Internet access, and hot-spot vacations morph into expectations, nay, even demands. We fight like pigs over the last bit of slop in the trough. Even those benefits that elude us consume us. Our lives squeal with narcissism. What we have and what we want imprison us, and leave us numb to our benefactors.

A Self-Absorbed Theology?

Biblical riches can tempt us to cascade into similar self-absorption. Even the devout are not immune. As faithful children of God, we read our Bibles, listen to solid sermons, and seek eagerly to obey God and his Word. We lead mission trips, teach Sunday school, and even dutifully tell others about our faith and our church. Yet all too easily we pitch our tents in self-centeredness.

Let me explain. Many versions of the gospel promote a spiritual slot machine with a guaranteed jackpot—pull the handle and you will swim in the sweetest of blessings. Slot-machine theology comprises more than obvious freak shows—health and wealth shysters, smooth-talking healers, or prayer-cloth dealers. The formulas for gratification in these paradigms are clear enough. But even those of us who consciously celebrate biblical justification and sanctification can rip these truths from their personal and familial contexts. . . .

. . . continue reading at Gospel Reformation Network.

David Garner

Dr. Garner (PhD, Westminster) is associate professor of systematic theology and vice president for advancement at WTS.

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