Gospel Reductionism

Last month’s Newsletter Article reviewed the “Battle for the Bible” that took place in the 20th century. Shortly after it went to publication, someone sent me this snippet from Todd Wilken, host of Issues, Etc., the Lutheran radio show we support, that addresses the other “allied hostile force” of the Battle for the Bible.

Here is what Pastor Wilken wrote: “The Battle for the Bible in Lutheranism drove back liberal Bible scholarship, but failed to do the same to Gospel Reductionism. Gospel Reductionism stayed, settled down, applied for, and was granted citizenship.” He continues, “In its crassest form, Gospel Reductionism replaces the Bible as the source and norm of all theology. It replaces the Bible with the Gospel. The Gospel becomes the standard by which theological ideas are judged to be true or false. Instead of asking, ‘Does this idea agree with the Bible?’ Gospel Reductionism asks, ‘Does this idea agree with the Gospel?’ Gospel Reductionism is the big, unpaid bill of the 20th century’s ‘Battle for the Bible’ in American Christianity, and in American Lutheranism in particular.”

Gospel Reductionism reduces the application of God’s Word merely to the Good News of Jesus. And it regrettably happens all the time. A Gospel Reductionist fails to acknowledge that the Bible teaches God’s Law, too. We need to believe, teach, and confess that God’s Law is just as good as the Gospel, for as 1 Tim. 1:8 says, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” The Law and Gospel are not opposing forces! Paul poses the question, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not!” (Gal. 3:21).

The danger of Gospel Reductionism is that it leads to antinomianism, which is a big word essentially meaning “anti-Law”. Today’s manifestation of antinomianism doesn’t necessarily say, “The Law is bad”, but instead it essentially tempts someone to think, “I know I continually commit a particular sin, but thank God Jesus forgives me anyways!” It causes an erring Christian to be comfortable in his or her sin as if they can continue in it without consequence. Paul boldly confronts this problem by asking in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

A common phrase you may hear among Gospel Reductionists is to “err on the side of the Gospel.” That is soul-endangering advice. “Erring on the side of the Gospel” reduces the Gospel to a default position. If anything, we should “err on the side of caution.” Pastor and parishioner alike should exhaust all effort to make sure there are no errors in the application of Law or Gospel! This is to be done with and by diligent search and application of the Scriptures. For an error on either side, Law or Gospel, demands repentance! Error in the Law will lead someone to despair and hopelessness. Error in the Gospel will lead someone to be comfortable in their sin. Both are condemnable to hell, for they both tear away and/or prevent true faith. It is through repentance and by faith that we receive the forgiveness Jesus earned on the cross. Apart from repentance and faith we remain in our sin, the wages of which is death, both in time and in eternity (Rom. 6:23).

We cannot reduce the Gospel to merely catch phrases and feel good sentiments. The Law spiritual slaying someone and driving them to repent leads them to the Gospel, which alone saves. If one thinks there is no need to repent for a sin, then why would that person need the Gospel? If we are to be a truly Gospel Church, we must be a truly Bible Church. And a Bible Church includes both Law and Gospel; the reduction of neither, the fullness of both.

May we stay true to the Scriptures, rightly dividing the Word in its proper order and place (2 Tim. 2:15), trusting that God will work through the Word to achieve His purpose (Isa. 55:11). When we err, whether on the side of Law OR Gospel, may we repent, and then trust with full assurance that Christ has removed that sin as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12).

Your servant in Christ, Pastor Hromowyk


Sunday Worship Services - 8:00 A.M. and 10:30 A.M.
Wednesday  Compline Service 7:00 P.M.



Holy Communion is available every Sunday at both services.

Special note to our visitors and guests: Because those who eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood unworthily do so to their great harm and because Holy Communion is a confession of the faith which is confessed at this altar, any who are not yet instructed, in doubt, or who hold a confession differing from that of this congregation and The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, are kindly asked to refrain from partaking of the Sacrament until first speaking with our Pastor.