Saturday, May 29, 2010

John Dickson - Promoting the Gospel

One of the best kept secrets on books on Evangelism is John Dickson's book The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with More Than Our Lips. Forewords by Alister McGrath and Ravi Zacharias no less and an endorsement from N.T. Wright on the back as well! This is one of the best books on Evangelism I've read and I'm so glad that Zondervan has taken it up for international publication. I'll quickly give a few highlights. First, Dickson doesn't define the gospel as a syllogism of (1) God is holy, (2) Man is sinful, (3) Therefore, we need a mediator to take our sins away so we can stand before a holy God. Dickson has this insane idea that the gospel should include the life and deeds of Jesus as the context for his work on the cross and resurrection. He sticks Rom 1.3-4 and 1 Tim. 2.8 in your face about the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Dickson also boldly declares that the Gospels actually teach a gospel and the Evangelists are not just the warm-up acts to Paul's atonement theology. Second, Dickson shows how we can promote the gospel with our money, prayers, and how we should be ready to always provide an answer for the hope that is within us. This book has many cool analogies and anecdotes that will make you laugh and grimace in despair. If you read only one book about evangelism and mission this year, make it this one.

For more on John Dickson (who is a good friend) see the Centre for Public Christianity and he is Senior Minister at St. Andrews Roseville in Sydney.

15 comments:

Tim Byrnes said...

"Dickson also boldly declares that the Gospels actually teach a gospel and the Evangelists are not just the warm-up acts to Paul's atonement theology." This made me chuckle. Thanks, Mike.

Jeremy said...

D.A. Carson has said that the gospel is 1 Corinthians 15 and that we must distinguish the gospel form the implications of the gospel. To miss this point is no small matter for him. Do you agree or disagree Michael?

Matt said...

wow. I'm definitely getting this one. Thanks for that Michael!

Dunc and Als said...

Jeremy, my first comment is to ask, "Could D.A. Carson be wrong?" However, I don't think this is the case. I have also heard Graeme Goldsworthy clearly define the gospel from Romans 1:1-4 and have in-turn used that myself. However it is pertinent to ask, "Is that all there is to be said about the matter?" After all, both summaries are within much larger letters and it can be shown that the Gospels were written for the purpose of evangelism and if that's the case did they simply get it wrong? And if not what is the gospel presented there? I believe that we'll find that it's the same gospel but presented in a different way.
Perhaps John Dickson's motivation is to challenge people who think that the best way to evangelise others is to give a pat theological answer or write out 1 Corinthians 15 or Romans 1:1-4 and stick it under everyone's door (yes, I'm being silly on the last point).

Michael F. Bird said...

Jeremy, when Paul uses the word "gospel", he's talking gospel. 1 Cor. 15.3-5 is just as much a statement of the gospel is as Rom. 1.3-4 and 2 Tim. 2.8. I wouldn't privilege 1 Cor. 15.3-5 over the others or say that Paul was wrong about gospel in Rom. 1.3-4 because he's sounding too much like N.T. Wright. Let's take the counsel of God together. That said, I would distinguish gospel from implications. For instance, I don't think social justice is the gospel, though it will lead to justice seeking communities.

jeff miller said...

There is no distinction between "Jesus'Justice" and "Gospel". The problem is with not making a distinction between "Jesus Justice" and something called "social justice". Jesus' justice is a willing self-sacrifice under the wrath due for Israel's rebellion and Adam's sin; even when no one else goes and no one else understands. Social justice tends toward a corporate sacrifice of other people's money. Or an attitude that says I'll sacrifice if you and you and you will sacrifice with me. It seems to me that Jesus' life lived, cross borne, and resurrection temporarily overlooked by the world, are of one piece with his gospel teaching. And we should follow His loyalty. No one else has the words of eternal life.

Wyatt Roberts said...

"Dickson has this insane idea that the gospel should include the life and deeds of Jesus as the context for his work on the cross and resurrection. He sticks Rom 1.3-4 and 1 Tim. 2.8 in your face about the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Dickson also boldly declares that the Gospels actually teach a gospel and the Evangelists are not just the warm-up acts to Paul's atonement theology."

Right. I'm still trying to understand the difference(s) between "the gospel" as its used in the synoptics, and Paul's use. Paul never quotes Jesus that I know of, and was, apparently, ignorant of the verbatim sayings of Jesus, and most of the then unwritten Gospels. I think Wright's version of the gospel is mostly derived from Paul, but I think there's more to it, as Dickson points out.

jesse said...

Mike,

Is this the same book that is "promoting the gospel" under Matthias media (here in Aus? The content (as per your review) appears to indicate so.

Also, I thought John was lecturing at Macquarie Uni ? When did he change over ?

jeff miller said...

"Dickson has this insane idea that the gospel should include the life and deeds of Jesus as the context for his work on the cross and resurrection. He sticks Rom 1.3-4 and 1 Tim. 2.8 in your face about the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Dickson also boldly declares that the Gospels actually teach a gospel and the Evangelists are not just the warm-up acts to Paul's atonement theology."

I am also interested in this great quote, and the book, and any place where this topic is explored. I can't swallow the idea that Paul is writing his epistles and even asking that they be circulated before the teachings of Jesus (Gospel) are written and circulated.

Are Paul's references to the self-sacrifice of Jesus a shorthand reference to His whole Kingdom ethic? The "gospel" is certainly preached as a Kingdom ethic before its climax in the crucifixion.

Thank You Michael for posting.

Wyatt Roberts said...

Jeff -- Aside from the fact that almost all modern scholars date the Epistles much earlier than the Gospels (which may or may not count for much), I must say it seems quite odd to me that Paul would not have quoted directly from them at least a few times if he had been aware of their existence. In fact, very little at all of what Paul wrote even comes close to anything that Jesus said, even allowing him some literary license.

Understand, though, I'm not saying the two are at odds, or are contradictory, only that Paul doesn't seem to have been aware of anything, specifically, that Jesus said during his earthly ministry.

jeff miller said...

Wyatt,
You are right that we don't have extensive direct quotes from Jesus outside the Gospels. I think there is a reason for this which would include the exact opposite of what you say here:

"...Paul doesn't seem to have been aware of anything, specifically, that Jesus said during his earthly ministry."

I am not prepared to defend my thinking here. But I do like being provoked a little by what you have said. I wonder how prevalent your perspective is among others. Thanks for interacting.

-Jeff

McMillian said...

This is my assessment of the whole situation... I think we are getting to hung up on the word gospel. I think a better way to look at it is to ask: what is the central message of the new testament? If we hang all our understanding on one word then we get lost, and scholars seem to as of late pack individual words with more meaning than they can carry in any given context. I do not think anyone would argue that the underlying theme of the new testament is the coming of the son of God in human flesh into this world. But that now begs the question... Why did God come into this world as a man? Was is to proclaim the reign of the King? All the new testament writers are in unison on this question. He came to save. Matthew 1:21, 1st Corinthians 15:1-3, john 3:16, mark 10:45, 2nd Corinthians 5:18-21, galatians 4:4-5, luke 2:30, luke 2:11, 1st timothy 1:15. This is why he came. He did not come so that we can proclaim as good news the reign of the Kingdom of God. That is terrible news to sinners. He came to die... And that is why paul could say "I preach nothing but christ and him crucified" and also why he says in 1st cor 15 what the gospel is.

McMillian said...

I want to elaborate a little more: we can predefine. what gospel means before considering the message of the new testament and then our preconceived definition is now the controlling paradigm of our exegesis, and what happens is the message of the cross becomes relegated to the background. And the emphasis in the new testament is on the substitutionary work of Christ, but not to the exclusion in any way of the coming kingdom of the reigning sovereign Lord.

Tim Halse said...

Wyatt Roberts, I'm sorry but you are clearly and demonstrably mistaken. Paul quotes Jesus in Acts 20:35 and in 1 Corinthians 11, as well as referring specifically to His teachings in numerous other areas. It is CRYSTAL clear to any genuine seeker of truth that Paul was acutely aware if the teachings of Christ.

Wyatt Roberts said...

Well, I guess if you capitalize it, it must be true.