Which of These is “the Gospel”?
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” – Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws
“I’m a bastard, you’re a bastard but God loves us anyway” – Will Campbell, rouge Baptist preacher
“Here’s the Gospel: You’re more sinful than you ever dared believe; you’re more loved than you ever dared hope” – Tim Keller, PCA pastor
“You are accepted – Paul Tillich, liberal theologian
These four statements reflect in their own ways and parlance the default American version of “the Gospel” across the theological spectrum.
“The Gospel is not a religious message to inform mankind of their divinity or to tell them how they may become divine. The Gospel proclaims a God utterly distinct from men” – Karl Barth
Barth contests this default version of “the Gospel.” Rather, it is something about God in distinction from us.
“The time is fulfilled and the reign of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” - Jesus (Mk. 1:14-15)
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” – Romans 1:1-6
Jesus identifies “the Gospel” with the advent of the “reign of God.”
Paul identifies “the Gospel” with Jesus, his victory over death in the resurrection by the Spirit to serve his larger ends of bringing the Gentiles to “the obedience of faith.”
If we accept that Paul’s and Jesus’ understanding of the Gospel should be our guide, how do we account for the pervasive “default version” the first four quotes illustrate?