Over at TGC is the announcement that the 2013 TGC conference will be His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. That is a great topic and one that I think anyone would be encouraged by hearing. The topics lined up to be spoken on look great. Colin Hansen introduces the rationale for the conference with these words:
We may believe in our hearts that Jesus preached the gospel, but sometimes Christians confess with our mouths a message of the good news that never actually draws on Jesus’ teaching. We frequently point to his work on the Cross but less often examine the content of his sermons.
I concur and let me say that this is a BIG problem. One that is common among the Neo-Reformed and YRR crowd, one I’ve also seen in my own students in Scotland and Australia. If folks are concerned and confused as to “if” or “how” the Gospels contain “the gospel,” then you’ve got some huge problems with your understanding of the gospel and your approach to biblical theology. So it is great that they are addressing this subject at the 2013 TGC conference.
The video discussion between Piper, Carson, and Keller explains their approach to the matter. Carson points out that Luke focuses on Jesus and his long journey to the cross, the cross is the climax of Luke! Also, some people wrongly try to play off Jesus’ kingdom gospel with Paul’s justification gospel, which is illegitimate. Keller points out that reading the Gospels and Paul together will convince readers of their theological unity. Piper rightly argues that we should follow the canonical Jesus and not a critically constructed Jesus. He also argues that reading the various stories in the gospels will emphasize the nature of grace and the failure of religious self-justification. All good stuff.
I still did rub my face when listening to a few points. I’m not convinced by Piper that Jesus preached the imputation of his own righteousness in Luke 18, in fact, I’m convinced that he did not. Also, despite the affirmation of unity between Jesus and Paul, I still suspect that, presuppositionally at least, Paul is still the canon with the canon that Jesus himself needs to be measured by (though the actual conference may prove me wrong on that!). It still sounds like Galatians rather than Matthew is the default setting for thinking about gospel. But I would want to emphasize that one can, with biblical fidelity and theological integrity, preach the gospel from the Gospels without mentioning the words “justification” or “imputation.” That is because justification is not the essence of the gospel, it is a contingent concept – like redemption or reconciliation – to explain how it is that God accepts persons, Gentiles no less, into his kingdom through a declaration that God accepts as righteous those who believe in Jesus Christ. I don’t doubt that the TGC guys would affirm this, but I want to see close up how the project works out, because I’m concerned that at the end of the day, rather than being canonically balanced in integrating Jesus and Paul, that it will still be Paul-heavy. Cause I’ve heard sermons that effectively go, “Today we’re preaching through the Gospel according to Luke, Luke is wonderful, he reminds me of Romans, so let me preach to you Luke from Romans.”
So I wish I was going to this conference, it sounds great, exactly what the conservative reformed crowd needs. Though, I also have to say that I kinda wish Darrell Bock and John Dickson were speaking, since they are specialists on this topic. I’m hoping to speak on a similar topic in the US early next year.
This week I was involved in a student mission to St. Stephen’s Anglican church and we participated in a Christianity Explored course for non-Christians that teaches the gospel through the Gospel of Mark. It was great. We need more of it.
Scot McKnight has a follow-up post on the TGC post which is worth checking out.
Also, I wonder if we need to have an on-line competition where someone preaches the gospel from the Gospels as an example to encourage others. I’ll think on that!