Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mixing up the Gospel?

Big Doofus posted a very thoughtful comment on the worship music post which I think is at the crux of a huge doctrinal tension. I thought it deserved a whole new thread of its own. It read, in part:

"I really think that our corporate worship should reflect united praise to God for who He is, what He has done, and what He will do...I just don't want to mix up the real gospel with the results of the gospel in our lives--if that makes any sense."

The whole reason we discuss things here is to make unified sense of differing views. We Caffecclesiologians obviously are looking at this differently, so let's tackle it. DOES it make any sense?

What IS the gospel? What IS its result in our lives? What truth is at stake if the two are mixed? Or, what is at stake if we fail to mix them?

Does Christ Jesus separate the gospel from the results of the gospel in our lives? Or are they actually one thing in Him.

What did Jesus say?
What did the apostles say?
What did the prophets promise?

(I think I scheduled this to post on Monday AM. I don't want to cut of the great discussion on the last post.)


elephantschild said...

Gospel: Anything in scripture that proclaims Christ's promise of perfect forgiveness for all who believe.

Law: not *just* the 10 commandments, but any, and all, Scripture that points up our failings and aims us at our sure and certain need of a Savior.

So, what I think BD is calling "the results of the gospel in our lives" is the same as what I would call the "third use" of the law - ie, a guide for what the life of a Christian should look like.

I saw BD's comment the other day, and I thought he might be edging in on the concept as I've described it above. I would take his "corporate worship should reflect united praise to God for who He is, what He has done, and what He will do" and call it a proclamation of Gospel, since what has Christ done more glorious than pay our way in full? Talking about what that Gospel *should* produce in our lives, however, falls under the Law - necessary, yes.. but the Gospel must always be at the forefront.

And some, like an old dead geezer named CFW Walther, would argue that these must not be muddied up with each other, and always preached and taught in balance, lest we water down the Gospel or turn it into a bludgeon with which to beat people into good behavior.

The reverse is true, too. If you never preach the law, the results are pharisees who think they're not so bad after all, and somehow merit Christ. That, or full-out antinomianism.

Sorry for the drive-by post. Hope it's ok that I jumped in. Big Doofus put me onto your blog - blame him. :)


Joe B said...

Thanks for the great post, E-Child. (Doofus has such cool friends.)

That's a very clear statement of your position, and I'd say, that of mainstream evangelicalism at large.

(Note: antinomianism = lawlessness, or the idea that we are not obligated to any manner of conduct.)

CFW Walther (a saint and a sage) said: "Law and Gospel must both be presented rightly and not intermixed."

Joe B says: God's law and grace are irrevocably intermixed in Jesus Christ. If we teach Jesus rightly, unfiltered by any interpretive formulas, we will never have to worry about sowing legalism OR antinomianism.

Gospel: The proclamation (and demonstration in Jesus' life and ministry) that God's full intention for Humanity is realized by faith and obedience in Jesus Christ. The short version: "Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand."

Law: Everything anywhere that dictates the right way to live, be, or act.

Okay, Java-swillers...tear me apart!! :-)

scott said...


I see the Gospel as being that good news that Jesus proclaimed -- the kingdom of God is here, provided through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

I see one of the problems, perhaps, being that much of churched Christianity puts an overwhelming emphasis on Jesus' DEATH, separating it from his LIFE. It goes along with the evangelical church being so eschatologically focused.

Jesus' life and death were intricately intertwined, just as are the law and grace, God and the results in our lives.

We talk about "the law," but I think those "results in our lives" are more than just the law. I think the main "result" should be love, which is fairly all-encompassing for the other stuff. You know, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

I don't think I answered any of your questions though...

void77 said...

God’s in heaven. Jesus came to earth, lived-died-lived (in that order). Jesus left us the Holy Spirit. So now, we have the Holy Spirit – the very nature of God - to help us abide by the law. (Although we still suck at it because we remain fleshy sacks of carnality.)

I’m not certain of the intertwining here. The Gospel – to me – is a message, not a thing. It’s a proclamation. The “take-away” in all of what Jesus did is the Holy Spirit. Why would he leave us with such a gift if it wasn’t for some purpose? I believe the purpose is to help us abide by the law (meaning the moral code that God placed in our hearts to begin with but were/are doing such a poor job at executing.)

So, to me, right now, I guess they’re too separate things. Like apples and oranges. Its like saying that the headline of a newspaper is the actual event that its talking about. Or when I tell a story to someone, just because the get a mental image, they somehow participate in the plot. Figuratively speaking, sure. But in reality, no.

The Good News is that 2000 years ago, a transaction took place that I wasn’t there for, and even if I was, had not nearly enough to pay for it. So Jesus did. So I’m already okay. Now, going forward, I must honor him by doing my best to live up to His standards that he already displayed and died for. What’s more, He gave me part of him to help me out. Call it a result if you want, but I call it a gift. Perhaps the result of that gift is lawfulness, but I’m not sure that’s what we’re talking about.


Joe B said...

Scott, I think you pretty fairly nailed question #1, "what did Jesus say"

Joe B said...

Voidicus, you too seem on-center to the question, "what IS the gospel".

If the gospel (which is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe) truly is limited to the atonement transaction, then why is it necessary to preach the law from which the gospel seemingly saves us? Are we being saved By God, or are we being saved FROM God? Hmmm.

But Jesus spoke relatively little about atonement, remember? And he referred to the gospel as "this gospel of the kingdom" that "shall be preached in all the world". Not "this gospel of atonement", or "this gospel of justification by faith".

There is no gospel without atonement, to be sure. But I think it a mistake to boil down the gospel until there is no more kingdom of God in it.

Big Doofus said...

I like how Scott said we were going to "tackle" this issue on this blog. While we're at it, can we come up with a real Middle East Peace Plan and uncover the secret herbs and spices that are used to make Kentucky Fried Chicken. :)

But seriously, this is a good one to think about. I'll be posting something later. Also, I'm thrilled to see The Elephant's Child posting here. She's a smart cookie and I love and respect her Lutheran perspective. It warms my heart to know that I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, and JoeB-eranolicapalians. :)

scott said...

Joe wrote this post... Don't go blaming me for his bad grammar.

If I would have written this entry, it would have had blinky gifs and some trendy midi music playing in the background. Plus, it would be five times longer.

Big Doofus said...

Oh, my bad. I just assumed that you started all of these posts.

Well, I WILL say that it's been thought provoking. I found a pretty interesting article on the subject that I'd like to share:

Bill said...

I think it is counter productive to separate the Gospel from its effects in our lives. In 1 Cor. 1:6, Paul says that "our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you." The confirmation is an important part. Without confirmation in the lives of real people (not just people in the past), the Gospel becomes sterile facts without application. The Gospel cannot just be studied, it calls for acceptance or rejection. The testimony of people in real time becomes part of the Gospel for today. Rev. 12:11 says, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;.." Our transformation is a powerful and necessary part of the proclomation package. And, linking to the original idea for this topic, it is something that we should sing about in confirmation of those songs that declare doctrinal truths.

Bill said...

By the way, I'm totally in favor of at least mentioning the law, since people (myself included) love to create their own definition of what it means to be good.

elephantschild said...

And the law is necessary for showing people *why* they need Christ, right?

Joe B said...

The law "is". It is written in God's creation (so that men are without excuse, Ro 1:20). It is written on human hearts (Ro. 2:15, so that even the gentiles have the law). And "through the law we become conscious of sin", right? (Ro. 3:20).
Therefore, the law is necessary and we must preach it (or euphemistically, "remind people of it"), right?


The law makes people conscious of SIN, not conscious of CHRIST. Sin does not compel people to Christ, it compels them to SIN. ( loved darkness because their deeds were evil, John 3:19). But doesn't knowing the law make people turn from sin? Well, you tell me. Did eating from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil cause men to turn from sin and turn to God?

Of course not. And while you scramble to demonstrate that my invocation of this story is falacious, turn over to Ro. 5:14 which tells us that apart from teh law, sin is not taken into account, and Ro. 5:20 that tells us that the law "entered that sin might abound".

Is THAT the ticket? To keep looking back, like Lot's wife, to that from which we are delivered?

Read on in Ro. 7:1-6. We DIE to the law, that pesky ex-husband of ours, we do NOT jump back in the sack with him, or even flip thru those wedding pictures. No, it is by DYING to what once bound us (vvs 4 & 6) that we are RELEASED from the law so that we now serve in the NEWNESS OF THE SPIRIT, and NOT in the OLDNESS of the LETTER.

It is not the law that impels us to Christ, it is the Holy Spirit, as promised in Jn 14-16.

Try to read Ro 8:1-2 like you've never heard them before:
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE SET ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH.

Still not sure that's what St. Paul meant?

Read Col 2:20-23: "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world (the law, as expl in Col 16-17), why then, as though you still belonged to it, do you still submit to its rules? 'Do not handle; Do not taste; Do not touch." These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings...and they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

Law? No. Spirit? Yes.

Big Doofus said...

Joe, I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly what it is that you're trying to say.

elephantschild said...

I guess I wasn't very clear in my short comment.

The law doesn't push us to Christ - it drives us to see the depths of our sin. When we see how utterly unable we are to fulfill the law, Christ's perfect fulfillment on our behalf becomes the bronze serpent to which we turn our eyes.

I think you're exactly right; the law by itself doesn't compel us to better behavior, or to Christ. It is the Spirit working conversion in our broken and contrite hearts that brings us to Christ.

Hoping I understood Joe B correctly,

Joe B said...

Doofus, I'm just having a spasm. I'll be okay.

Law. NO!

Spirit. YES!

Does that simplify it at all?

Joe B said...

CFW Walther notwithstanding, Law is not a tool we use to aid in discipleship, and is is not something we "balance" with Jesus.

Jesus is risen; the written code that was against us is still nailed to his cross. Balance that!Colossians 2:13-15 says that by nailing it to the cross, Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities that were against us. Do we need to balance out Jesus by rearming the enemy of our souls?

Some seem to be saying we still need the law. For what?

It is the spirit, not the law, that leads in the way of Christ, that teaches us all things, that convicts concerning sin and righteousness and judgement, that reveals christ to us, and that quickens our mortal bodies. (You can find a verse for each one of those, can't you?)

What would we serve together with Law at the Lord's table? A little Law and a little Lamb? Just in case Christ isn't enough?

Law. NO!

Sprit. YES!

Joe B said...

I'm trying to rephrase these bits back into the conversation we began with.

Doofie used the expression "what we do as a result of the gospel". I'm thinking, what? Maybe "what we are as a result of the gospel."

I think that the gospel specifies what we are as a result of conversion (immortal agents of his eternal empire.) What we are directs what we do (colonize planet earth and act as Christ's ambassadors of reconcilliation.) So the gospel is a calling to a new birth into particular kind of life, enabled by Christ's blood and the holy spirit. Jesus, then, preached the gospel effectively when he simply said "follow me."

But if the gospel is no more than inviting people to be cleansed and spared from hell, then it only really demands that you get cleansed, settle in a good church, and then keep your Sunday clothes clean.
If the "gospel" is really a prescription of the minimum you must do to be saved, then I guess that's about it.

But if the gospel is the announcement of and calling to the inbreaking kingdom of God, then "what we do as a result of salvation" is actually what we are called by the gospel to do. The two are not separable.

This might be a difference of nomenclature, but I think the passive, institutional church we see around us reflects the preaching of a truncated gospel.

Proofread me, Big D!

scott said...

I think that's an excellent point that summarizes a lot of this nicely (some of the earlier stuff was even confusing *me*, and I'm around you all the time to hear you talk like this!). "if the gospel is no more than inviting people to be cleansed and spared from hell..." versus "if the gospel is the announcement of and calling to the inbreaking kingdom of God, then "what we do as a result of salvation" is actually what we are called by the gospel to do."

Amen. Nicely worded.

Big Doofus said...

Let me throw this question out to you all. What is so offensive about the idea of "fire insurance" salvation? Is it possible for a person to have just a simple faith in Christ's work for their salvation but then never really live it out consistently throughout their life? Again, I ask, why is this so offensive to so many of you? (Or, IS it offensive?)

It sounds like what you are saying is that salvation is a gift from God in the sense that there's nothing we can do to gain it...however, we must show signs of actually being a believer by our good works which are a result of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. I hear this all the time and it's appealing in the sense that if you've been plugging away, you don't like the idea of someone who supposedly trusts in Christ for salvation and then doesn't really live it. Was that person sincere when they trusted in Christ? Who are we to know for sure? What about the thief on the cross who trusted in Christ just before he died? Was their proof of the Holy Spirit living in him?

These are the questions that I wrestle with. I used to be very firm about the notion that if someone trusted in Christ they would certainly produce works. But we also know from scripture that He chose us before the foundation of the earth. So, the more I think about it, a simple trust in Christ is sufficient. It doesn't rub me the wrong way. In fact, it's downright gracious of God.

So, I'm sure that this is HUGE can of worms and that some of you will go completely nuts with this. Let me just say that I've been around the block a few times with all of this. That doesn't make me automatically right--it just means that this view is tempered a bit. Think it over some. Trust me, I've been blasted a few times over it.

elephantschild said...

That pesky thief on the cross! He's caused no end of trouble in doctrinal debates! (I'm joking here.)

I'm anxious to hear what others say about what BD has written.


PS. I would add that we don't always see the works that faith produces; sometimes, perhaps most of the time, the good works that prove faith is living are invisible, both to others and to the person doing them.

scott said...

I think the point that Joe is trying to make -- and forgive me for trying to speak for him, but this is what I'm thinking, so maybe it's what he would say too -- is that when I refer to "the gospel" and "conversion," it is MUCH more than a simple "are you saved?" The kingdom is at hand, and that means so much more than "am I in or am I out of heaven?" I'm not necessarily interested in boiling it down to see what the minimum requirements are for salvation.

So, to answer the question, no, I'm not offended by the concept of someone like the thief on the cross being saved by Christ. That's the beauty of God's grace! In fact, I've heard people I've talked to not want ANY PART of Christianity because of that very thing -- they say that if murderers and child molesters are going to be in heaven, they sure don't want to be there. So, does the "fire insurance" apply? Sure, I suppose it does, technically. But one of the problems is that many people are "selling" Christianity that way, and that's not "following Christ." We're short-selling what it means to follow Jesus, making it into a 3-step plan, to keep people out of hell.

So I won't argue with what you are saying, Rog. I think I agree with what you say. Oh, you might also find the discussion on this post interesting as well.

Joe B said...

Scott, as usual, is more intelligible than I. Thanks, you said it better than I might have. (It's nice to have a translator when you come from another planet.) what? Guys, I LOVE that the thief on the right was granted paradise. But did Jesus even mention atonement to the thief? No, the thief embraced aloud what Jesus preached, that for which he was crucified...Christ's Kingdom.

Do people 'get saved' by simply hearing and believing substitutionary atonement? Sure they do. Why not? And I never said anything about people qualifying for heaven by their subsequent works, that is only what you are supposing.

But our question is NOT "what is the minimum admission requirement for heaven." The question is "what is the gospel", this verbal “power of God unto salvation?” Now, if preaching the gospel is truly nothing more than stating the minimum requirements for admission (atonement and belief) and an invitation to embrace those requirements, then there is nothing to discuss. But while that may be a valid way to talk descriptively about the gospel, it is not the gospel itself. By itself, that thinking bears only a fractional resemblance to Jesus' own teaching and action.

That is just not how Jesus presented the gospel, nor is it how the apostles expounded and implemented it in the Church. Jesus and the apostles speak of the kingdom nearly 200 times in the NT in ways that could hardly be construed as “a heavenly resting place”. Does Jesus himself ever say anything suggesting that discipleship is a thing apart from atonement or faith? And doesn't James outright rebuke such thinking?

Somehow every doctrinal discussion swirls immediately down to "works versus grace" and its cousin, "how exactly to you 'get' salvation." But these are not the central topics of our Lord's teaching, nor are they really the topic of the post. These are the ruts of theological wagons that passed this way centuries ago, traces of another generation's power struggles.

Our challenge is to turn to Jesus' teachings and just let the man talk. What does he say?

Big Doofus said...

I think we're all on the same page here. We've solved this one. Let's move onto the doctrine of election and free will. (wink wink)

But seriously, this has been a GOOD discussion. Plus, I don't feel like I've been beaten up. Thanks for all of your comments.