Tuesday, April 17, 2007

So what is the good news then?

Rupert is currently blogging about mission. I recommend folks go over and check it out. Don't be afraid to comment! On a kind of parallel theme, I think its time to think again about what the gospel (Good News) actually is. I've blogged on this before, but I didn't exactly cause a storm. I'm hoping to get some more response this time.

So, as well as thinking about what our mission is, we need to think about what our message is. Previously, I said this:

These days its all too common for people to talk about the love of God. The gospel has become "God loves you and died for you", or sometimes just, "God loves you". But is that the gospel? Did Jesus incarnate, die, rise again, and ascend to heaven just to ensure he got his message through that God loved the world? Is the atonement just that God loves us?

Clearly not. Surely every good jew must have known already that Yahweh loved his covenant people dearly, as a husband loves his bride.

On other hand, proclaiming that God hates you, is mad at you because you a filthy sinner, and you will burn in hell unless you believe in Jesus, is not in any shape or form the gospel either.

I am asking my readers to chuck in their tuppence worth, and comment on how they understand the gospel message. To get the ball rolling, here's what various folks say the gospel is:

N T Wright: "the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. And that his death and Resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You, in turn, can be part of the transforming work."

Loraine Boettner: "The Gospel is the good news about the great salvation purchased by Jesus Christ, by which He reconciled sinful men to a holy God."

Jeff Purswell: "The gospel is the good news of God's saving activity in the person and work of Christ. This includes his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God; his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for man's sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating God's satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church."

Adam Walker Cleveland: "The gospel is the uncontrollable and uncontainable inbreaking of God's hopes and dreams for this world, and beyond. Through the gospel, God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Spirit, bring peace, love and hope into the world, while also presenting an alternative way of life, challenging the powers and principalities that be in the world today."

Brian McLaren: "The core gospel message is the kingdom of God and [it] contains all the dimensions of Jesus' mission: the social, the personal and the saving work of the cross."

What do you think? How would you put it? After a while I will post a sequel to this post, with some of my thoughts on the gospel.


paul said...

Hmmm good to think about this. I wrote a version of what i think the gospel is about here:

Adam A said...

NT Wright puts it very well! Brian McLaren also good. I'm afraid Loraine and Jeff's definitions encompass only about 20% of what the gospel seems to be in the New Testament though.

Alastair said...

Paul: I commented on your blog regarding your "version" of the gospel.

adam: Yes, I agree, Loraine and Jeff certainly give a narrower view of the gospel. Actually I think all of the accounts stop short of summing up the NT gospel.

According to Glenn Miller, the following is a breakdown of key NT imagery concerning the cross (in brackets is the number of times such a reference appears in the NT)

The key images of His Cross-work:

1. sacrifice (32)
2. redemption/ransom (20)
3. substitute (19)
4. covenant sacrifice/ mediator (10)
5. rescue (8)
6. union (8)
7. liberation (7)
8. reconciliation (7)
9. transfer/exodus (6)
10. propitiation (5)
11. triumph (5)
12. forgiveness (4)
13. overcome (4)
14. solidarity (4)
15. justification [man] (3)
16. unification of Jew and Gentile (3)
17. debt cancellation (2)
18. heir-maker (2)
19. justification [God] (2)
20. perfection (2)
21. example of enduring suffering/reproach (1)
22. imputation (1)

So we could use this table as way of testing a gospel message's fidelity to the New Testament!

Actually, thinking again, this just concerns the cross. Obviously a central part of the gospel, but clearly not the full picture. So we have 22 elements just involving Jesus' death! Man this gets complicated...

Alastair said...

Paul : just scanned my comment to you above, it looks like by saying "version" -- in quotes -- I am implying something negative -- far from it! I just wasn't sure what to call these meta-narrative summaries, so that's why "version" is in quotes...hope you understand!

Alastair said...

Found this here, which is a discussion on the Book of Romans and the gospel therein:

The gospel is therefore a proclamation first and foremost, of a person, Jesus, who uniquely overcame death, and uniquely through his suffering on the cross plumbed the depths of the sin problem which had afflicted all mankind, not just Israel. Jesus emerged triumphant through his resurrection from the dead. He now reigns, not as a national political ruler contending with other national political systems (though his message is highly challenging to all political rulers and systems), but reigning over the powers of sin and death. He now offers the renewing life of God through the outpoured Spirit to all people who will come to him.

I thought that was a pretty good stab at a one-paragraph telling of the gospel!

I have tried a few times recently to write out my understanding of the gospel, but its hard to boil it down. You can't tell people about the GOOD news until you have some consensus about what the PROBLEMS currently are. In other words, what is wrong with the way things are with the world, with people, with society, etc., that requires God to do something that we can proclaim is GOOD news?