I have just read an article written by Tim Keel called, “An Efficient Gospel?” In this article, Tim deals with the issues I have been struggling with for almost three years. For me, it was a breath of fresh air to actually read something from someone that actually had something to share that was beneficial to the body of Christ for today (not just a future event). The issue of Gospel is a big deal to me. I get so angry when people stop someone on the street and ask, “If you were going to die tonight, do you know where you would be going for eternity?” For some reason, I didn’t know why I didn’t like this question. All I could gather was that it made people only think about dying rather than living. I didn’t realize how much my first impression of this statement would come out in my future understanding.
“If someone were to ask you what the gospel is, what would you say” (19)? This is a question Tim was asked at a camp. He struggled with this question because, when he thought about it all the more, he really did not have an answer to this question – and it bothered him a lot. For me, I never thought about that question until I was confronted with that question in my early years of college. I mean, I grew up in a Christian family, with Christ-like values and went to church each Sunday and even some Wednesday nights if there was something going on in the church. For me, I didn’t worry about this question because I was saturated with what was “the Gospel.” When I got to Bible College though, a deep sense of unfamiliarity rose in my mind about what was this thing we called the Gospel?
Some of the questions I found myself asking people in my dorm were questions like: Why don’t people care about the questions we ask concerning the Gospel? Why do people seem to think the church is so separate from the world? Why does it seem that we are really missing something in our Gospel conversations? Are we helping or hurting the cause for the Gospel? How did Jesus deal with the issue of the Gospel? Does the church follow His model or have they inadvertently gone their own way in order to push their own kind of agendas? I am sure if we were to sit in a group together, we could come up with several more questions, we probably would lose sleep in our conversations, which might not be the worst thing we could do.
Still, the Gospel has been reduced to what our protestant friends have packaged into a nice formula: God is Redeemer. It is true to the nth degree that Christ is our redeemer. I am blessed beyond words that Christ came to earth in order to redeem both His Creation and His people. Tim Keel states, “But when we reduce Jesus to redeemer only, we miss another essential element of our faith: Jesus is also creator” (22). Tim opens the doors of the Gospel by adding a unique characteristic of God we seldom remember and apply to Christ: He is both Redeemer and Creator of all things. What does that do for our theology and our faith in Christ? It is significant. In Genesis 1-3, we see God as Creator. In Genesis 3, we see the fall of man and God as redeemer of humanity. Isn’t it interesting that we see God as Creator before we see God as redeemer yet we only seem to focus on His redeeming characteristic? That is mind boggling to me that we only give people a limited Gospel message of God’s redemptive power and forget first and foremost that we were made in His image. What a beautiful picture we can give to people.
One of Tim’s final paragraphs really brings this whole message of the Gospel home for me. He states,
…No wonder so many have determined that the church and “the gospel” have very little to contribute to the world. The idea that the gospel has something to say about the eternal destinies of people has been drummed into them from a long time. But they don’t see that we are equally concerned about that Jesus taught us to pray: “May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (22).
When we examine the significance of the Gospel message, we realize just how important these thoughts really are. We cannot be fall into reductionism and hold the Gospel on one thread of God’s character. We must look to the multi-faceted characteristics of God as a whole.
How then should we approach people with regards to the Gospel message? Tim Keel gives an interesting question we could use when witnessing: “But asking people, “If you had just a few years left, what kind of life would you want to live?” generates enormous energy. It is a question of home, something our balkanized world sorely needs” (22). To this, I say amen. I personally do not have all my questions answered but at least I have a more full Gospel in which to ask these questions and search for answers. I hope you will take a few moments and read Tim Keel’s article. If you get a chance – after you read it – drop me a line and let me know what you think. God bless