Ron Martoia, author of Static, understands what happens when someone challenges our understanding of the gospel.
I confess that the first time I grappled with these concepts, I had a hard time. I felt there must be some mistake, that the people introducing me to these concepts must surely be misguided…
I know my experience is not unusual, because I have helped others take the same journey. In talking about this topic for the past several years, I have found that people have a lot of emotional investment in making sure that what they have believed in the past is in fact correct. I have seen person after person first get defensive, and then courageously examine and explore the archives of experience that are informing their definitions. Then they begin the process of exploring whether this thing they have never heard before is perhaps a better, richer, more nuanced, more beautiful, more complete and engaging way to tell the story.
Ron suggests something that, in theory, most evangelicals should agree with: that we should let the Bible define the gospel. The problem is that we have been taught things about the gospel that are extrabiblical, but we’re not always aware of this. Words like gospel and repentance start to carry extrabiblical meanings, which we read back into the biblical text.
The language we use is loaded with baggage—namely, that many times our own understanding of the concepts we are trying to communicate is flawed, incomplete, or downright wrong. This may be hard to swallow, but frankly, it’s true.
Take, for instance, the gospel. Ron suggests:
We have reduced the gospel and abbreviated the story. We have decided that “the gospel” is all about getting people a seat in the heavenly stadium. But what if tickets on the fifty-yard line in heaven are at best a by-product of the gospel and the newsflash is something quite different? Is it possible that the breaking headline has a lot more backstory to it than we’ve been letting on?
What Ron is really suggesting is something I really value: that we recapture a theocentric gospel, which helps us locate our part in a “still-unfolding story” and understand that our “personal stories have meaning and value in a larger narrative framework.”
Years ago, J.I. Packer wrote, “To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need.” I agree. For those of us who are ready to take up this challenge, Static is a challenging read that leads us to ask exactly the right questions that can lead to real transformation.