Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Is The Gospel, 2:

I am privileged to spend time every week with a couple of other pastors, just talking.  We have no agenda.  We just let the conversation go where it will.
This morning the conversation--though it entered through another portal--intersected with these thoughts on the nature of the Gospel.  My one word description of our nearly two hour conversation--pendulum.  
Let me apply that concept to my musings about the Gospel:
I grew up, spiritually, and was educated in a Fundamentalist environment.  Among other things that Fundamentalists reject is the social gospel.  "We are not called to clean up the fish pond.  We are called to catch fish."  We weren't opposed to humanitarian efforts; we just didn't get very involved in them.  The reasoning went something like this:  If I have only a limited amount of resources to invest would I rather invest those resources in helping people more be comfortable in this life, or would I rather spend them to enable people to be infinitely more comfortable for all eternity?  When put in those terms the correct answer is obvious.
In actuality, those who were actually on the front-lines doing ministry didn't make such a black and white distinction.  They tended to minister to people.  The hearts of those who carried the gospel to places where the need is great were often broken by the depth of need that they saw.  They offered whatever help they could to meet whatever needs they saw.  Clearly, though, the overwhelming emphasis was on the John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 Gospel.  Particularly from a rhetorical viewpoint, though, Fundamentalists vocally reacted against the "social gospel"--good works largely devoid of clear Bible teaching.  They saw the pendulum as being way over here, so they shoved it the other direction.  Many would say they shoved it too far.

Now some people are asking some questions.  The questions I hear tend to ask, "Is the gospel really as narrow as many have defined it?
In the recent message I shared, I identified these lines of inquiry, all of which have to do with scope of the Gospel:
  • Does the Gospel only result in a one-time change, or does it initiate changed life?
  • Is the result of the Gospel limited to the change in an individual’s life?
  • Is the goal of the Gospel a saved person or a redeemed church?
  • Does the message of the Gospel have any implications toward the non-human creation?
  • In thinking since I shared the message I would add this one as well:  Does the presentation of the Gospel only include message of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord, and the implications of Christ's saving work to the lives of those to whom I am talking?
As I think about these questions--and I think if you look herehere, and here, you can see that others are asking of these, or similar, questions--I have come to see more clearly that like most questions of balance this is complicated.

I'll leave this here for now.
I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts.

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