December 14, 2017

Gospel Week: Let’s discuss some definitions

The Conversion of Saul, Michelangelo

By Chaplain Mike

This week our focus will be on The Gospel.

You might think Christians would have this one nailed down, but many conversations continue in the church today about the definition and nature of the biblical Gospel.

For example, I am looking forward to reading Scot McKnight’s upcoming book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, in which he argues that “evangelicals have built a ‘salvation culture’ but not a ‘gospel culture,'” reducing the gospel to “the message of personal salvation.”

McKnight’s statement points out one of the issues that emerges in today’s discussions. As Ed Stetzer puts it in an enlightening post on the subject, “One of the key issues is this question: Is the gospel only God-Man-Christ-Response or does it include elements of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration?”

Trevin Wax has compiled an impressive number of definitions that fill several pages at his blog, (you can download a PDF to view them in a single document. We may comment on a few of these this week, and we will be looking at Wax’s book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.

Last year, Rachel Held Evans ran a post asking readers to answer, “What is the gospel?” and then she followed it up by polling some of her friends in ministry with the same question. When I read those posts, I came up with the following definition (newly edited).

Give it a test drive, compare it with some of the others who are linked here, chime in with your own thoughts and definitions, and let’s have a discussion to kick off this Gospel Week.

The Gospel (as I understand it at this point)

  • The Gospel (Good News) is the divinely-authorized proclamation that the appointed time has arrived and God has come to restore his blessing to his broken creation.
  • The Gospel announces that the climactic act of God’s story has been accomplished through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, his promised King who fulfilled the story of Israel and inaugurated the Messianic Age. Christ’s finished work atoned for sin, defeated the powers of sin, evil, and death forever, and reconciled this lost and dying world to God.
  • The Gospel invites all people to turn from their own wisdom and ways that separate them from God and his blessing, and to trust Jesus for forgiveness and new life in the Holy Spirit as members of his new community of faith, hope, and love.
  • The Gospel promises that God’s Kingdom inaugurated in Jesus will be consummated when he returns to raise the dead, pronounce final judgment on all evil, and transform this fallen creation into a new creation in which heaven (God’s realm) and earth (the human realm) are one.

Or more simply, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

Comments

  1. Steve Newell says:

    In addition to defining what the Gospel is, it is just important to define what the Gospel is not.

    The Gospel is not the promise of a “better” life. The life we care called to may take away our problems.

    The Gospel is not the promise of financial well being. There is no promise of “health and wealth” in following Christ.

    The Gospel is not the promise of a life without sorrow and hardship. The price of following Christ may be more hardship and sorrow.

    I am sure that there are more others can add to what the Gospel is not.

    • “The Gospel is not the promise of a ‘better’ life. The life we care called to may take away our problems.”

      +1

      I was recently in a praise service where we sang a song with lyrics about Jesus washing away my sorrow and pain. It seemed really odd. I think I heard Karl Marx laughing his you-know-what off. I don’t think the gospel is a cure-all nor a coping device.

    • I agree that many Christians need to define it by what its not. Its also not…

      1. The planting of mega churches and obsession with numbers.
      2. It’s not a jihad to elect a conservative President, tip the Supreme Court, and elect a Republican Congress. The gospel I would think would not be married to politics.
      3. It’s not an emphesis on morality. Other’s can be more moral than Christians including some atheists/agnositcs I’ve met and Mormons.
      4. Its not about an abundent family life where you’ll get hitched, get a wife and pop out a couple of smiling kids like you see in prayer letters and updates from fundgelical missionary organizations.
      5. It recognizes that some issues are not as important such as evolution, 6 day creationism, etc..
      6. It’s not about endless church programs and lists of how to get from point A to B. Fundegelicals love order, and legalism.
      7. It’s not about legalism and do’s and dont’s

      Okay I said my bit. Anyone who knows a place that doesn’t have those incorporated into the culture, and it’s here in the Washington, D.C. area let me know. I also hope they would be willing to endure a skeptic and not stone him/her.

      • What’s the bother searching if you don’t believe it exists?

        • That is a good point! Personally I’d like some answers that’s why I keep reading, hanging around differnet web sites, and processing the information. I keep hoping that I’ll find something that will click and make sense. I don’t enjoy where I am however I also don’t want to be dishonest either. If I went to a church I’d have to be like so many fundegelicals today and play along while pulling Bible versus out of my ass with 110% certainity.

          Another point I also wonder is if my reading, searching might be in vain especially if the predestnation Calvinists are correct. If I am not predestined that means I am wasting my time, of which I might as well say “”%^&$ this!!” and move on…

          Gotta love those fundegelicals. We had quite an earthquake in DC today. I felt like I was back in California. I’m starting a pool Brendan to see if we can predict who will tie the quake to the following

          A. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal
          B. Obama still in power
          C. God is punishing the US because more people haven’t voted for the Tea Party.
          D. Some school board in Virginia is teaching evolution.

          And who will make that outrageous annoucnement after a disaster… Will it be…

          A. John Piper
          B. Mark Driscoll
          C. Jonathan Falwell
          D. Pat Robertson

          You want in?

          • I want in. How about this…

            “In his speech President Obama announced that government geologists have confirmed that yesterday’s earthquake was caused by a recently overused fault-line called ‘Bush’s Fault.'”

            or this…

            “This morning Congresswoman Maxine Waters blamed the Tea Party for yesterday’s earthquake. However, contrary to her claim experts have confirmed that the quake was caused by the Founding Fathers collectively rolling over in their graves.”

            Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

          • You ask for the impossible, because you ask for the perfect.

            Anyone who knows a place that doesn’t have those incorporated into the culture, and it’s here in the Washington, D.C. area let me know. I also hope they would be willing to endure a skeptic and not stone him/her.

            Obviously even a good church will have people in it that are culturally American Evangelical. Also, while I find it reasonable to inquire whether or not a church can handle criticism, it’s strange to me that if you found a church to meet your criteria you still lead with your right to be critical. This is kinda what prompts me to state

            What’s the bother searching if you don’t believe it exists?

            If you look for something hard enough, your bound to find it. Your demeanor (which admittedly I can be misinterpreting) seems bent to find errors and imperfections, which you will never have a problem finding. But this website is PROOF that there are churches across America that meet your criteria. And if such churches are everywhere across the nation, then there is bound to be one in your area. You keep ranting and raving about “fundgelicals” but not every church deserves that classification. Does the ELCA not have a presence in DC? What about the TEC? UMC? Are there no emergent churches in DC? You cannot possibly tell me that there aren’t any honest Christians who aren’t fundgelical within 50 miles of where you live. That is simply an impossibility. Unless your criteria is larger than what you’ve been leading on about… honest people do exist, and they’re bound to have a church near you.

          • Brenden I stay away from churches for the most part because I don’t agree with a lot of what they teach. Many have a scorched earth policy and here toward the south they are quite legalistic. I don’t think many chruches or Bible studies would be patient enough to endure my questions. Many Christians I knew from the prior fundgelical world wouldn’t know what to say or accuse me of sterotyping them. I have a lot of disagreements and think very differently.

            In regards to Washington, D.C. you have to understand one thing about this town. It’s political. It’s the national capital of the United States with the Congress, Presidency, and executive branches located here. A lot of lobbyists, think tanks, etc.. are headquartered.here. Many people move here for work of becuase they want to make a difference. It’s not uncommon to bump into people who moved to DC to try and influence public policy. When I lived in Wisconsin the schools in my backyard were Wheaton, Moody, and Trinity. And I respect those places. Here…the schools in my backayrd are Liberty, Regent, and Patrick Henry. Spend some time on their websites and see what they say about engaging in the culture wars, etc.. Did you watch the news during George W Bush’s administration? So many people came from Falwell’s, or Robertson’s school or Patrick Henry.

            Christianity here is poisoned by politics, politics, politics. I heard some really harsh things by people who marry their faith and poltiics when I went to chruch and believed more. For me Christianity can be repulsive, especially here because you see the ugly side here. Its loud and noticeable.

            And I’m not trying to focus on the negative, I just call it as I see it. Some Christians execuse mostly everything but wont call a person on the carpet…unless its someone like Joel Olsten or Brian McLaren who I heard criticized in church. With the exception of those outside the faith, or some of the Catholics, Greek Orthodox, etc..no one called Jerry Falwell on the carpet on some of the stuff he said. I would be horrified that Christians would tolerate what he said and that no one challenged him.

            You could move here an expereince it for yourself!!

          • With all due respect Eagle, your dodging my questions/suggestions. I can totally understand how branches of Conservative Evangelical churches would be hyper-politicized in DC, but NONE of the churches I suggested were “fundgelical”. Jim Wallis is an anti-fundgelical who is located right in DC (my personal opinion is that he is hyper-political, but with a liberal bent). From the Heart Church Ministries is a large historically Black church also located in the DC area. From the Heart location and service times http://www.fthcm.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=14768 Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches while conservative in bent, usually are a lot more reserved politically than they’re evangelical counter parts. Orthodox Church in America, DC archdioceses http://oca.org/parishes/diocese/WA Antiochian Orthodox Church DC area http://www.antiochian.org/parishes/statedirectory/district%20of%20columbiaYour disdain for fundgelicals may be well deserved, but your failure to recognize that they aren’t the only branch of Christianity is a sin of omission. Continuing to rant and rave about them fuels your bitterness, but it appears to also blind you to possible solutions and alternatives.

          • Brenden-

            Perhaps you haven’t seen my other posts.

            1. I grew up in a Catholic family, I received the sacremanets up until confirmation when I was in high school. I was frustrated with Catholicism and left it while in college. I was out of the Catholic church when the entire pedophilia scandal took place. Part of my concern about Catholicism is related to how the church protected many pedophile priests, moved them around, and in some cases criticized the vicitms. I’ve had passionate discussions with my family over this issue. When it was happening my parents thought it was blown out of preportion by the media and the media was attacking the church. They still have a difficult time with it today. I, on the other hand, can’t believe that a church organization would would allow so much harm to come to children. Where was the common sense? Do you think it was normal and healthy to place a pedophile priest around more young children only to leave them vulnerable? For me that was just sick. No not all Catholic priests did that I know. But the volume and scale of it was shocking.
            2. In regards to the orthodox I haven’t looked into them. Maybe its my take but I was under the impression that the orthodox churches had ties to their respective governments, kind of like how the Lutheran church is in Finland or Sweden.
            3. Sojourners is a possibility. I’ve thought of that actually.

            Here’s what I tell a couple of friends when I get together and discuss theology. I’m 37 and I’ve been invovled to a certain degree with 3 religions. Catholcism, Mormonism, Evangelical/Fundementalism (depending on how you define it). I don’t know what to do, how ot move forward of where to go. I sitll live with the scars of those previous chruch expereinces. Some days I look back at my exploration in Mormonism and think, “WTF? How could I have thought that Joseph Smith was a prophet?” I’ve also done that with evangelicalism, “How could I have believed in the rapture? WTF?” So I have these experience and am incredibly wreary of having a 4th. Going in and out of religions can be emotionally draining. And right now I’m hesitant of adding to the experiences.

            The best thing I think for me is reading books (ie Philip Yancey, Greg Boyd, and others I come across) , participating in blogs such as this, and hanging around and talking about this one on one. I had lunch today with one freind and he suggested one of two things on top of discussions about evil, etc.. 1 was to pick a book of the Bible and read through it together and discuss. 2. Is read J I Packer’s book “Knowing God” and discuss that. I’m thinking and weighing the options.

            Does that clear it up?

  2. textjunkie says:

    I guess I should go read the links, but I always thought the Good News was that God so loved the world, he gave his only-begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not die, but have eternal life. Succinct, but thorough. Unpacking that little verse takes a lifetime.

    The rest–what that means, how the Christian community should behave, arguments over atonement, what it means to “believe in him” , what it means that he is “coming again” or what it means to ‘be forgiven”–are all human attempts to choreograph our response to that mystery. They are deep questions, they are serious wrestling matches with hard questions, they are heartfelt responses from previous generations that require our consideration; but they are not the Gospel itself, per se.

  3. Hey, Chaplain Mike, you have hit it out of the park again with your list under “(as I understand it at this point)” on the Gospel. Along with your understanding of the Bible and the Church, you have a great theme going here.

  4. well done!

  5. Without a doubt, I say, nail it to the door!

  6. br. thomas says:

    Am looking forward to the discussion. Mike!

    BTW, I had posted the following comment at the “Out of Ur” website in response to a book review (http://www.outofur.com/archives/2011/08/did_jesus_preac.html); it relates to the topic:

    “In May of 2006, I attended a Renovare conference in Long Beach, CA. Dallas Willard was one of the speakers and he gave a message entitled: “The Gospel Jesus Taught and the Atonment”. He said that there are three “gospels” commonly preached:

    1. Forgiveness if Sins (atonement)
    2. Social Gospel of Liberation
    3. “You take care of your church and your church will take care of you” gospel

    He said said the fourth gospel, the one Jesus preached, is that you can live in the kingdom of God now (John 17:3). He spoke about this in the context of spiritual formation, something he claimed really does not happen in churches today. One of the consequences of preaching a gospel of atonement is that you can be a Christian (someone who is saved and is waiting to be with Jesus when they die) without being a disciple or follower of Christ in the here and now. Made sense to me.”

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “evangelicals have built a ‘salvation culture’ but not a ‘gospel culture,’” reducing the gospel to “the message of personal salvation.”

    Make that “Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation” — Walk the aisle, Say the Magic Words, and get your Get-Out-of-Hell-Free ticket punched. Like condensing Lord of the Rings into a one-page flashfic — you’re going to lose a bit in the process.

    • I still would like to know about what happens in this culture if people where born in the wrong place at the wrong time. So I guess if you were born , lived, and died in Wuhan, China in 100 BC…in the fundegelical culture you would be SOL. $%^# out of luck!! 😯

      • Eagle, my RC honchos sang the same song for a LONNGGG time before changing their tune, so I have to “out” me and mine as formerly guilty of the same craziness. You, my brother, keep me honest and with my BS meter finely tuned (and I wish I could pull out my heart and let you read it, but your heart is the only one that you can listen with, I know).

      • Eagle…in a document titled LUMEN GENTIUM written by Pope Paul VI, 1964, he writes about those who have net heard of Jesus: “Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.” Radical guy, that Pope Paul VI.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          P6 is restating an old idea known as the “Baptism of Desire”.

          The first (fictional) example that comes to mind is Emeth of Calormen from Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle.

  8. This is where I am at right now in my understanding of the Gospel and the “lens” that I read scripture.

    Trust and commit to this good news found in Jesus Christ:
    No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you –
    You are a child of God, You are created by God, You are accepted by God, You are loved by God.
    Nothing and no one can ever take this blessing away.
    May this truth become the foundation of your life.

    • Brian,

      I agree with what you said, as far as it goes. Certainly that is included in the Gospel. But what I have been finding recently is that thought needs to be added regarding the Church and the Kingdom. I think the Gospel relates more to us corporately rather than personally. I don’t even know if I agree much with the idea of a “personal” Savior. When the Gospel reaches an individual, the individual becomes part of the group. I think it is about us united with Christ instead of me united with Christ.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Besides being a Christianese buzzword, “Personal LORD and Savior (TM)” can all too easily mutate into “Me, Jesus, and NOBODY else.”

        • And Jesus has a million and one definitions depending upon a church. You can go up and down a street in the community you live in. Say it has 20 churches each will define Jesus differently. That’s part of the problem with fundgelicalism. Which Jesus is it?

  9. I should add that this Good News extends to everyone and even all creation in some mysterious way!

  10. Chaplain Mike, I haven’t had a chance to read the articles you linked, but I loved your definition of the gospel. I agreed with your statement about Christ’s kingdom–that it was “inaugurated in Jesus [and] will be consummated when he returns…” I have a friend, though, that would completely disagree with that statement. She would say that Christ’s second coming is merely his second coming, not a consummation of his kingdom. She says this because of her belief (as far as I can tell; I hope I’m not misrepresenting her) that the kingdom arrived in fullness–in the hearts of believers–with Christ’s first coming.

    How would you respond to that belief, and how would you explain where you belief came from or how would you back it up?

    Thanks!

    • Good question. I’m busy at work, so I will answer a bit later.

    • I’m not sure I know exactly what your friend believes. It sounds like a form of perfectionism. As for the Kingdom being here in its fullness, whether in my heart or anywhere else, if this is it, I’m frankly disappointed.

      • I’m not sure I’ve heard it before either. It sounds a little social gospel-ish to me. I said the same thing about being disappointed. I really hope that there’s something more to the kingdom than this. I asked her about it today, and she said she believes the new life begins now. I wouldn’t say I completely disagree with that, but while it may start now, it hasn’t come in fullness yet–at least I hope not.

        As for the kingdom being here, she points to Christ’s statements such as, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” “At hand,” as she has heard it interpreted/translated, more or less means “here, now.” Can you point to some scriptures that back up the belief that the kingdom is inaugurated but not yet consummated?

  11. Chaplin Mike,

    This is a very well thought out outline. While I have a lot of questions as to particulars I’ll stick with the more general.

    1) There doesn’t seem to be anything here about repentance which seemed pretty central to the proclamation of Jesus of Nazareth. If repentance isn’t part of the Gospel how does it relate to the Gospel?

    2) There is nothing here about the sacraments which seems odd given both the way Jesus of Nazareth began his own public ministry and the record of the early church in Acts. If the sacraments are not part of the Gospel how do they relate to the Gospel?

    3) There’s a lot in your outline that would be essentially unintelligible to the unchurched. How would you present such an outline to someone who doesn’t already have a substantial Biblical and Theological vocabulary?

    4) When one admits that their presentation of the Gospel is tentative (As in “as I understand it at this point”) how does that effect its proclamation?

    • Dan H.: in regards to your point #1; what part of this does not address the entire issue of repentance?

      ?The Gospel invites all people to turn from their own wisdom and ways that separate them from God and his blessing, and to trust Jesus for forgiveness and new life in the Holy Spirit as members of his new community of faith, hope, and love.

    • Good questions. I’m busy at work, so I will answer a bit later.

    • 1. As for repentance, Joseph got it.

      2. I’m all for including the sacraments in a definition. I chose to focus on larger idea categories and not specific practices.

      3. How would I present this more simply? “The Gospel tells us that the main event in God’s story has taken place in Jesus. By becoming human, revealing God’s kingdom to us, dying for our sins, rising again, ascending into heaven, and sending the Spirit, Jesus did the work necessary to begin to make a new creation. One day, he will come again to complete his work, and heaven and earth will be one.”

      4. I am not tentative about the basic facts of the Gospel. Like Paul I glory in them (Rom 1:16-17). However, the gospel is so rich and profound, that we are always discovering new aspects and implications of it.

  12. Charles Fines says:

    It never ceases to astound me that we have such divergent views of what is right there at the core of God’s message to us in Jesus of Nazareth. It seems to me that in trying to pin this down that there are some basic requirements.

    1) Whatever it is, the immediate response to it, by definition, ought to be that it is good news.

    2) It needs to be something that can be announced in one very loud breath where people are gathered like a newsboy shouting the headline and it should cause people to want to know more.

    3) In that Jesus said you had to enter the Kingdom as a little child or you couldn’t get in, it ought to be understandable to a little child.

    4) It ought to square with the Bible accounts of Jesus proclaiming whatever he proclaimed for more than three years.

    It seems to me perfectly plain that what Jesus proclaimed as good news was, “The Kingdom of God is at hand! John the Baptist was proclaiming this before Jesus started his mission and when Jesus sent his disciples out to announce the good news this is what he told them to say.

    Obviously Jesus did a lot of unpacking of this announcement as did those who followed, and it is in the unpacking that we don’t reach agreement. That is another matter. In my view the main reason we don’t agree in the unpacking is that we can’t even agree on what the basic message was, and is, that needs unpacking.

  13. “The Gospel (Good News) is the divinely-authorized proclamation that the appointed time has arrived and God has come to restore his blessing to his broken creation.”
    Chaplain Mike, I really like that quote!

    I love how the Psalms and the Gospels are intensely relational. They seem to have a “we and God” AND “me and God” message. It’s like the bible is this great meta-narrative of God restoring his creation… intermixed with individual stories of redemption along the way.

    Just when you think the Psalms are all about Israel and God, you’ll find Psalms that are very personal. Just when you think Jesus’ ministry is all about masses of humanity (like the feeding of 5,000), he stops and calls each of us individually (Like when he says, “Mary” in the garden).

    Peace,
    Brian

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A lot of Mainstream Churchianity is out-of-balance in the “We, Not Me” direction.

      Evangelical Churchianity is out-of-balance in the “Me, Not We” direction.

      • Good point. Catholics can easily get away with the anonymity of the group. This Sunday’s sermon was “Who do YOU say I am?” Our priest delivered it beautifully and it personalized things for a lot of people.

  14. Kelby Carlson says:

    If I had to condense the Gospel into one sentence, I might go with N. T. Wright:

    “Jesus is lord.”

    I might. I see problems with even that definition, but unpacking its implications is, to my mind, where one gets the fullness of the Gospel.

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      I was thinking about that as well as Chap. Mike’s quotation of the “Mystery of Faith” at the end of his piece as the best one-sentence or able-to-be-shouted-in-one-breath summations of the Gospel. Of course, they have to be unpacked. But what packages to unpack!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “The Mystery of Faith”?

        As far as I know, that’s what we repeat every Mass during the preparation of the Eucharist. Here’s the response we give, in unison:

        “Christ has Died,
        Christ is Risen,
        Christ will Come Again.”

  15. The gospel is overrated.

    What we really need is a religion project that puts us back in charge of things and gains us points as we climb the rungs of the ladder to Heaven.

    .

    • Did someone hack your account Steve?

      • Mike,

        It’s me, Mike!

        People (some people) don’t say it baldly like that, but in essence that is what they advocate.

        I haven’t really gone religious on you, Mike. If I do…I want you to hunt me down and throw a bucket of cold water on my head.

        Thanks!

  16. I’ve been thinking lately on this question in preparation for (maybe) starting a new job as a chaplain in a high school. Could it be that ‘the Gospel’ cannot be defined outside of a specific context? Could it be that the Gospel is so pervasive that it appears meaningless without a context and that the Gospel always needs to be ‘the Gospel to XXXX’ where XXXX is a person, culture, group, etc. This would, I believe, not just allow for, but require that the Gospel to speak through a multitude of expressions, including white or non-white, western or non-western, historical or novel.

    With this in mind, where I’m at with the Gospel at the moment is that it is ‘I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.’

    • I think the Gospel itself can be defined objectively. How it is communicated may take on different forms with different emphases appropriate to one’s audience.

    • It can be tempting to think this way, but I think in the main that it ignores the power of the gospel. It creates a culture—it is not merely defined in or by a culture.

      At the core of it, the gospel is the revelation of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The historical reality of the physical incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what creates a gospel culture.

      The idea of gospel-as-restoration (as opposed to a simple “get out of hell free card”) has a great deal to say for itself. Vis-a-vis culture, though, we should take care to understand that there really is an objective restoration to be had: if this world is but a shadow, there must be an objective world that casts it. There is something not a little perfidious in the notion that the gospel is purely conforming, rather than reforming, because it suggests that the shadow is actually the reality.

  17. I was looking at the book, “Christian Atheist” by Craig Groeschel. In a nutshell, he states that many who call themselves Christian act like atheists, i.e. the reality of the living Christ is not present in their lives. I get the point, but I think Groeschel missed it. To me, it is insulting to atheists to compare quasi-Christians to them. I think perhaps the contrast between salvation-focus and gospel-focus may be at the heart of the problem. We often think of converts who merely seek fire insurance; once they are assured of their salvation, they check that box and go on their merry way.

    But there is another side to this. People seeking an answer to the ultimate concern or meaning in life are given a cook book answer which derails any such pursuit. Just believe in Jesus, and all of the questions of life, death, joy, pain, etc. are suddenly solved? Is that all there is? What’s left but pragmatic, narcissistic, hedonistic indugence? There are atheists with a greater sense of wonder and ultimate concern in life than many Christians.

    Salvation-oriented culture is more than a false gospel; it is a vaccine protecting one from the full effect of the kairos of the gospel message: that a time-changing, earth-shattering event occurred with the coming of the Son of Man: the time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand. It makes biblical diet plans look even more silly.

    • Very well put!

    • Dumb ox…part of the reason why I like agnosticism is that I can love better and show more grace to the world. As a fundegelical that was hard to do. I obssessed over their salvation status and fretted about their sin. If was an approved sin, say gluttony, etc.. that was okay. If it was an unapporeved, your damned to hell sin, ie abortion, sexual, etc.. than I would be harsh with them.

      But agnostics and atheists can show more grace, love, peace and compassion than Christians can do. I wish that weren’t the case but I believe it is…. :’-(

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

        I dunno. . . I’ve seen and known folks who are Christians that are amazing examples of grace, love, peace, and compassion as well as folks from other faiths or no faiths. I’ve also seen and known folks who are complete jackasses from all streams of faith and religion as well as no faith or religion. Part of being human, I reckon.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Salvation-oriented culture” is more than that. It’s Anti-Life.

      Judaism has always struck me as very Earthy. Remember the Jewish toast?
      “L’Chaim!”
      “To Life!”

      And Judaism emphasized Living Your Life. Salvation-oriented Evangelical Culture emphasizes denying Life for Future Salvation/Rapture/etc. (Sign the Future over to The Antichrist, clutch your Ticket to Heaven, and wait to be beamed up.) And it’s attempts to live Life (Testamints, GodTube, Scripture Soap, Jesus Junk, “Just like Fill-in-the-Blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” come across as bad cartoons of themselves.

  18. Let’s queue up Geerhardus Vos & Abraham Kuyper…a pretty good school in Grand Rapids that’s been proclaiming exactly this for over 100 years. What, exactly, did Christ accomplish on the cross? Personal redemption? Adam’s sin meant cosmic consequences. Christ’s work, as the 2nd Adam, fixed what was broken and the outpouring of the HS at Pentecost is applying that redemption across creation, including all those appointed to salvation.

  19. Awesome.

    The only thing I would clarify is the 3rd point in that list is that instead of “their own wisdom” and I would say something like “the wisdom of the world”, which includes humanity, but also includes the ways of some other non-human forces.

    • Oh, and one more thing, I love this line of thought. That, as NT Wright would put it, the “gospel” has been made too much about the cross, but there are plenty of times when it is preached without it. (Like when Jesus tells His disciples to preach the Good News of the Kingdom BEFORE Jesus has died on the cross.)

      • And scottee, the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him was told that he would be in paradise that very day with Jesus. That thief knew nothing about Jesus resurrecting because Jesus obviously had not done that yet. So, those folks that lay out a list of things you have to know and believe to be “saved” may be a bit incorrect. Jesus is the saviour of the world, period. The why and how of that is what people argue about and write about. It can be fun and interesting but it can be deadly and divisive too.

        • Anyone know how often “gospel of the cross” or “good news of the cross” is used in the New Testament? I’d wager it’s less than “good news of the kingdom”.

  20. Glad to see the discussion of this crucial topic. Eric Foley, at ericfoley.com, recently did an illuminating 8-part exploration on what the gospel is. Here’s the link to the first installment:

    http://ericfoley.com/2011/07/25/proclaiming-the-gospel-part-i-merging-from-the-roman-road-onto-the-interstate-highway-system-of-full-octane-gospel-proclamation/

  21. I’m not sure where to interject this into the discussion, but I think it is relevant. I just received a link to a preview of the new movie, “All That Remains” by Ian and Dominique Higgins, which is about a Japanese Christian who survives the bombing of Nagasaki. The preview segues from the tag line “There was one thing [the bomb] could not destroy” to fading in on a cross laying upon the rubble. I don’t know much else about the movie, but this is the kind of gospel I want to talk about.