What then is the Gospel?

Dr. Al Mohler’s recent renewed call for evangelicals to resist and reject the legitimacy of the papacy and therefore its authority (here)–has caused one blogger to address the exact nature of the Gospel.

According to David Armstrong, the blogger in question, sola fide, faith alone, is not the gospel.  He continues, “While sola fide is something I would affirm and hold to be true according to the New Testament, it’s not something that I would use interchangeably with the word “Gospel,” because this is not what the New Testament means when it talks about Gospel.”

He then offers a definition of the gospel,

“The Gospel is the dynamic proclamation that the Kingdom of God has arrived in the crucified, buried, risen, ascended, and now enthroned Jesus of Nazareth, God’s long-promised Messiah and chosen Son. The Gospel, the euangelion (an ancient word that immediately connoted the idea of ‘king’ in the ears of its hearers), is a proclamation about a King and His Kingdom.”

To clarify further,

“Who belongs to that Kingdom and how–questions that deal with soteriology, ecclesiology, and justification–are important effects of this new reality, but they are, after all, AFTER-EFFECTS of the Gospel, and not the main point of the Gospel.”

What Mr. Armstrong is doing here is nothing new (his full article here).  But really is an effort to clarify and restate what the New Testament says about the terms in question.

In other words, it’s the task of every new generation of believers to rethink these matters in light of Scripture, while standing on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before.

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This entry was posted in Al Mohler, Ecclesiology, Gospel, Justification, Kingdom of God, Papacy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to What then is the Gospel?

  1. T. C. says:

    Are you in agreement with Mr. Armstrong?

    • TC says:

      Yes, for example, in Romans 1:1ff, we see this proved. Justification by faith is at best an appropriation of the gospel – the response that is demanded.

  2. Jon Hughes says:

    I like Scot McKnight – “The King Jesus Gospel” – on the subject.

    • TC says:

      Jon, though I’ve not read McKnight work as yet, from what I’ve read about it, I believe Mr. Armstrong is echoing pretty much the same.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Yes, I think he is. N.T. Wright’s another one, as you know! These guys are less ‘reductionist’ in their understanding of what the Gospel is than more traditional Reformed types. Greg Gilbert (“What Is The Gospel?”) articulates the ‘reductionist’ view; personally I prefer Scot McKnight’s approach!

  3. Simon says:

    Yes, the gospel is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God arriving in Jesus Christ. This is why the first four books of the NT are known as the Gospel according to…. Having heard Reformed preachers like Carson, Piper etc (and I suppose this goes back to Luther) describe the Gospel as an abstract idea about how one gets “saved”, you really have to wonder whether the Lutheran/Reformed tradition is controlling their Gospel narrative. You hear Reformed preachers often say that the Kingdom proclamation is bad news rather than good news. The Gospel for them is their interpretation of Paul. I disagree. And would add that this is not how the Church has interpreted the meaning of the Gospel. The risen Christ is King and he has inaugurated a new world of love and peace open to all men who believe and obey. The Reformed have traded the traditional understanding of the Gospel as the concrete reality of Christ’s death and resurrection to defeat death for an abstract system of soteriology. For some reason, the Reformed don’t see this Kingdom announcement as Good News and prefer to accentuate God’s wrath rather than his love. But God’s wrath is none other than those who close their hearts to what is good and true and lovely. I.e. those, who in St John’s words, prefer darkness to Light. This is the key to a mature understanding God’s wrath I believe. And it has very little to do with punishment and revenge as the Reformed glory in. CS Lewis said the doors of hell are locked from the inside. He is moving the dialogue in the right direction.

  4. Simon says:

    TC 🙂 sorry for the sweeping generalisations! I do recognise that what I wrote may be a bit of a charicature. But too often we do find Reformed guys saying as much. i.e. equating the Gospel to an abstract soteriology.

    • TC says:

      Simon, I understand your angst when it comes to all things Reformed. But at some point you must be aware of the nuances, if you will, among the Reformed. For example, a Barth, a Wright, stand in the Reformed tradition.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        TC,

        The strict and particular types I know here in the UK would write off both Barth and N.T. Wright as liberals. The ‘Reformed’ folks I know get very agitated indeed about Wright’s N.P.P. in particular.

        I know a brother who listened to N.T. Wright and James White debating justification on Premier Christian Radio recently, and he questioned whether Wright was saved. I take your point about the broad Reformed tradition, but certain quarters within that tradition won’t allow the same.

        Across the pond, John MacArthur’s right-hand man, Phil Johnson, has pronounced N.T. Wright as under the curse of Galatians 1:8.

        Charming.

        I can certainly understand any angst Simon my have too.

  5. Jon Hughes says:

    If you think I’ve misrepresented Phil Johnson, listen to the following, particularly the last minute or so:

    • TC says:

      Jon, thanks for filling in some blanks from your side of the world. To be honest, that Wright and White debate was more like professor to pupil. Unfortunate debate. White had no right to be there.

      Interesting that some have questioned whether Wright is saved or not. But then you have John Piper, who gave a capable response to Wright in “The Future of Justification,” saying Wright is saved but just offering a confused version of the gospel.

      Recently I read a summary of Douglas Moo’s position on Justification, and there’s really not much difference with what he was saying and Wright.

      No disrespect intended, but I’m not impressed by the likes of Phil Johnson on these matters.

      • Simon says:

        I would ask the Reformed, how they know whether any particular person is saved? And by what authority do they pass judgement? I thought the Scriptures were pretty clear about who is the Judge. This is where systematic theology of the Western scholastic type can let us down. We can’t deduce who is saved and who isn’t, despite Scriptural texts that indicate what we must do to be saved. Salvation is a mystery. I know not all Reformed would be so forthcoming with this type of judgement. so no sweeping generalisations here TC 🙂

  6. Simon says:

    N.T. Wright, from what I can gather, stands in the Reformed (as opposed to Lutheran) tradition only insofar as Reformed theology and Biblical interpretation has a much more continuous and coherent view of the OT vis a vis the NT. There isnt the Marcionite tendencies that you find in Lutheranism. Of course, his denomination stood in the Reformed camp at the time of the Reformation also. But today the Anglicans are a diverse group consisting of Anglo Catholics, librerals, evangelical low church (e.g. the Sydney Diocese), broad church, High church etc. Just where Wright fits into this mix is not so easy to tell. I would put him in the high Church category. Of course being a former bishop of a big Diocese kind of requires that to a certain extent – but that is the Church of England. To my mind they have backed away from the Calvinist tendencies they embraced at the Reformation. And it’s clear that Wright really isn’t Calvinist when it comes to exegesis of favourite passages like Romans 9 – even chastising the typical Calvinist interpretation as a “detached musing on predestination”. So yes, Reformed (as opposed to Lutheran) when it comes to OT/NT continuity, covenant theology etc. But far from Reformed when it comes to exegesis of particular passages. I get the feeling you won’t hear him endorsing Calvinist perspectives on predestination either.

    • TC says:

      Correct! Have you read Wright’s “Justification,” at least the first 50pgs?

      • Simon says:

        Yes I’ve read that book twice. I do think that “What St Paul Really Said” is his best summary of Paul. But I notice on his page that pre sales orders are being taken on his full treatment of Paul – three volumes in all. I think that is worth reading.

        In “Justification” he does identify himself as a Calvinist. Although I think this is mostly a rhetorical point to disarm and placate his opponents – who are almost always Reformed. I don’t think it would have had such a great affect since he opened his book by comparing them with those who believe the earth is still the centre of the universe!!

  7. TC says:

    I would ask the Reformed, how they know whether any particular person is saved? And by what authority do they pass judgement? I thought the Scriptures were pretty clear about who is the Judge. This is where systematic theology of the Western scholastic type can let us down. We can’t deduce who is saved and who isn’t, despite Scriptural texts that indicate what we must do to be saved. Salvation is a mystery. I know not all Reformed would be so forthcoming with this type of judgement. so no sweeping generalisations here TC 🙂

    Simon, I can live with this. As something of a confession, I use to be a heresy hunter. Those years, thankfully, are behind me. Yes, “Salvation is a mystery.”

  8. TC says:

    “Yes I’ve read that book twice. I do think that “What St Paul Really Said” is his best summary of Paul. But I notice on his page that pre sales orders are being taken on his full treatment of Paul – three volumes in all. I think that is worth reading.”

    Simon, you’re correct about that. Even the prolific Wright is capable of redundancy. I fear his full treatment of Paul wouldn’t be anything new. Just my hunch. 😉

    “In “Justification” he does identify himself as a Calvinist. Although I think this is mostly a rhetorical point to disarm and placate his opponents – who are almost always Reformed. I don’t think it would have had such a great affect since he opened his book by comparing them with those who believe the earth is still the centre of the universe!!”

    Yes, “Calvinist” as a rhetorical device, but that’s the extent of the similarities. What I find interesting in “Justification” is that Wright commandeers Luther, et al, to sort of buttress his own rethinking of justification and so on. But yes, this is where the earth and universe analogy is telling. 😀

  9. Jon Hughes says:

    TC/Simon,

    Yes, I loved Wright’s ‘earth-as-centre-of-the-universe’ analogy too. His boldness and daring is exhilarating, especially when a Reformed character trait often seems to be smugness and certainty that they are the ones who are right! My own analogy of Wright and his opponents is that of a heavyweight versus a middleweight. The latter will put up a fight, but the knockout is inevitable.

    Many of Wright’s opponents seem to have forgotten about the Reformation principle of ‘semper reformanda’. They come across as more keen on defending the dogma of their traditions in a way that is reminiscent of the Roman Catholic approach. Ironic, isn’t it?

  10. Lon says:

    I agree with the quotes in your post, but I’ll point out that “What is the gospel?” is something 99.9% of Christians struggle to answer simply. This is why evangelism is often done by “sharing my testimony,” claiming new miracles, or left to preachers/evangelists. In the little bit of discipleship work I’ve done, it’s crucial to help young followers of Christ be able to understand, embrace and tell the gospel. It has to be repeated over and over.

    I think we overlook one key reason for why the gospel is difficult to define/explain: It’s because Jesus announced good news that kingdom-expectant Jews would related to, even if they didn’t understand it (nor did they understand the “bad news”). Today, our hearers have NO kingdom expectation, and NO understanding of the bad news. That’s why it’s important to spoon feed and rephrase the gospel for gentile ears as Paul did on Mars Hill in Acts.

    Maybe a simple modern telling of the gospel could be something like this: “God sent His Son Jesus into the world to save sinners from the penalty they deserve. Repent and believe the good news!” This is the “what.” Everything else, like the 5 Solas, is the “how.”

    • TC says:

      Well, part of the problem is that thinking in kingdom categories does not come natural for us. We don’t live under a monarch and so on. Next, think about all the literature and media you and I have heard growing up about what the “gospel” is? Now multiply that over and over. You get the picture. As far as evangelism goes, I believe each encounter is unique. I try to stay away from one size fits all. Look at Jesus encounters and even Paul and the others.

      Yes, we need to keep on Paul on Mars Hill ever before us.

      • Lon says:

        I can get on board with that if we leave kingdom categories out of our evangelism but make it part of our discipleship

  11. TC says:

    Lon, we need to get back to the Gospels and the Person and work of Jesus, and quit filtering everything through Paul. I’m not saying that this is your practice. But you feel me?

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