The question has become quite heated in recent days. Evangelicals are dividing into different camps, largely depending on what they emphasize as the vital part of the gospel message...Hey, the Book of Acts ends with Paul "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ " (Acts 28:31). The messages of the Cross and the Kingdom belong together, and must be kept together. What God has joined together let not theological arguments put asunder!
On the other hand, there are pastors and scholars who are publicly resisting the idea that we need to increase our view of the gospel. A major evangelical leader at a recent conference asked the question: ”Is our gospel too big?” He listed what he sees as the dangers of confusing the gospel’s implications with the gospel itself.
It seems that two opposing camps are forming. The first camp believes we have truncated the gospel by only focusing on individual salvation at the expense of the cosmic dimension of Jesus’ lordship. Furthermore, by neglecting the biblical teaching about the coming Kingdom of God, some worry that we have embraced a gospel that is so heaven-centered as to render it ineffective to speak to earthly realities.
The second camp fears that historic evangelicalism is rapidly being replaced by a resurgent “social gospel.” Alarmed at the growing number of self-professing evangelicals who are rejecting or diminishing the penal substitutionary model of the atonement or downplaying the necessity of personal faith in the finished work of Christ, these pastors and scholars choose to reaffirm their commitment to personal salvation through Christ’s atoning death. They worry that cutting out penal substitution and neglecting the importance of individual salvation will leave us with a new form of liberalism whose gospel is powerless.
Trevin Wax concludes :
Amen, brother! See my earlier posts here, here and here.
Too many speakers in both of the gospel camps have decided that the emphases of the other camp are unimportant. Instead, we need to hear the cautions from both sides. It is true that we cannot dismiss the substitutionary atonement and the importance of individual repentance without fatally wounding the gospel. Yet at the same time, we cannot dismiss the kingdom-centered nature of the gospel of Jesus and Paul and the public nature of the announcement that Jesus is Lord without reducing the gospel to a matter of private spirituality.
We should not be satisfied in either the kingdom camp or the atonement camp. Perhaps we can all be happy campers if we join with others in proclaiming a “both-and” gospel instead of an “either-or.”