Tom Wright, in his popular book Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good, writes, “…[T]he God who masterminds both creation and covenant is a God of love—utter, self-giving, merciful, reconciling, healing, restorative love” (69). In our many discussions about the gospel, robust and reduced, we must not move from the core reality: the New Testament gospel reveals the character of the loving God who saves us.
One version of the reduced gospel wedges into that “good news” the bad news that God is angry with the human race over their sins. God’s wrath has got to be acknowledge before God’s love can be received (the law/grace dualism). Scot McKnight notes that the reduced (soterian) gospel is a Good Friday only gospel (The King Jesus Gospel, 53). The tiny gospel is all about our sins, Jesus’s blood, God’s forgiveness, and the troubling threat of hell replaced by the promise of heaven. Tiny salvation is, at heart, the removal of our sins by the death of Christ. Eternal life is something we experience after we physically die. The sweeping salvation “good news” Story from Genesis to Revelation is reduced to 6 hours on Good Friday. With the reduction of the gospel to how to get saved, the staggering wonder of salvation itself is greatly short-changed.
Recently I read a stirring reminder of the bigness of salvation. Josh Duckworth, a UMC pastor, wrote a brief and beautiful answer to the question why his church does not do altar calls in an article “Preaching Salvation the Wesleyan Way.” John Wesley’s counsel to Thomas Coke, who was coming to America to preach, urged, “Offer them Christ.” Because of 18th century revivalism (think Jonathan Edwards, Charles Whitefield, John Wesley, Charles Finney), the gospel’s view of salvation had been truncated to the often emotional experience of getting converted at the anxious bench. The apocalyptic question was “Are you saved?!”
I know I need saving every day. Call me to the altar. The love of God expressed in salvation is not just a Good Friday love. We wouldn’t have hymns like “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free” if God’s love was exhausted at the cross. The robust gospel of the New Testament offers us the robust salvation of God who furiously loves us.