Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Content of the Gospel

One of the areas I have been looking at in my research is what I call the evangelical witness of various evangelical traditions. The idea of evangelical witness gives me a broad way of talking about a variety of practices that these traditions employ in trying to present their understanding of the gospel to people outside of their groups. But what I didn't think was worth tackling in my paper (which has a stronger focus on the dismantling of the sacred/secular split going on in many emerging churches) is the content of this gospel. As I look at various evangelical movements I see that many of them consider a presentation of substitutionary atonement as the gospel. The Bridge Illustration is a good example of what I am talking about. It becomes a formula: you have sinned, you need to repent, Jesus paid for your sin, here's your get to go to heaven card now take your place on that pew over there. Certainly as someone with twenty plus years in the evangelical world I was led to believe this is the whole of the gospel content, now I am far from sure it is even the most appropriate presentation. Seriously, is this really good news? And if the gospel is supposed to be good news, then what is that good news and how is it relevant to the world that God is supposed to love so much? These are questions worth meditating on before the next time you are tempted to strap on a big placard and go out into public.

BTW the guy in the picture looks like a guy I know, and yes I can totally see him with an sign like this. Scary.


Richard said...

I'm in the middle of composing a post on the same subject at the moment. Actually, the bloke in the picture has a pretty progressive view of the gospel, on his version the gospel did not begin and end on good friday - there's room for the resurrection as well!

I'd love to read your research at some point if you're willing?

One of Freedom said...

Yeah for sure. I know that it goes into the database of dissertations at some point. When I'm done I plan on turning it into a .pdf and making it available to whoever asks. I think I begin an important discussion about the importance of the emerging church. I'll post something when it is ready.

Anonymous said...

I remember running into this question a couple of years ago. Sometimes the Holy Gospel gets defined as "salvation by faith alone" in the substitutionary death of Christ. I compare this to the early Apostolic preaching found in the Book of Acts 2:22-40, and I wonder....3000 believed and were saved, no where mentioned is the idea of "faith alone."

Considering also Acts 13:16-41, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, the Gospel it would seem is the death, burial, AND resurrection of Jesus. That, IS good news!!!! :-)

Can't wait to read your research as well Frank! Keep it up bro!

One of Freedom said...

Hey Mike! Thanks for the encouragement.

Acts is the wrong genre to get at content for the gospel. At least not easily. But we must also remember that Jesus called the message of the Kingdom the good news. But my big contention is that the gospel isn't just rhetoric, it is also an orientation expressed through living epistles (you and I my friend).