Who REALLY Wants a Watered Down Gospel? A Lesson From “ER” (The Show)

Derek Ouellette —  February 7, 2011

I appreciate Trevin Wax for posting this video and bringing it to my attention. I believe that a watered down gospel – while feeling good in the moment and sounding academic in theorizing conceptions within biblical studies – offers nothing of eternal significance.

I recognize that there are very real issues in this world – rape, genocide, child prostitution &c. – and liberal gospels by and large want to address these and other social issues.

Liberal ideologies by and large want to make the Gospel more relevant to the needs of the world. I get that.

They want to wrestle the gospel out of the hands of abstract theologies of “salvation” which fail to address the needs of the present world. I get that.

Often an “abstract gospel” (“save me from Hell so I can go to Heaven”) is prevalent among popular Evangelical and Conservative preaching. I get that.

But in the end all humans face the great and mysterious unknown. The last enemy to be defeated is Death. What can the liberal or watered down gospel offer in the face of humanities greatest fear?

I need answers! I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell!

Whether we are talking about liberal gospels such as Brian McLaren and John Dominic Crossan or watered down gospels like Joel Osteen, we need to move back to the real Gospel which will address the real needs of this world, and the next. It’s not “either/or”, but “both/and”.

I need someone to look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    One’s “good news” need not be “liberal” in order to address concrete existential issues.

    At the same time, theological liberalism is all-too-often a reaction to – dare I say it? – a Calvinism (rooted in extreme Augustinianism and Anselmianism) which turns God into an unlovable monster unworthy of our worship and humanity into something not worth redeeming or, sadly, a degenerate Wesleyanism that is, in reality, nothing but bitter legalism.

    I don’t know if I’ve posted this here before or not, but it is worthy of consideration by all Western Christians, liberal or conservative. (And note: this comes from an ultra-traditional Orthodox source!)


    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Gregory, I responded to this link last time you posted it and will just quote myself:
      “I think somtimes the Western conception of things may be slightly exaggerated and often too generalized by the Orthodox East. The Orthodox have remained remarkable unified whereas the West – while being obviously influenced by certain thought patterns including certain conceptions of Hell – is characterized by diversity and free-thinking.

      In the article you sourced I vagely recognized what the author describes as the Western concept of eternity/Justice/Hell et cetera. As he went on to describe the Orthodox view I exclaimed: That’s what I’ve believed for a long time! (of course with refinement and more refinement to come).

      The article reads: “No, my brothers, unhappily for us, paradise or hell does not depend on God. If it depended on God, we would have nothing to fear. We have nothing to fear from Love. But it does not depend on God. It depends entirely upon us.” I have been telling people this for some time now. I appreciate the Orthodox central emphasis on “God is Love” and that God “respects our Free Will”. Amen.

      On top of that I’ll just add that what I perceive to be the Orthodox attitude towards other Christian traditions is one of the factors which prevents me from becoming “Orthodox”.

      • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

        “On top of that I’ll just add that what I perceive to be the Orthodox attitude towards other Christian traditions is one of the factors which prevents me from becoming ‘Orthodox’.”

        Understood and appreciated, Derek. Myself, I get called down on a regular basis by some among the Byzantines because of the non-chalcedonian and “vagante” status of the jurisdiction to which I belong and which I serve as a priest. Besides, we ordain women!

        Now, please understand that I come out of a tradition very similar to yours. My father was a lay preacher whose primary loyalty lay with the neo-Wesleyanism of the Holiness movement. However, the closest such church, a Church of the Nazarene, was fifty miles away, so I primarily grew up in the Christian and Missionary Alliance with liberal helpings of the Nazarenes and the Assemblies of God on the side, along with just a smattering of the Fundamentalist Baptist tradition, via my aunt. At age seven, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, kneeling at an altar rail in the church in which I was raised, praying the sinners’ prayer at the behest of man whose ministry was child evangelism. About the time I hit 14, in the early seventies, I discovered the “Jesus Revolution” and embraced Charismatic Renewal, being baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. (When speaking with Holiness people, I was always very careful to omit the mention of tongues and to speak “the second blessing”.) Along the way, I met some devout and commited Roman Catholics, folks I recognized as true fellow “Christians”, including a priest. At age 14, without a plan or even an inkling of converting to anything remotely “Catholic” (“Orthodoxy” was little more than a word to me at that time.), I knew I was called to “the priesthood”. I also knew that the Evangelical/Holiness/Charismatic/Pentecostal Protestantism in which I was raised and had been so thoroughly marinated had simply dropped the ball on several points, especially those regarding the sacraments.

        And that is my frustration: my path did not take me into the heart of “mainstream” “canonical” Byzantine Orthodoxy. Maybe yours won’t either, but, from my own experience, you and your compatriots are missing something vital, that which is at the heart of the faith, receiving the mystical Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. You are also missing out on the possibility of sacramental absolution.

        Our spiritual forebear, Father…

      • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

        (Continued from above)

        Our spiritual forebear, Fr. John Wesley, remained an Anglican priest until his dying breath. His last words? “I remain in communion with the Church of England.” He is a forebear, not only of Arminian Evangelicalism, but also, of Anglo-Catholicism (whose vocation is to be Western Orthodoxy). He referred to the Eucharist as “the Christian sacrifice” and celebrated and received five times a week. From heaven, he intercedes for you, for all your compatriots, that you will complete the journey of which he is the pioneer. However, please understand that this process of completion may not take you into the heart of mainstream Orthodoxy. It may take you into a place similar to where I have been led. There are two main types of Orthodoxy, and each has its own off-shoots in which, nevertheless, the fulness of the faith and of its practice have been maintained.

  • Brian MacArevey


    This post is a little confusing. How are you defining “liberal”? What is it that sets apart Joel Osteen and Brian McLaren as liberals? And why would it be a bad thing to be a liberal?


    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Brian, I received a few questions similar to yours (via my Inbox for some reason), so I decided to post a response in a separate post.

      Just click the link below:

  • http://www.bible.org Brad dickey


    Can’t watch the video, but I like the focus you’ve been mentioning here. The church today, kills me. That book from the Barna group, unChristian gives a small look at what it is about.

    It’s so difficult to witness the God of Love, God IS Love when the arrogance, hubris, and hate mongering of the same church is the prevalent perspective people see. Do you know what the number one trait of the church in non member’s perspective is? You must speak in cliche that you don’t mean.

    Ok I made that up. But it WOULD be number one if I could afford the study.

    My theology falls into the Wesleyan arena. But I found that out after I convinced myself what my theology was. So me and J.W. have some differences, but in a general sense…. I do not lean to the charismatic side of tha theology though.

    From my perspective since the time of Tetzel hell fire and brimstone is the push of the Church. It’s akin to Osama Bin Laden’s. If you don’t believe what I do you will burn forever. If you don’t believe like we do we will blow you up. That creates fear. You can’t drive someone TO LOVE from fear.

    Picture a compass, you stand on the fulcrum in the middle.
    You hear hell fire and brimstone.
    You run from where you are to escape.
    359 wrong ways, 1 way to God, Love.
    With a church running scared from sin/judgement, its no wonder their message is so corrupt.

    Also consider this… Gal 5 19-23, E.O. is more unified,
    Protestants are more diverse.
    Unity is fruit of the Spirit.
    Factions dissension of the flesh.

    you decide.

    And I’m still protestant. 😐 I confuse myself.

    I’m a firm believer the majority of those claiming the Grace of God, are wrong. Perhaps myself included. But at least KNOWING I’m short of what he desires in me, I have a chance to correct my path. I wish I could find like minded folks, it’s lonely sometimes.

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      Brad, when you’re tired of trying to re-invent the wheel, get in touch. In the meantime, you are in our prayers. ;-/

      • brad dickey


        This is where I go awry. That square thing you guys are calling a wheel???? it’s not the wheel we were sold to start this Church 2K years ago.

        I’m not recreating the wheel, I’m honoring the wheel and not letting someone call a broken stone a wheel.


    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Brad, it’s too back you can’t watch the clip. It’s quote moving.

      • brad dickey

        finally got to see it. We used that in a training class on God is Love.

        There is no fear in perfect love.

        The man in the video was scared of God. FEAR, and not the respect kind. He had no faith in Grace, and no confidence. He had a dirty conscience.

        Paul addresses conscience, John fear in love, prodigal son fear of father.

        It’s a backwards paradigm. We train people to run FROM SIN, not TO LOVE/GOD.

        The closer you get TO LOVE, the less sin you have to run from.

        HE does the changing, we just move our feet, what are we scared of? What holds us back? sigh.

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Brad, it’s not broken. It if breaks, then Jesus lied, and the other comments in the New Testament about the Church are false as well. (Not to mention the fact that without the Church, there would be no New Testament.)

    • brad d

      No father, that’s called a.false.dilemma. Christ church its just.fine, and 1 j.4.:16 says they understand love, Agapao. What.is.labeling itself as church.these.days.is.bunk, skubalon. May are called few chosen. Do you want to be.in mainstream with the.many? I want the.sincere mature perfect believers who are in fellowship with god to become what is.seen first in the.church. not the.loud extremes and the.arrogant smug form god info a terrorist with.threats of.john tetzel brimstone.fear fear fear. live love first.preach of you mist. You were saved to do his works. its not theology.but.love expressed thru works. gal 5:6. The church sits back and tries to.legislate their.fait thru.pacs rather than get involved in someone’s lives. if you call that.Christ’s church is like to introduce you to the one real and living God.

      read the last pRoblem in Matt 25. the ENGAGED IN PEOPLES LIVES go to heaven, not the other.

      Christ didn’t fail, people are.sold.fear.and are.so happy.to.be.saved they.sit on their asses and get.arrogant that they.are.and people they.see.aren’t. they are condescending not loving. Sold cliches, not substance. more interested in what.they know than what’s been done for.gods flocks. we are the instruments for his.righteousness, and we.are.like.ice picks driving finished nails. we need.to find the.type of.tool we.are, and go to work. People should.see.God not hear.about him.

      Sorry.for my.fone and spelling errors. Sorry.for my.rant, nearly.

      • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

        Well, I guess have to define “Church”:

        A local, or “particular” Orthodox/Catholic Church is a community of baptized and chrismated/confirmed believers a)who confess the full and complete profession of faith, usually summed up in the words of the so-called Nicene Creed, the “rule of faith”; b)is led and served by a priesthood consisting of a validly ordained Bishop in apostolic succession along with presbyters (“priests”) themselves ordained by such a bishop and assisted by deacons also so ordained. C)This community worships according to the “rule of prayer,” norms passed down for the conduct of liturgy and the celebration of sacrament, especially the Eucharist, by which the local Church, week-by-week, realizes itself AS Church. It must be noted that B) is a prerequisite for C) except that any baptized person may baptize. Thus, while the term “church” (“ekklesia”) might be applied to any gathering of Christians for worship, to the extent that any of the three criteria above are lacking, said gathering or community lacks the fullness of what it means to be “Church” and thus, cannot be termed “Catholic” or “Orthodox.”

        The universal Church, historically divided into various communions, consists of these local Churches. Thus, the universal Church is an ikon of the Trinity, even as each local Church is called to be.

  • brad dickey

    Yes Father I know your position on the word.

    Do you proclaim that someone just saying the creed, and filling in the criteria above and their heart not be in it are part of Christ’s Church?

    Do you proclaim that if someone hadn’t met your criteria, that Paul was wrong, and the outsider couldn’t have found and had written a law personally to Him from God? (paul said they could…)

    I’m speaking of those in Christ’s church, that according to John’s first epistle will have LOVE evident in their life. It will be demonstrated and exercised as the word AGAPO demands. Minus the demonstration it’s Phileo at best.

    I’m speaking of those that find theology unimportant, but rather faith expressing itself through love. LOVE is the requirement, (that was gal 5:6 btw).

    In your flock you have people in Christ’s church and posers. if you think their going through the motions, and playing along means they have arrived, you do them a disservice. I don’t presume to say you believe that though.

    I hope that helps?


  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Brad, I keep meaning to bring the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) into this discussion. Now, I guess, would as good a time as any.

    There are “posers” everywhere, or least people that look like posers. But God knows the heart. In my experience, the “posers” increase as a given congregation or denomination becomes more mainstream. My jurisdiction is anything but, and virtually all of our people are with us because they are convinced that the Lord has called them to join us. Also, sadly, there is another side of this coin. How shall we speak of these people? Pharisees, perhaps? They too are present most everywhere.

    Anyway, I am sure that you will agree that fully realizing one’s crucifixion with Christ, “putting to death the deeds of the flesh,” “purifying oneself”, “making one’s calling and election sure”, offering oneself as a “living sacrifice” (all ways of speaking about realizing Divine love, both in terms of giving and receiving) is a lifelong process.

    And, throughout that process, we need all the help we can get, or at least I do. Christ has given us Himself, mediated by the Holy Spirit, in the Word and in the Sacraments, all of which relate us to the Church, which is historical, visible, and continuous in time and space and one of which, the Eucharist, is the eschatological realization of the Church yet remaining in time. He has given us disciplines: prayer, fasting, and alms-giving by which He trains us to control ourselves and to serve others, appropriating the healing (“salvation”) that only He, Christ provides.

    He also surrounds us with a “cloud of witness” in heaven, especially his Mother, who cheer us on and intercede for us (Hebrews 12:1). He gives the witness of those who have come before, the Great Saints and Fathers of the Church.

    To paraphrase Hebrews, how, or why, would we, could we, neglect any of this if we truly desire the kind of communion with Christ, His Father, and the Holy Spirit that we were created to have and for which Christ became incarnate, lived, died, rose again to die no more, ascended into heaven, and the sent the Holy Spirit to make all of this possible?

    Regarding where the Church is, and where it is not: all Trinitarian Christians are united to Christ by faith via baptism, and any gather of said Christians can be called a “church” generically. However, what I am speaking of is the “Catholic” Church of the Creed, where the FULLNESS…

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      (Continued from above)

      Regarding where the Church is, and where it is not: all Trinitarian Christians are united to Christ by faith via baptism, and any gathering of said Christians can be called a “church” generically. However, what I am speaking of is the “Catholic” Church of the Creed, in which the FULLNESS of Christ’s gifts to His people is found, as outlined above.