Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What is the gospel?

Trevin Wax who blogs at Kingdom People, has put together an interesting survey of gospel definitions.  He says they seem to fall into three categories, story, announcement, community. I think "gospel" like "love" or "faith" is a broad term, with different nuances. So depending on the context, both scripturally and historically, the gospel has these three meanings:
  • The five part story of Jesus: conception, birth, ministry, death and resurrection, as presented in the four gospels (Eg Luke 1:1f or 2 Timothy 2:8).
  • The announcement of good news about who Jesus is and what he has done (Eg Phil 2:6-11 or 1 Peter 3:18).
  • The core-theology of the Church which is centred around the crucifixion and resurrection but includes the bad news of sin, the mercy of the cross and a hope for the future (Eg Isaiah 53 or Rev 5:6-10).
I've been meaning to blog about this for a long time but was prompted to post when Arthur posted a video by Scott McKnight on Facebook. In that video Scott McKnight provokes us rightly to think about what "the gospel" actually means, although with rhetoric I wouldn't agree with. I also think it's important to discuss our definition of the gospel because it's a key phrase in our church vocabulary but one that through frequency has lost some of it's specificity. Sometimes when we talk about "the gospel" we really mean:
  • The mechanics of salvation, the doctrines of grace (aka the Ordo-Salutis) how God's saving grace works in all it's parts (Eg Rom 8:30).
  • The story of salvation, the grand meta-narrative of Scripture: creation, fall, redemption and restoration (Eg Hebrews 11).
  • A world view or behaviour that's shaped by Scripture (Eg Acts 17:11).
  • A particular aspect of salvation such as justification (Eg Rom 3:24).
Scott McKnight says 'that if we make the gospel mean everything then it means nothing' and this is correct.  I applaud McKnight for asking great questions and provoking me to think but reject his assumption from the video that personal salvation is over-empahsied. The gospel (in either of it's three forms) creates a personal reaction and requires a personal response (Rom 10:9-10)