Because of the number of folks writing me to respond to this question here goes… TGC, as I understand it, will devote some of its energies this year to the gospel and if Jesus preached it, but a video was put up on their site in which there is a conversation with D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper dealing with this question — with my former colleague, D.A. Carson, leading the questions. Since it was brief I will offer only a few brief comments.
First, I’m glad they are asking this question. I was with a friend the other day, I asked him straight up, “Are the Gospels the gospel?” With a bit of a look of dismissal and condescension, he said No with the suggestion that it’s clear for everyone but me. He’s at odds with Carson, Keller and Piper on this one. They think Luke presents the gospel. I agree.
Second, there was a bit of an assumption that they knew what the gospel already was and they were asking if the Gospels, and their focus was the Gospel of Luke, fit that already-understood-gospel. They didn’t have time to discuss and define the meaning of “gospel,” but this issue is not without strategic importance here. Some would want to ask if Paul preached Jesus’ gospel, and one good example of someone who asks that is Mike Bird.
Third, the guiding assumption seemed clear to because of how the conversation progressed: it was an attempt to show that the Gospel of Luke can be read as teaching a soteriology of the cross (not enough on resurrection, but that’s not their problem alone — many of us struggle with getting resurrection in the gospel). In fact, there was a rather common problem here: they kept speaking about the “narrative” of Luke, which simply misses the point. Discussion of Luke’s “narrative” means we are not asking if Jesus preached the gospel but if Luke’s narrative art presented the gospel. D.A. Carson, I thought, made a good point: he said the narrative of Luke showed a Jesus who faced Jerusalem from Luke 9:51 on. Well, yes, I think that’s very true — though it is the words of Luke and not he words of Jesus. I take it to be a genuine record of the action of Jesus, but it still remains “words in black” in red-letter editions. I’d rather see discussion of Mark 10:45 (not in Luke in the same form) and the Lord’s supper narrative in Luke, which Carson did bring up. Piper brought in his case that Luke 18 teaches justification by faith and imputation (by reading narrativally the connection of the parable of the tax collector and then the rich man story).
Fourth, overall I wanted more but their time was limited and the more I wanted is this: The Gospels are called the “Gospel” because they are the gospel, and they are the gospel because they tell the Story of Jesus, which is how Paul said all the apostles understood the gospel in 1 Cor 15:3-5 (Piper did go to 1 Cor 15:3 and mentioned “for our sins”). Which leads to this over all conclusion: I thought the discussion was shaped by showing the Gospel of Luke has the soteriology of Paul/their theology while I would want to argue that asking if Jesus preached the gospel is asking if Jesus himself told a Story in which he was the fulfillment, as the King, as the Messiah, as the Lord and as the one who saves us from our sins. Jesus’ message was utterly self-centered! That’s gospeling. In other words, while their focus was soteriology, the Gospels teach us that the first step is christology and that will lead us inevitably to Jesus the Savior and a soteriology.
So, I liked what they said but I didn’t like what they didn’t say: Christology is first, soteriology flows from Christology.