Christian Century and the Gospel

Christian Century and the Gospel September 1, 2012

Turnabout is fair play. The progressive postured The Christian Century has a brief post by David Heim asking folks to reduce the gospel to seven words. They found a nice selection of folks, but I’d classify them all as soterian gospels. In fact, I’d classify them as “God loves us” gospels. Here are some of the summaries:

In Martin E. Marty’s “God, through Jesus Christ, welcomes you anyhow,” the “anyhow” hints at the mercy in God’s welcome. Donald W. Shriver makes a similar move with “Divinely persistent, God really loves us,” as does Beverly Roberts Gaventa with “In Christ, God’s yes defeats our no.” The human propensity to mess things up and long for another chance is central, if implicit, in Mary Karr’s “We are the Church of Infinite Chances.” … Brian McLaren highlights the call to reconciliation; Carol Zaleski celebrates the end of captivity (“He led captivity captive”), and Ellen Charry reports that “the wall of hostility has come down.”  Lamin Sanneh quotes Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world.” Bill McKibben opts for the Golden Rule (Mark 12:31): “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In “Christ’s humanity occasions our divinity” Scott Cairns manages to capture a distinctively Eastern Orthodox understanding of the gospel in which sin is not even alluded to (and he is impressively concise at only five words). Walter Brueggemann’s gospel is dense: “Israel’s God’s bodied love continues world-making.” (“I used only six words,” he says; “I rested on the seventh.”) M. Craig Barnes boils it down to four words: “We live by grace.”

Not one apostolic sermon in the Book of Acts focuses on the gospel as God’s love for us in spite of who we are. Read the sermons in Acts 2, 3, 4, 10-11, 13, 14, and 17. The focus is on Jesus. The gospel is about Jesus.

The gospel in three words: Jesus is Lord (or King). Five words: Jesus is the expected Messiah (or King, or Lord). Seven words: Jesus is the expected King who redeems.

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