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“Word Versus Deed”: An Interview with Duane Litfin

What is the proper balance between preaching the gospel with our words and showing it through our deeds? Listen in as Justin Taylor and Duane Litfin, president emeritus of Wheaton College, discuss Litfin’s new book Word versus Deed. Watch the entire interview or skip to the highlights below:

00:01 – The subtitle of your book is “Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance”. What is the imbalance that you are seeing?
2:03 – Could you sketch a rough outline of how this imbalance came to be?
5:35 – How does your own history play into your interest in this subject?
7:07 – Tell us a little about the non-verbal aspect of communication.
9:30 – So in a sense, this is also a corrective towards conservatives who’ve downplayed the role of deeds in the life of the church?
10:21 – Could you give us an example or two of the ways in which the Bible is being misapplied in this discussion?
17:24 – What are the dangers of a church defining their mission as only evangelism?
12:10 – What is your take on Matthew 25? How is that passage in particular being used in this discussion?
16:08 – What, in your view, are the long-term effects of motivating the church to do good and legitimate things, but building them on the wrong basis?


  1. Very good point about Matt. 25. I’ve often thought that what is missed in the social justice emphasis is that we are first and foremost to be caring for fellow believers….then others.

    There is definitely an imbalance away from evangelism in most churches currently. It seems to be forgotten that if we don’t verbalize the gospel to those we seek justice and mercy for we are leaving them on the broad road which leads to hell….but then hell isn’t spoken of much anymore either (I think there’s a connection there). Many fail to recognize the power of the spoken word of the gospel, and that our deeds aren’t necessary to the power.

    Many good points!

    Comment by Susan — April 18, 2012 @ 12:15 am

  2. I never heard why Matthew 25 passage is directed towards suffering Christians, and not the poor. Dr. Litfen alluded to not having time to present his case for Matthew 25, but without knowing his conclusions, it’s hard to adopt that position.

    Comment by Aaron Allison — April 18, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  3. Matthew 25:38-40 “When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and cloth you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these BROTHERS OR SISTERS OF MINE, you did it for me’.

    Gal 6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith.

    1Ti 5:8 But if someone does not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

    Comment by Susan — April 18, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  4. His comments on Matthew 25 are false. Here is a man who has just written a book about the crucial importance of words, of how they must be carefully attended to, lest they be used for evil instead of for good, who proceeds to blatantly abuse language in the very discussion about language abuse. When he speaks about Matthew 25, he tries to wizard away Jesus’s simple and obvious call for concern for one’s fellow man — to deny the idea that by serving those in need one is serving the Lord — and turn it back into a kind “care more for those in my tribe…” When in fact Jesus, as Paul points, out has done away with distinctions in a more radical way than any previous person. And to make his case Litfin uses the word “Christian” to describe those Jesus is really talking about, those we supposedly really ought to care about — yet there were no Christians yet! “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. When you persecute those Christians…” He puts the word “Christian” into Jesus’s mouth in order to make his point that we should care first for our fellow Christians, and only if we get around to it to those in Africa (another example…i.e., black people) who are suffering. But when Jesus spoke to Saul, there were no Christians. He has to falsify the very example he uses to make his point in order to deny the obvious: that with Christianity we are onto something new, something beyond tribalism. Can it be abused in the form of a social doctrine that cares more for anonymous “victims” in faraway lands than those close to us, those right in front of our faces? Sure. But Mr. Litfin’s argument is poorly made, and I suspect he is motivated by a distaste for contemporary social justice seekers.

    Comment by Screddy — January 15, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

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