I promise not to blog

I promise not to blog October 25, 2005

I promise not to blog (much) about the gospel in the immediate future, but it is a topic so central to what we do (and believe) that it deserved some attention. On top of its importance, I’m trying to give Embracing Grace a bit of a context.
The gospel is easy to distort and I see distortions in these ways:
Some preach what I call a Creation Day Only gospel: they focus on humans as made in the image of God, the Eikon of God, and they see nothing but potential, potential, potential. They see human goodness — and there is plenty to see — and they see human development — and there is plenty to see. And that is all they see. This distorts the gospel.

Others believe in what I call a Fall Day Only gospel: they focus on humans as sinners, as polluted morally, as messed up mentally, as disturbed in the soul, and as inconquerable in the body. In other words, they see nothing but problems, problems, problems. And that is all they see. This, too, distorts the gospel.
This is not an issue of balance; it is an issue of seeing and assuming both: humans are both good and bad. They are not all good with some bad, or all bad with some good. Ordinary humans are capable of being both majestically good and miserably mean. A gospel worth believing will affirm both.
Others preach a Good Friday Only gospel: they see everything happening at the Cross. The gospel is about forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. I affirm that Jesus died for us, but having my sins cancelled (or whichever term you want to use) is not enough: God wants to do more for us than simply erase our problems. Some see nothing but the Cross. I have no desire to minimize the Cross, but a Good Friday Only gospel is not enough because for the Bible it was not enough. Let us say that we have done something mean to our spouse: being forgiven is not what we want. What we want is total reconciliation, not simply the erasure of what we did. Forgiveness brings us back to level, and we want to ascend into the presence of God.
Others preach an Easter Day Only gospel: Jesus rose for our sins to liberate us from death and sin. This, too, is not enough. The gospel is more than liberation: it is liberation from a particular problem: Eikonic distortion. We want to be liberated, not for the sake of liberation, but for the sake of becoming what God made us to be: Eikons who, when pressed, give off God’s glory. An Easter Day Only gospel distorts the gospel because it liberates for the sake of freedom and not for sake of Eikonic restoration.
Finally, others preach a Pentecost Day Only gospel: Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to flood us with his presence. Now, for some this becomes the Ecstasy Gospel of exaggerated experiences, for others it becomes the Empowerment Gospel of Power. The Spirit is designed by God to empower us to become Eikonic in all we do. The Spirit enables us to transcend who we are now so we will become more of what we will be and what we can be.
Again, if the first two days get distorted by emphasizing one or the other, so do the major moments of redemption get distorted by emphasizing one or the other. If I say clearly that Paul emphasizes the Cross, it is most always an empty Cross that Paul emphasizes and to which he often enough attaches the Spirit of God.
The gospel needs each of these elements to be what the Bible wants it to be: we are Eikons, cracked Eikons, who need to be forgiven, liberated, and empowered to be Eikons who live with other Eikons in such a way that “God happens” wherever we are.

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  • Scot,
    There is one of my favorite things I’ve ever read. As you know, when you decided to pull this chapter from Embracing Grace I was disappointed. Thanks for sharing it here!
    The balancing out of these five gospels is found in Scot’s new book, due out, I think, this week or next.

  • Brad,
    Sorry, I think “cracked Eikon” says alot — it is a form of speaking total depravity. I care not to make us any worse than we are. Cracked Eikons oppose God by being individualists instead of Eikons.
    And, as for a definition of the gospel that includes all of this, I’ve said it a few times here and I develop it in Embracing Grace:
    The work of God (Father,Son,Spirit on Cross, Resurrection, Pentecost) to restore Cracked Eikons to union with God and communion with others, in the context of the community of faith, for the good of others and the world.

  • Matt Kronberg

    Your articulation of the gospel reminded me of the seminary class on theological anthropology that I took with Brent Laytham a few years back. In the class we studied Grenz’s “The Social God and the Relational Self.” One of the things I came away with from the course was the concept that while we are image-bearers, Christ is THE image of God and THE model of what it is to be truly human. And, hence, in following Jesus and entering into the Kingdom community at hand (i.e. in your own words, “the society in which the Jesus Creed transforms life”), we begin to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, the image of the social God, while at the same time we move in the direction of becoming the human that God created us to be.
    Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts. They are of great help to me as I seek to faithfully articulate the gospel and encourage it to be lived out in community.

  • Alice R. Keystone

    Autobiography of Lord Jesus Christ?????

  • Doug Wilson

    Oops, left off the url: Tom’s entire (brief) speech is well worth reading, at http://lausanne.gospelcom.net/archives/lau2docs/370.pdf

  • Sorry, I think “cracked Eikon” says alot — it is a form of speaking total depravity. I care not to make us any worse than we are. Cracked Eikons oppose God by being individualists instead of Eikons.
    Scott, I understand what you’re saying, it just strikes me as a weak metaphor and language in the face of passages such as the last half of Romans 7. I certianly didn’t mean to demean your efforts (in fact, I highly appreciate them), I was just giving you reasons for my own personal dissatisfaction with your description.