Monday, July 28, 2008

What is the Gospel?

Let’s do a hypothetical: You’re waiting in a grocery line, or waiting for the next subway train, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or waiting for an oil change; and there are people all around you. One of these people, surprisingly, notices something about you that is intriguing, perhaps a book you’re reading, and asks you, “So I bet you are a Christian. I’ve heard about this Gospel of Jesus Christ thing – what is that exactly?”

What would you say? What is the Gospel? How do you explain it simply, completely, correctly, faithfully, effectively, in a relatively short period of time, and recognizing that the person who is asking you undoubtedly has countless preconceptions, experiences, and understandings as a result of being immersed in this post-modern culture?

Well, this is not a new question, nor an easy one, and the Church has been trying to figure it out for years. This blog specifically has been trying to do it for about seven months, offering it as simple truth for a complex culture. But unfortunately, because the culture is complex sometimes the truth is not that simple. So, if you’re willing, I’d like to encourage some reader participation and ask you to respond with what you think. What is the Gospel? I will try to do the same myself after a little while.

But first, here are some of the guides I have used as I wrestled with this issue. I encourage you to check them out – sometimes it takes a lot of information to understand a simple truth. Otherwise, perhaps, the Bible wouldn’t have to be 66 books. As you’re thinking about it, remember that “the Gospel” is true, and necessary for the ultimate hope and joy of every human being; that helps me put it into perspective when I am thinking about how (or whether) to explain it to someone who looks like they are getting by fine without it, or to someone who is desperate because they’ve never heard it. And those someones could be the same someone.

The Christian Vision Project – Is our gospel too small?

Tim Keller – The Gospel in all its Forms

D.A. Carson – What is the Gospel?

Al Hsu – A Multifaceted Gospel

John Piper – How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels

Mark Dever – Improving the Gospel: Lessons in Unbiblical Theology

James Chambers – Gospel Zeal

1 comment:

dottie said...

So no one has posted a response yet...? I'll jump in with my preliminary thoughts.

A colleague of mine said something at a recent faculty orientation that, although referring to the concept of teaching writing, fits with the idea of succinctly answering the question: what is the Gospel? She said, "You can know something confidently and with the utmost certainty--until you have to explain it to someone." Funny how that happens.

So often, something happens that makes our ability to put belief into words seem like the most complicated task, even though it really shouldn't be. It's like the head and heart knowledge are there, but the words are on vacation. So your question is a great one. After all, most organizations have their "elevator speeches" down to an art. Shouldn't a Christian have some such tool at his or her disposal, too?

Althought I haven't really crafted such an answer here, I'd say I'd start with a bit of 1 Corinthians 15 and put into my own words what's easily paraphrase-able and see where the conversation goes from there.