Thursday, April 26, 2012

One Message, Many Forms

Is there one gospel, or are there multiple gospels? I'm not referring to the four books we call "the Four Gospels," but to the message about Jesus called the gospel. I think there is only one gospel, but many models or forms for expressing it. Found this quote in an article by Tim Brister, referencing a Tim Keller argument. I agree with it wholeheartedly.
One of the most significant articles Tim Keller has written on the gospel can be found at Christianity Today, entitled “The Gospel in All Its Forms“.  In this article, Keller borrows from Simon Gathercole’s chapter in God’s Power to Save to explain the various “forms” of the gospel. Contrary to liberal theologians, Keller says there is not multiple gospels, but one gospel expressed in different forms.

For instance, when Jesus speaks of the gospel in the Synoptic Gospels, kingdom language is employed (“gospel of the kingdom”). In this case, the gospel speaks to the inauguration of Christ’s reign as King, and the focus is more communal and social.  When the Apostle John writes about the Gospel, there is no mention of kingdom language but rather “receiving eternal life,” and the focus is more individual and personal. When you get the writings of Paul, you hear little emphasis on “kingdom” or “eternal life” but instead the focus is on “justification by faith“. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul are all talking about one message, but that message is expressed in different forms. Through an analysis of these forms, what you find is that the gospel can be expressed as story-arc focused (creation, fall, redemption, restoration) as well as content-driven (God, man, sin, Christ). Not to be left out, Keller stresses the eschatological implications of the gospel with the in breaking of God’s kingdom and renewal of all things...
Brister goes on to say:
When disciples are being made, they need to understand the whole gospel for their whole life to impact the whole world for Christ. I want them to know the content/nature of the gospel. But that is not enough. They need to experience it and find their identity in Christ personally. They also need to understand the implications and application of the gospel for all of life. In my paradigm of gospel-centered spiritual formation, here is how I break it down:
Message of the Gospel: stresses the doctrinal content of the gospel so that we can have a correct understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done (text/normative)
Story of the Gospel: stresses the experience/realization of the gospel so that we can have our affections moved and captured by who Jesus is and what He has done (subtext/existential)
Gospel of the Kingdom: stresses the implication/application of the gospel in the world so that we can have our world brought under the reign and rule of who Jesus is and what He has done (context/situational)
When the message of the gospel gives us right understanding, our minds are renewed through the glorious truths of Scripture.  When the story of the gospel gives us right affections, the story of our life is rewritten by the story of the gospel, redeeming and renewing our hearts. When the gospel of the kingdom is applied to our lives, we walk in repentance and faith so that the kingdoms of our world become the kingdom of our God.
  More at the link - Good stuff!.