Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What is "the Gospel"?

Michael Bird and I are working on a definition of the "gospel" for something we are planning to co-publish and we would like your feedback. What do you think about this definition? What are we leaving out? What are including that you think is not essential? How would you define "the Gospel"?

Here is our working definition:

The gospel announces the good news that God's Kingdom has come on the earth in the life death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel's Scriptures. The gospel calls for faith, repentance and discipleship -- its conconmitant effects include the forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, adoption, judgment, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. What accompanies the proclamation of the Gospel is the work of the gospel exemplified in works of liberation and mercy.

12 comments:

Jim said...

You write

The gospel announces the good news that God's Kingdom has come on the earth in the life death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel's Scriptures.

On earth? As in contrast to the other planets where God's kingdom has come in other forms?

Israel's Scriptures? Or the Church's understanding of Israel's scriptures?

You write

The gospel calls for faith, repentance and discipleship -- its conconmitant effects include the forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, adoption, judgment, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

You need to reconsider the phrasing here- it sounds very much to me like you are suggesting that faith and repentance and discipleship bring about justification and forgiveness, rather than justification and forgiveness bringing about faith, repentance, and discipleship. In other words, you have the cart before the horse on this one.

You write

What accompanies the proclamation of the Gospel is the work of the gospel exemplified in works of liberation and mercy.

Are you suggesting that where works of liberation and mercy are lacking the gospel is lacking? because, if you are, you are making the gospel subservient to those manifestations of its power. Quite the contrary- it's theologically more proper to say that the gospel contains the necessary elements which burst forth in human life in acts of mercy and liberation.

Joel Willitts said...

Jim:

Thanks for your feedback. With respect to the first comment of "on earth", this was included to bring out the concrete aspect of the kingdom. It is not merely or even primarily a spiritual kingdom.

Israel's scriptures as interpreted by Jewish believers in Jesus (aka the early church).

I am not sure I understand what the issue is with the order of phrasing. The gospel Jesus and his disciples preached was a call to faith, repentance and discipleship. The implications of faith and repentance are forgiveness and justification as Paul expressed.

Now I can't speak completely for Mike on this last one, but I am inclined to say yes to your question "where works of liberation and mercy are lacking the gospel is lacking? Show me anywhere in the Gospels where proclamation of the kingdom was not accompanied by works of the kingdom, although I agree with your statement that "the gospel contains the necessary elements which [will necessarily] burst forth in human life in acts of mercy and liberation" as it is preached.

NWMihelis said...

Is the definition intended as a contemporary theological definition or a comprehensive explanation of euangelion in the NT scriptures? Let me try again: Are you trying to synthesize an NT biblical theological understanding of Gospel looking at all the data or are you suggesting that this is what Jesus, Paul, John, etc meant when they used it? If the former, it sounds good, if the latter, then there are some elements that may be anachronistic.

-Nate

NWMihelis said...

I hope I didn't overly dichotomize.

exegetical fallacy said...

Nice work boys! I like it; but as with most, here are a couple suggestions, but they may, of course, just be my own theological slant on interpretive issues:

1. "The gospel calls for faith." Why not "calls forth faith?" or, "the gospel effects/elicits/creates faith"? Though I think Barth got this one right, I also think it's the point of, say, 1 Thess 2:13; Rom 10:8, 17; Gal 3:2,5.

2. What exactly do you mean by 'liberation' and how do I, as one supposedly transformed by the gospel, 'liberate'? If I drink fair trade coffee, have I 'liberated'? Honestly, this sounds like a trendy term, like the word 'redeem', often tossed around today. And why single out these two ethical principles (liberation and mercy) among the others?

Danny Zacharias said...

Is the gospel not also the continuing presence of Christ by his Spirit and the Kingdom in the world now. If it is only what happened in the past, it is not news. News is fresh, and in the moment.

Danny

J. B. Hood said...

MF and JW, very important and exciting stuff here.

Per DZ's comment: and future! Should "second coming" be added to life, death, and rez? Acknowledging future element as well as present of kingdom? I think you need some already/not yet in there.

Guys, I like the order of the phrasing but noting what Jim sez, just be prepared to take heat for that order (I'm sure you are)! And you are absolutely right about 'works of liberation and mercy,' though I might add something about new community there.

In line with EF's comments, perhaps "the workS of the gospel, particularly works that show righteousness [or justice], love, and mercy" might get to the heart of things, per Matt 23:23. Those are the concrete manifestations of liberation, I reckon, and more helpful for those reading your definition.

Finally, if you're going to produce something for everyone to read, may I suggest toning down the diction? Most of the urban pastors and overseas folks I've encountered wouldn't be able to work with "concomitant" and "exemplified"... Granted it's nice to write at a high level, it's more important (in this instance) to put something out in the language of as many folks as possible.

Okay last thought (I'm just writing a lot because I'm excited about this idea of y'all's): what about adding an adjective: "sacrificial" or "self-sacrificial" or "self-denying" to discipleship? American-style discipleship is pretty easy sometimes...

Wayne Leman said...

Your definition is rather encyclopedic, and perhaps that is what you intend. But could it be condensed without significant loss? And, as has been noted, it does need some revision to become better English.

Here is my shorter definition:

"The gospel is the good news taught by Jesus of Nazareth, that if we turn from our sinful ways and depend on and obey him, God will forgive us and we will live in a way that is pleasing to God."

Peter Kirk said...

I would suggest condensing the definition even further, to John 3:16. Of course there is more to it than that, but that is an excellent (and divinely inspired) summary.

the blackwells said...

I second the thoughts about adding something about resurrection and the future life.

Also you might think of "union with God through Christ and by the Spirit." This would take into account Paul's participation in Christ language, John's 'I in them, you in me' language, along with the presence of the Spirit.

Ben

Stuart Dauermann said...

As a Messianic Jewish missiologist, I am fascinated by the almost universal tendency to domesticate not only the term "gospel," but even the Lord Jesus Christ, so that both the gospel and Jesus become primarily servants of the Church, and in too many instances, servants of individuals who do or experience this or that. In terms oif salvation history, before anything else, the gospel comes as good news for all the people of Israel: "And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." The gospel is good news to the Jew first and also to the Gentile, which I read Paul as meaning, "to the Jew of course and even to the Gentile." The question I am asking and writing about at this time is this: how is the gospel good news for all the people of Israel? The Church has forgotten this and has forgotten that the Messiah is first of all the Son of David in whom all of God's promises to Israel are yea and Amen. This upsets Christendom which wrongly imagines that they are the custodians, or rather, the jailers of both the gospel and Jesus Christ, thereby entitled to restrict access to Him and to the benefits of His coming to those who fulfill the terms laid down or discerned by the Church.

Think about it.

Stuart Dauermann said...

After rereading my posting, I noticed the typos (DRAT!), and also the tone (DOUBLE DRAT). It came across far too harshly. I am actually most appreciate of your efforts here in the blogosphere. Most erudite, informed and helpful.

But I am impassioned about the questions I raise, which can, at times, come across as overbearing and rude . . . for which, with continued admiration, I apologize.