Theological Issue #1

What is the Gospel?

Jesus IS the good news, and He came preaching "the kingdom of God." References to the Gospel from many pulpits are reductionistic, as though the Gospel can be compressed into three or four points, or dualistic, as if personal salvation can be separated from the advent of God's healing reign in the world.1 George Hunsberger comments that the verbs we use to describe God's reign, like extend or build, contrast with the New Testament verbs of receive and enter2, and thus point to a different kind of relationship between God's people and His reign.3 Dallas Willard represents the dualistic perspective as "the gospel of sin management." Willard comments,

"..the Gospel is not that Jesus died on the cross for your sins so you can go to heaven when you die, but that the Gospel that Jesus preached was the Gospel of the Kingdom. When you say this to people they look at you like you're insane. 'Of course the Gospel is that you can go to heaven when you die', they say. But the Gospel isn't a one-time event, it's a daily participation with Christ in the Kingdom life."4

Moreover, the church has sometimes been identified with God's reign, thus short circuiting the missio dei in favor of church growth. Rather the church is spawned by the reign of God and directed toward it. The ekklesia is a sign and a foretaste of the basiliea, and an agent and instrument of God's reign.5

Western consumer culture has focused on the cross and substitutionary atonement.. In "Flame of Love," Clark Pinnock remarks that we have fixated on the Cross in our thinking about the atonement, in part because we misread "It is finished," and in part because western Christianity has focused on the legal aspects of justification over the experiential aspects (sanctification), placing the work of the Son over the work of the Spirit.6 In part this is due to the western focus on guilt over redemption.. the walking out of the Christ life.

But the Cross is more than atonement, it is identification. And the Cross is more than an ending, it inaugurates a new kingdom and a new community.7

Go to Issue #2: Leadership and Authority

Notes

1 See Robert Bellah, 1992. Habits of the Heart. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
2 Guder, Darrel, Ed. 1998. Missional Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans. p.93-94
3 In this vein see also Jacques Ellul, The False Presence of the Kingdom. New York, NY: Fortress Press, 1971.
4 Willard, Dallas. 2004. "Stepping Into Community." Interview in Relevant Magazine. www.relevantmagazine.com
5 Guder. Op Cit. p.98-101
6 Pinnock, Clark. 1996. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Downer's Grove, Ill: IVP.
7 Thus John Driver comments, "The church is by definition a community. The question which confronts the church today therefore is, 'What kind of community will we be?'"


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• © 2005 Len Hjalmarson.• Last Updated on September 9, 2005