What, then, is the one simple gospel?
Simon Gathercole distills a three-point outline that both Paul and the Synoptic writers held in common. (See "The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom" in God's Power to Save, ed. Chris Green Apollos/Inter-Varsity Press, UK, 2006.) He writes that Paul's good news was, first, that Jesus was the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:4ff.)
Second, by his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.) Third, on the cross Jesus broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.)
Gathercole then traces these same three aspects in the Synoptics' teaching that Jesus, the Messiah, is the divine Son of God (Mark 1:1) who died as a substitutionary ransom for the many (Mark 10:45), who has conquered the demonic present age with its sin and evil (Mark 1:14-2:10) and will return to regenerate the material world (Matt. 19:28.)
If I had to put this outline in a single statement, I might do it like this: Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.
One of these elements was at the heart of the older gospel messages, namely, salvation is by grace not works. It was the last element that was usually missing, namely that grace restores nature, as the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it. When the third, "eschatological" element is left out, Christians get the impression that nothing much about this world matters. Theoretically, grasping the full outline should make Christians interested in both evangelistic conversions as well as service to our neighbor and working for peace and justice in the world.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
From a Tim Keller article (published earlier this year) on The Gospel in All Its Forms:
Thursday, September 11, 2008
The final article in David Powlison's series on Sane Faith looks at some of the implications of the therapeutic worldview vs. the Biblical worldview. One of the points he makes:
In fact, countless factors "influence" you. Weather and seasons? You may feel gloomier during three cloudy weeks in January than you do during three bright weeks in July. The project due next week in school or on your job? The current state of your personal finances? World politics before and after 9/11? Immediate traffic conditions and whether you'll be late? What's on TV tonight? Whether your football team is winning or losing?
Any of these can affect you. But does any one decisively determine how you will react?
No. You are always in the mix.
In fact, the Bible teaches that God actually arranges the stage on which you live. He is the Lord of history, including your local time and place, and your personal history. Your particular matrix of influences provides the context in which your faith (or your self-will) plays out, in which He meets you (or you shirk Him).
This awareness frees you. You can seek to understand any contributory influence as just that, as a factor and not the cause. You won't grant them too much credit, morphing them into root causes and excuses for your sins. But you also won't dismiss them as irrelevant, ignoring the actual situations and difficulties in which you need practical wisdom and practical mercies.
How you live comes out of your heart. "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is you, not something that happens to you. Jesus says that when wrong actions appear, that wrong comes "from within, out of the heart of man" (Mark 7:21). Something about who you are and what you live for sets your trajectory in life and shapes every choice.
Deep down, everyone knows this is true.
That's why every sort of treatment or therapy involves taking some responsibility for your life. It's odd, when you think about it. According to the therapeutic outlook, you have no real responsibility for causing your problems. Your syndrome, disorder or disease was caused by genetics, hormones or how people treated you. But you are given final responsibility for solving what's wrong. You can get a grip; you can make better choices; you can choose to heal; you can change your self-talk.
Here's the logic: "You are definitely NOT a sinner. But you definitely ARE your savior."
God sees things the other way around. You definitely ARE a sinner, and you are definitely NOT your Savior.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
"Scientists believe the Higgs boson particle may be responsible for giving mass to everything in the universe. But it's never actually been discovered and remains a theory" (Scientists hope to find 'God particle' in mini Big Bang).
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
In part 2 of his series on Sane Faith, David Powlison talks about why the therapeutic establishment uses "medical-sounding labels" to diagnosis human problems:
The answer to these questions is complicated. But it boils down to two things.
First, if you face our problems for what they actually are, then you have to acknowledge the problem of evil. What's wrong is much more serious than a sickness or syndrome. Evil operates on the inside – bad zeal and selfish ambition. And evils come at us from the outside: betrayal, false values, poor role models, shallow relationships, a body going out of sync, injury, aging, death. Both sin and suffering characterize the problem of evil.
But the diagnostic labels ... never mention the E-word: evil. What distorts our lives? Evil. What breaks our lives. Evils, both inside and out. Something very dark and very complex is going on. Bad stuff comes at you, and bad stuff is an operating system inside you.
No one can fail to see evidence of evil. You feel it. You participate. But people don't want to name it for what it is. We might admit the evil of a Hitler or a suicide bomber killing innocent children. We fail to see the evils operating in normal problems.
Second, if you acknowledge the scope of the problem of evil, then you realize you need a Savior. If evil infects us all, then someone not under the power of evil must bring light and life from outside the system of darkness and death. That person is Jesus Christ....
But if you don't want to need Jesus Christ, then you must deny the depth and scope of the problem of evil.