People throughout the ages have tried to change the Gospel for various reasons. But an adjusted gospel is a false gospel, declared the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's flagship seminary at a recently-concluded conference for pastors and church leaders.
"There is not only a gospel but there is the gospel," said prominent theologian Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. at the Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference on Tuesday, citing Galatians 1. "The one gospel that rightfully tells us the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ."
This year's T4G conference, held April 13-15 in Louisville, Ky., assembled more than 7,000 people under the theme of "The (Unadjusted) Gospel."
On the opening night, Mohler gave a presentation titled "How Does it Happen? Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel." He listed and explained eight trajectories that lead Christians to adjust the gospel.
Mohler noted that "almost always" the people trying to change the gospel claim they are doing so to save Christianity.
During the Enlightenment period, he noted, there was a major argument that the gospel had to change to be relevant to the thinking of the time or it would die. And modern liberal theology say if Christians keep preaching and claiming all these supernatural events then no one will take the religion seriously or think it credible.
"We are going to have to rescue Christianity," Mohler said, vocalizing the claim of those who want to change the Bible's message. "And of course what they actually mean is rescuing Christianity from itself."
"The temptation is constantly to launch a rescue operation for Christianity," he said, "to save Christianity from the dustpan of history to rescue the church, to rescue theology, to rescue the gospel from relevance."
However, while the modern trajectory is dangerous – because it outrights rejects supernatural events in the Bible, many of which are crucial to the gospel – Mohler contended that what is even more dangerous is the postmodern trajectory. Postmodernism embraces relativity and the thinking that something can be true sometimes. So a pastor with postmodern thinking can get up and preach as if he believes.
"The difference between the postmodernist and the modernist is the modernist feels like he has to tell you that he doesn't believe it happened," Mohler said. "A postmodernist is ready to just let you smile as if."
Postmodernists, Mohler continued, is more "seductive" than modernists because the liberal theology is not packaged as liberal theology.
Other ways people can be led to adjust the gospel are through the therapeutic or emotional trajectories.
With the therapeutic trajectory, the Bible's message is transformed to self-help techniques. And with the emotional trajectory, people lean towards messages that are emotionally rewarding and away from those that have an emotional cost, such as those about original sin, hell and human depravity.
"I do care how you feel about them (emotionally tolling teachings), but how you feel about them has nothing to do with if they are true or not," Mohler said. "And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we are obligated to teach them, to preach them and make clear they are true."
The Southern Baptist leader also spoke about the effect of materialism on the gospel. The Bible teaches followers of Jesus to lay their treasures in heaven and not on earth but the prosperity gospel falsely teaches that God materially blesses those who have enough faith, he pointed out.
"Far more Christians have lived and died in abject poverty than in wealth or any hint of wealth," Mohler emphasized. "[The] materialism trajectory is not only false but makes God to be a liar because it does not produce prosperity. It is a false gospel that presents a false hope that is an empty and deceiving promise…"
While there are many different trajectories, they all lead to an adjusted gospel or "false gospel," Mohler said. He called on all the pastors in attendance to stand up for the unadjusted gospel.