What does a Third Way approach look like when it comes to the meaning of the “gospel.” No small matter here but I enter this discussion with Adam Hamilton:Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics . Adam sorts this one out by using the two poles of thinking and argues that there is a gray area of balance — neither liberal nor conservative. What does the liberal gospel look like?
He says, “Liberal Christians tend to focus on Jesus as a revolutionary, seeking to upend the social order, to lead people to justice and radical obedience to the will of God, and to usher in the reign of God. They like Luke 4:18-19 (“… to proclaim release to the captives…”). Liberals tend to see the major manifestations of sin today in racism, injustice, poverty, war …
Conservative Christians, Adam Hamilton, observes “emphasize Jesus as ‘personal Savior and Lord’.” They see Jesus’ mission as to die for our sins so we could be forgiven and be made right with God. They focus on “born again” and to “come to me all you who are weary … and you will find rest for your souls.” The major manifestations of sin tend to be abortion, homosexuality, and pornography.
These two gospels fear one another for some reason: both liberals and conservatives think if you add the other gospel to their gospel you lose it all. Hence, they think 1 + 1 = 0. Adam Hamilton believes — and I agree with him — that 1 + 1 = 2. Thus, a more robust gospel.
He offers criticism of both: Jesus more than a social reformer, but social implications are clear. Jesus did not ask folks to accept him into their heart and this personal relationship doesn’t seem to be the central theme; instead it is the kingdom of God. He calls folks to repent and to take up the kingdom challenge.
Here’s his point: “Jesus preached one gospel that has, unfortunately, been split by the church into two: the social gospel and the personal evangelical gospel” (93).
So, he says: “Conservative and liberal conceptions of Jesus are ‘too small’” (95). The good news is both … social and personal. He preached a gospel of gray in a black and white world.