This contribution is by a student of Radius International. His name has been withheld due to the sensitive nature of his work and location.
Responding to: A Straw Man Argument to Prove What God Shouldn’t Do: A Critique of Chad Vegas’ “A Brief Guide to DMM” by L.D. Waterman http://btdnetwork.org/a-straw-man-argument-to-prove-what-god-shouldnt-do-a-critique-of-chad-vegas-a-brief-guide-to-dmm/
Original: A Brief Guide to DMM: Defining and Evaluating the Ideas Impacting Missions Today by Chad Vegas
In responding to Waterman’s contributions to the DMM debate, I will provide commentary in four broad categories: Obedience Based Discipleship (OBD), Sufficiency of Scripture, Person of Peace (POP), and Fruitfulness. This is by no means a comprehensive commentary on all that Waterman addresses, but I hope that this answers some of the key aspects most central to the DMM debate. Direct quotes from Waterman appear in plain text, followed by my
Obedience-Based Discipleship (OBD)
After quoting Jerry Trousdale’s description of Jesus’ approach to
Brother Vegas, by inserting the words “unconverted” and “unbelieving” into his summary of Trousdale’s description, lays the foundation of a false dichotomy. He imports post-Pentecost clarity into the categories of “believing” vs. “unbelieving” described in the gospels.
Yes, we would all agree that the journey of faith is a process. However, Waterman’s concern that Vegas is misrepresenting Trousdale’s words
Brother Vegas continues: “We simply never see a command, nor a pattern, from our Lord, nor his Apostles, where unbelievers are discipled through regular obedience until they finally have sufficient trust in Christ to be baptized.” (6) On the face of it, this seems true.
Here, Waterman draws on the Old Testament by saying that God was calling people to obedience before making a clear revelation of salvation through Christ. While it is true that the people of the Old Testament did not have a clear view of Christ, it is a bold statement to claim that God’s means of drawing people to himself was through obedience. Even in the Old Testament, salvation was by faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:20-24, Hebrews 11:6). God gave the Law precisely to show the Israelites that they couldn’t possibly live up to God’s righteous standard on their own (Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:10-14). God intended for people to respond in repentance and humbly acknowledge their total dependence on God in faith, like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:13-14).
I find it strange that Brother Vegas seems so concerned lest unbelievers try to obey God. It seems to me that whenever anyone reads the Bible and seeks to obey God based on what they have read, that’s a good thing. Granted, only the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit makes consistent and God-pleasing obedience possible. And an unbeliever’s attempts at obedience can never bring or earn salvation. But I want to ask Brother Vegas: “Do you consider it a bad thing if large numbers of Muslims, Hindus, atheists
Waterman correctly points out that only the Holy Spirit makes God-pleasing obedience possible (Hebrews 11:6), so it is unclear in what sense it is a good thing “whenever anyone reads the Bible and seeks to obey God.” Perhaps implicit in the question posed to Vegas is the assumption that obedience naturally leads to saving faith in Christ. While it may, it also may result in people inadvertently thinking that their obedience is gaining acceptance for them before God. This is exactly what happened to the Jews who tried to gain righteousness for themselves through their obedience to the Law (Luke 18:9-14, Romans 10:3, Galatians 2:21).
The Apostle Paul took a stunningly positive attitude toward gospel messengers with whom he disagreed: “It is true that some preach Christ…out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of
While Waterman mentions Paul’s positive response to those who were preaching Christ out of bad motives, let’s not forget Paul’s decidedly vehement response in Galatians 1:6ff to those who were preaching a false gospel. In that case, it’s hard to imagine how Paul’s words could have been any
Sufficiency of Scripture
The Old Covenant required human mediators for full access to God but the New Covenant presents Jesus as the final and essential mediator. In this age,
Proponents of DMM believe that God’s Spirit can and does use God’s Word to touch human hearts, even apart from human mediatorial interpretation. Brother Vegas seems to believe God only wants to convey his Word to unbelievers via human mediators.
Yes, we would all agree that Jesus is the final revelation of God (Hebrews 1:2), and we would also agree that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are ultimately the source and revealer of truth (John 16:13-14). Yet here Waterman’s main concern is the role of human vessels. He agrees that God can
Perhaps it would be more helpful to ask the question: what is God’s normal
Of course, there are many recorded cases of people coming to saving faith through only the printed Word of God (e.g., from a Gideon Bible in a hotel room), but we nonetheless see the clear command of Scripture for human vessels to go and to teach. Perhaps in an attempt to challenge the Church
In addition, we need to be careful that in our emphasis on the written Word of God we forget the many mediators that are necessarily required to accurately translate the Word of God for the many unreached language groups of the world. Whether Bible translators are primarily locals or those from the outside, much time and effort must go into carefully considering the language and culture of the target language group. It is not enough to simply translate from English or even from the Biblical source texts of Greek and Hebrew, first because many language forms are not easily transferable and second because many Biblical idioms are incomprehensible without due interpretation. See Chapter 7 of One Bible, Many Versions
Person of Peace (POP)
It may be admitted that perhaps too much weight has been placed on a possible interpretation of the “person of peace” text in Luke 10:6 and “worthy person” in Matthew 10:11. Yet Brother Vegas’ determination to resist DMM causes him to miss a vital distinction between traditional church planting approaches and the DMM approach yielding significant fruit among unreached groups. Something very significant happens when a believer finds among the lost a person who is sufficiently welcoming to open their household, extended family or local group of influence to the gospel messenger and his/her message.
While Vegas’ views the POP passages as
The most famous preacher of the time and America’s greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards, responded to those concerns in his timeless essay: “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.” In that work, he stated emphatically that “the word of God is the principal means…by which other means operate and are made effectual.” He challenged detractors to focus not on particular means
Yes, agreed that the word of God must be central to evaluating any work of God. That is, in fact, exactly why the issue at stake is not