Justin Holcomb, at Mars Hill (Seattle), recently posted on What is the gospel? and he offers an excellent example of a soterian gospel (see my King Jesus Gospel for soterian vs. apostolic or Story gospel but in essence the “soterian” gospel reframes the Bible’s narrative into one about a plan for personal salvation). I urge you to read what he says and then consider this one major criticism I have:
Everything in Holcomb’s sketch of the gospel is about our salvation, the whole Bible is read through that lens, and this leads the writer to skip from Genesis 3 to Jesus and God’s sending of his Son for our salvation. You can see this in the transition from paragraph two to paragraph three:
God made us to worship him. He was our Father, living and walking among us, giving us everything we needed to live, and yet we chose to sin against him—a cosmic act of treason punishable by death. As a result, we were separated from God, and we try to be our own gods, declaring what is right and wrong, and living life by our own standards.
Despite our pride and ignorance, Jesus, who created the world and is God, lovingly came into human history as a man. He was born of a virgin, and he lived a life without sin, though….
This skipping of Israel’s Story is why there’s no concern in this gospel that Jesus is the Messiah/King, no concern for how God works in human history, no redemption of creation, and no new heavens and new earth. The Bible’s message is reduced to salvation, but there’s more to the Bible’s Story than that. There’s not enough Old Testament Story in this sketch … the “according to the Scriptures” theme of the gospel statement of 1 Cor 15 (and the sermons in Acts, and the Gospels) is not given adequate grounding.
I want to point out that this is the most significant difference between the soterian gospel and the Story gospel of Jesus and the apostles. I do not believe this is a matter of “We can’t cover everything” but an issue of how to tell the Story that the gospel resolves.
Justin Holcomb says many things here that I would agree with: a focus on Jesus, a telling of the whole life of Jesus (including his teachings, etc), substitutionary atonement; he affirms the focus of the gospel is not about us but about God; he states the gospel makes us right and transforms. I like that he says we never move “beyond” the gospel.
He’s right: everything is about the gospel, but that gospel’s salvation occurs in the context of a Story that needs articulation, and until that Story becomes clear the Bible’s message will be reduced.