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Christians Need to Have a 'Theology for Sadness,' Says Gospel Coalition Pastor

Christians Need to Have a 'Theology for Sadness,' Says Gospel Coalition Pastor

Alistair Begg, senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio and the Bible teacher on "Truth for Life," giving remarks at The Gospel Coalition's West Coast Conference in Fullerton, California on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. | (Screenshot: live1.thegospelcoalition.org/live)

Christians shouldn't neglect having a "theology for sadness," said Ohio-based Pastor Alistair Begg at The Gospel Coalition's West Coast Conference.

Begg, the Scottish senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on the "Truth for Life" program, gave a speech Thursday at the conference that was focused on 2nd Timothy 4:1–8.

Beginning his speech with the statement that "there is nothing like the prospect of death to clarify the issues of life," Begg explained that while writing 2nd Timothy, the Apostle Paul was "identifying the fact that he is on his way out."

"He refers to his passing as his departure, his analusis, a favorite word in Greek at the time for the unyoking of an oxen or for the drawing of an anchor or the taking down of a tent," explained Begg.

"He realizes that the baton of faith needs to be passed on to another generation. His gaze is on his young lieutenant, Timothy. And he is able to let him know, surely for his great encouragement, that God has sustained his — mentor, if you like — the Apostle, through all these very many dangerous toils and snares."

Begg explained that he felt too many Christians had a "superficial frivolity about things" and lacked what he called a "theology for sadness" when it comes to their walk of faith.

As an example, Begg talked about how he felt too many modern day funeral services are not properly focused, as "many of us have been tempted to transform the solemnization of death with a celebration of life."

"Funeral services where you're not allowed to be sad because it's now a celebration. Whoever turned a funeral into a celebration? I'll tell you why. Because we don't have a theology for sadness. We don't really have a theology for suffering," Begg said.

"We want immediately to move to the celebratory and triumphant aspects of things before we have even had the moment to sit and say 'death is a dreadful enemy, the last enemy to be destroyed.'"

Begg went on to argue that "the way to really live in the now is to allow the shadow of the then to be cast as it were over the framework of our lives."

"Not that we live morbid lives, but that we realize that we are very frail. That we're glad to be led in praise when we sing 'frail as summer's flower we flourish; blows the wind and it is gone.' 'The grass withers, the flowers fall, the Word of God endures forever.' It is in light of that, that [Paul] then encourages him," continued Begg.

Begg's talk was part of the Gospel Coalition's West Coast Conference, held Oct.16–18 at Free EV Fullerton, located about 25 miles from Los Angeles, California.

The theme for the conference is "Enduring Faithfulness" and is centered on the New Testament book of 2 Timothy, in which they are to "consider the example of Paul, who fought the good fight and kept his faith in Jesus Christ."

"Dozens of other workshops will explore various aspects of Gospel ministry, from appreciating the beauty of Christian sexual ethics to thinking creatively about faith and work," noted a description about the conference.

"Several workshops will profile historical examples, such as Jonathan Edwards and Augustine, to instruct and challenge us to cultivate ministry that lasts a lifetime and beyond."

Texas Southern Baptist Convention President Juan Sanchez spoke at the conference on Wednesday, warning evangelicals about the dangers of "legalism" in the church.

Sanchez spoke about the temptation for church leaders to engage in legalism, tying it to the early church and how some back then demanded that new believers be circumcised.

"We look at that and we think how ridiculous that is, but in our own churches there's a temptation to say 'unless you fill-in-the-blank, you cannot be saved.' Now we don't say 'you cannot be saved,' but we have a tendency to look down on people," said Sanchez.

"Unless you vote Republican, you can't really be saved. Unless you vote Democratic, you really cannot be saved. Unless you homeschool your children, unless you private educate your children, unless you public educate your children so that your children can be missionaries, we could go at this all day, can't we?"

Other speakers for the conference included Ray Ortlund, senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and the president of Renewal Ministries; Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, and board chairman of The Gospel Coalition; and Kim Bogardus, a California-based church planter, among others.

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