What is the gospel?
It started out as a post on Tony Campolo, but it’s become a conversation about the gospel.
Some see the gospel as God saving sinners, who then help the poor. But helping the poor, they say, is not the gospel.
Others, like me, argue that the gospel is even bigger than that. It’s about God restoring and redeeming the whole world (yes, including sinners) through what Jesus has done. The gospel is more than about souls. It is about all that God created.
I’ve blogged about this before, with quotes like this:
At their best, Reformed Christians take a very big view of redemption because they take a very big view of fallenness. If all has been created good and all has been corrupted, then all must be redeemed. God isn’t content to save souls; God wants to save bodies too. God isn’t content to save human beings in their individual activities; God wants to save social systems and economic structures too…
Everything corrupt needs to be redeemed, and that includes the whole natural world, which both sings and groans…The whole world belongs to God, the whole world has fallen, the whole world needs to be redeemed – every last person, place, organization, and program; all “rocks and trees and skies and seas”; in fact, “every square inch,” as Abraham Kuyper said. The whole creation is “a theater for the mighty works of God,” first in creation and then in re-creation. (Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Engaging God’s Word)
He talks about Reformed Christians – but his argument is not unique to the Reformed movement. For instance:
Christian hope is not limited to the fulfillment of individual life. It insists that personal and communal fulfillment are inseparable. Christians thus work and hope for the transformation of life in community….When by grace we rise above our egocentricity, we realize that there can be no salvation for us as persons apart from the transformation of the many communities and institutions to which we belong: family, society, and humanity as a whole…If our hope is in the triune God, it must necessarily be a hope not of the salvation of isolated individuals but of people in community…Christian hope in God’s final triumph over sin, evil, and death is multidimensional: it is personal, corporate, and cosmic. (Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding)
Our Lord did not describe his task as proclamation in isolation but as proclamation in the context of service…The sick, the outcasts, the demon-possessed, the sinful, and the sinned against found in him a friend and healer. Through his acts of compassion, Jesus demonstrated the presence of the kingdom (Luke 11:20). Then prior to his death he promised the disciples that they would carry on his work, doing even greater things than they had observed (John 14:12).
Involvement in service likewise arises out of a holistic conception of the gospel. Those who deny a connection between evangelism and service articulate a gospel directed to only one dimension of the human predicament…
The biblical gospel, however, is explicitly social. It focuses on reconciliation with God, of course. But reconciliation is a social reality…The gospel is the announcement of God’s reign which establishes community. The community God is creating is a reconciled people who are concerned about compassion, justice, righteousness, and, above all, love. (Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God)
Check out the discussion and add your voice over at Paul Martin’s blog.