Saturday, 7 March 2009

What is the Gospel?

Anyone got $64,000 for the answer?

But as promised on Thursday I want to put in a few thoughts.

What is the "good news"?

I think Steve Chalke had a point. I also think it was poorly expressed, using terminology that was bound to offend, which was a clear mistake. I also don't agree with his conclusions. But it does not stop Him having a point about the way the gospel is sometimes presented. I fear his danger is sending the baby, the tub and about half the bathroom out with the bathwater.

What is our gospel? What is the "good news" we offer people?

Often I hear:
  • You are a sinner.
  • Your relationship with God is destroyed by your sin.
  • Your sin has made God angry and he has to punish it.
  • God would rather forgive you than punish you but he can't let your sin go unpunished
  • Jesus is the only person who can take your punishment
  • God sent Jesus to be punished when He died on the cross
  • Now you can put your faith in Jesus, and be forgiven, and go to heaven when you die
Anger, wrath, punishment, vengeance. Those presenting it, in trying to make the point clearly, try to express just how angry God is or just how bad our sin is. The message can come across as very dark.

There appears little room left for "For God so loved the world".

If our talks start to sound very dark then are we expressing Jesus, the Light of the world very well?

Then social action becomes slightly at odds with what the gospel presented sounds like. "We love you but our God is angry at you" looks inconsistent.

Some people go too far and depict God as an all loving sky fairy who wants to cuddle people into His kingdom and therefore miss the severity and implications of human sin, and reduce the role of God's justice.

But some do depict God as an angry old man in the sky with a bad temper and we miss His great love for us.

I do think we need to be very careful how we depict God and how we express Jesus as it is so quickly misunderstood by hearers. There is a middle road which encompasses the rich variety of what the gospel means and strikes a level of balance. I think we need to explain the love and justice of God in proportion because neither facet of God's character is fully expressed without the other.

NB: This is not intended to be a theological defence of anything. Just a snapshot of some of the gospel messages I have heard.

1 comment:

PamBG said...

The thing is that presenting the Good News of Christ is not the same as laying out a systematic theology.

In defence of Steve Chalke, I think that his controversial book was trying to do the former and was attacked as if it were trying to do the latter.

This past Christmas season, the Churches Together here held a short Christmas service in one of the shopping centres, designed as a witness outreach. We were going well until the preacher started in on 'You are a sinner'; at which point about 1/3 of the people looked disgusted and walked away. When challenged on this later by others, his answer was that they didn't want to deal with their sin and so they walked away. I probably agree with that. But I wonder how the speaker intended to get his Good News across once people had gone?

Many people aren't going to recognise their sinfulness until they have come to love God. Shouldn't loving God come as the first step? Or don't we trust the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sins?