J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God(Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1984, reprint: 2005), 61.
Saturday, April 09, 2011
Protestants and the Gospels
I lament the fact that Protestants love their epistles (esp. Paul) for all it's doctrine, but struggle with the Gospels. Yes, the Gospels give us Jesus which is great, but it is Jesus as the subject of Paul's atonement theology that really matters for many folks. Yet surely it should be the other way around: for doctrine and discipleship we should start with Jesus and them move to Paul. As I often tell my students, Paul rocks, but Jesus reigns. The good thing about the Book of Common Prayer is that every day you get a reading from the Gospels, every day, words from Jesus, or a story about Jesus. I think that is important. Yes, I know of the debate about "Red Letter Christians," but the fact is that we have more manuscripts of the Gospels than the rest of the New Testament from antiquity and the Fathers seemed to have quoted the Gospels more than Paul. The primordial genesis of Christian doctrine took the form of a concerted dialogue with Jesus and the Gospels. As such the Gospels should be foremost in our theology, preaching, and discipleship. If ye believe not me, consider the words of J.I. Packer:
“Finally, we could then correct the wooliness of view as to what Christian commitment involves, by stressing the need for constant meditation on the four gospels, over and above the rest of our Bible reading; for gospel study enables us both to keep our Lord in clear view and to hold before our minds the relational frame of discipleship to him. The doctrines on which our discipleship rests are clearest in the epistles, but the nature of discipleship itself is most vividly portrayed in the gospels. Some Christians seem to prefer the epistles to the gospels and talk of graduating from the gospels to the epistles as if this were a mark of growing up spiritually; but really this attitude is a very bad sign, suggesting that we are more interested in theological notions than in fellowship with the Lord Jesus in person. We should think, rather, of the theology of the epistles as preparing us to understand better the disciple relationship with Christ that is set forth in the gospels, and we should never let ourselves forget that the four gospels are, as has often and rightly been said, the most wonderful books on earth.”