Thinking Out Loud

January 30, 2015

Getting the Gospel Right

Christianity in a single sentence

Four years ago I ran a piece here that began with Dane Ortland, a senior editor at Crossway Books, who asked some people in his Rolodex to summarize the gospel in a single sentence. (Does he still use a Rolodex?) At the time, I was reading all Christian bloggers somewhat equally, but today with the dominance of Calvinist/Reformed voices at Crossway, I probably would have tempered my introduction with a warning that many of the responses probably emanate from people in the same doctrinal stream.

To be fair, the question asked was to summarize The Bible in a single sentence. But it’s a re-hash of a familiar theme among certain blogs were repeating over and over and over and over and over and over and over again: What is the gospel?

I remain perplexed by this preoccupation, this obsession that certain people in the Reformed tradition have with trying to formulate the ultimate definition of the evangel; the good news. Without being flippant, I think that, like pornography, you know it when you see it; or in this case hear it or read it.

Mylon LeFevre, the musician from the early days of CCM put it this way, “If it didn’t sound like good news, you haven’t heard the gospel.”

I also think that, when considered in the light of the Jewish appreciation of the scriptures as a great jewel that reflects and refracts the light in infinite ways each time we look at it, the idea of trying to formulate a precis of the Bible is to venture into an endless and perhaps even frustrating mission. What would Jesus think of trying to consolidate something so great, so wide, so high, so deep into a finite number of words?  Concision is great, but maybe it doesn’t work here.

That God loves us and cares for us enough to intervene — that incarnation should ever take place at all — is such a mystery. Why mess it up with over-analysis? Instead of reading about the gospel, and writing about the gospel, and — oh my goodness! — blogging endlessly about the gospel; would it not be better to get out into the streets and be living the gospel? I said at the time that my answer would simply be:

  • It’s the story of the history between God and humankind.

Is that not sufficient?  Maybe today I would add, ‘and God’s workings to repair that relationship where it has been broken.’ But already I’m making it longer where I think such a statement needs to be concise.

But why? Why? Why? Would someone from within the Reformed tradition be so kind as to give me a reasonable solution to this riddle: Why so much time, so much energy, so much angst over trying to answer a question that never seems to be answered to everyone’s satisfaction?

Nonetheless, here are few answers to Dane’s question:

  • God is in the process of recreating the universe which has been corrupted by sin and has made it possible for all those and only those who follow Jesus to be a part of the magnificent, eternal community that will result. (Craig Bloomberg)
  • The movement in history from creation to new creation through the redemptive work of Father, Son, and Spirit who saves and changes corrupted people and places for his glory and their good. (Paul House)
  • The message of the Bible is twofold: to show how people can be saved from their sins through faith in Christ’s atonement AND how to live all of life as a follower of God. (Leland Ryken)
  • God reigns over all things for his glory, but we will only enjoy his saving reign in the new heavens and the new earth if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the crucified and risen Lord and who gave himself on the cross for our salvation. (Tom Schreiner)
  • God made it, we broke it, Jesus fixes it! (Jay Sklar attributed to Michael D. Williams)

Two of the authors merely paraphrased a familiar verse in John 3:

  • God created mankind in order to love them, but we all rejected his love, so God sent His Son to bear our sins on the cross in order that by believing in His sacrificial atonement, we might have life. (Grant Osborne)
  • God was so covenantally committed to the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life! (Dan Block)

I thought there was actually more life in the answers given in the comments section:

  • God chose one man (Abraham) in order to make of him one great nation (Israel) so that through it He might bring forth the one great Savior (Jesus) and through Him demonstrate God’s glory and extend God’s grace to all creation. (John Kitchen)
  • The good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the penalty and power of sin, by the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone, plus nothing – all to the praise of His glorious name. (Seth from Lynchburg)
  • Jesus, God’s promised Rescuer and Ruler, lived our life, died our death and rose again in triumphant vindication as the first fruits of the new creation to bring forgiven sinners together under his gracious reign. (attributed to Steve Timmis)
  • Why try and better John the Baptist? He succintly summarizes the Bible: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”(John 1:29). It’s all there – epiphany, sin, sacrifice, salvation, redemption, justification, forgiveness, release, freedom and victory. (Michael Zarling)
  • The Triune God of Eternity restoring the demonstration of His glory in that which He has created by the redemption of creation through God-man, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rick from Dallas)

But at the end of the day — if you haven’t already spotted the pattern here — my favorite item in the comment section is this one:

  • Why didn’t you ask any women to contribute? (Gillian)

To read many of the other featured definitions; and dozens of other comments; click over to the original article at Strawberry Rhubarb

Looking back four years later… In an environment where so many churches spend so much time and energy trying to draft mission statements and tag lines to put under the church logo, it’s interesting that our perspectives vary enough that we don’t emerge with something more common to all.  However, we do have a common symbol, the cross

Maybe we should start there and work backwards to a core statement.

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September 13, 2012

Complete Links To Christian Century’s “Gospel in Seven Words”

So what if someone asked you to summarize your faith in seven words (or less)? That was the challenged faced by 23 writers at Christian Century. So… why bother listing all the articles here? Why not just link to the page? Because statistically, you guys drop by here — by the hundreds daily — but don’t click. (You don’t want to know what’s on, you want to know what else is on!) So I’m hoping a few of the answers here entice you to at least read a couple of the original articles. Or perhaps you’ll recognize a familiar name.  As to subscribers, I apologize; I don’t have a clue what you’ll get today.  Continue reading after the break.  You can at least click that, right?  As for the formatting, sometimes WordPress doesn’t play nice with other platforms…

(more…)

July 13, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Links

Welcome back to another list…

  • Shaun Groves is getting ready to release a new album, Third World Symphony, and Journey of Worship caught up with him for an interview.  And speaking of CCM artists…
  • Here’s what Joy Williams has been up to lately, as half of the duo The Civil Wars  [video] which I was reminded of while reading this…
  • Jason Adkins digs deep into the grammar of CCM: “Prepositional Phrases Are the Artistic Expression Du Jour.  Whether it’s Chris Tomlin (And If Our God Is For Us…), Blindside (With Shivering Hearts We Wait), or the continuance-to-a-specified-time tendencies of Casting Crowns (Until the Whole World Hears) and Red (Until We Have Faces), the prepositional phrase is challenging the terse one-word album title as the dominate naming convention in Christian music.” Read The State of the Art Address.
  • Missy gets into the subject of designer babies and gender selection at It’s Almost Naptime, a popular parenting blog for women.
  • Popular author and theologian N. T. Wright is releasing the New Testament edition of his own Bible translation, The Kingdom New Testament.  More advance info at Zondervan.
  • Canada’s largest multi-site church, The Meeting House is doing something very different for the summer.  For 12 weeks, they’ve invited leaders from other denominations to share the pulpit with TMH teaching pastor Bruxy Cavey.  (Plus a visit from Philip Yancey!) So far we’ve enjoyed all of them, available on both video and audio.
  • Mickey Maudlin, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor at HarperOne (HarperCollins’ religious imprint) reflects on the reaction to their publication of Rob Bell‘s Love Wins.  Sample: “As a young evangelical, I was socialized to see the biggest threat to the church as theological liberalism. But now I think the biggest threat is Christian tribalism…”
  • Last week I linked to some pictures of the event, this week a visit to Julie Clawson’s impressions of the Wild Goose Festival.
  • Mark Dever looks at what’s wrong with pastoral search committees (#6 of 9: “A beauty pageant mentality”) and then, in part two of the same article suggests that this is actually the responsibility of the church elders.  
  • B. J. Stockman looks at the gospel at Resurgence blog.  This is a longer piece but in section three, check out the gospel as reflected in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Leviticus.
  • Lifeshapes author Mike Breen sees celebrity, consumerism, and competition as the key elements that are writing the obituary of the Amercian Church.
  • Also for our American readers, here’s a breakdown of the faith demographics on a state by state basis.  Just hover your mouse over the state for info.
  • Sovereign Grace Ministries leader C. J. Mahaney is stepping away from ministry for an unspecified time.
  • Here’s the video where the deer got loose in Colonial Hills Baptist Church and was captured by security cameras.  Easy to miss in this is the observation of the vast number of security cameras this church actually needs.
  • It’s “Sex Week” at Stuff Fundies Like.  Can’t wait to see how sex and fundamentalism mix.
  • Last month I introduced you to Searching for Grace, a new cartoon by Mike Mooney.  Here’s a very recent panel, giving you the kind of thing you can expect at his website.

February 16, 2011

Wednesday Link List

This is undoubtedly the best link list anywhere published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.

  • David Murrow, the author with a passion for making church more male-friendly, suggests there’s a reason why the guys on the weekend were standing with their hands in the pockets letting the women do all the singing.
  • Consider this church: “A 911 call in the middle of a service is not abnormal…We want to meaningfully bring worship into the mess of our lives. There is a place for ordered worship, where everything is well orchestrated and predictable. However that is not necessarily the world in which many people find themselves today. Life is messy. We need Christ in the midst of the messiness.”  Read more about Toronto’s All Saints Church.
  • If you find yourself suddenly the recipient of a large number of theological books, or if you’re a pastor who is about to retire, perhaps you’d consider helping this guy out.
  • Steven Furtick says his church is more focused on the “people we’re trying to reach than on the people we’re trying to keep.”  He says we should be “fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.”  He goes on to suggest that perhaps it should not be the ‘saved’ who are setting the agenda.
  • Resorting to tabloid-styled language, John MacArthur announces a Bible translation catastrophe to a captive audience at Liberty University.
  • Provoke not your children to anger.  Who me?  I could never do that.  Or could I?  Mark Altrogge suggests numerous ways in which we can and do provoke our kids.
  • Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk has a rather interesting review about a rather interesting book which follows the lives of two pastors.  The book is titled, This Odd and Wondrous Calling by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver.
  • Name Dropping (1): Rob Bell guests at CNN Religion blog on the topic of suffering.
  • Name Dropping (2):Meanwhile over at USAToday Religion, Justin Bieber is labeled a ‘Tween Evangelist,’ even as a pastor quoted in the article says the faith element is not all that overt.
  • Name Dropping (3): At age 102, George Beverly Shea picks up a Grammy Award on Saturday for lifetime achievement.  (Background story)
  • That Soulful Ragamuffin, Carols Whitaker, gets interviewed by the 30-minute weekly Canadian Christian program, Listen Up, and defends the position that you can have real relationships with people online that you’ve never met in person.
  • Michael Horton jumps into the “What is the Gospel?” discussion, albeit by video.  He likens it to a “victory report.”  (Via Brian at Near Emmaus blog.)
  • Here is another testimony that captures quite well the struggle with pornography which is common to so many people.  This was submitted in response to something that appeared here a few weeks ago, and I encouraged the author to set up a separate home for the article where more people can read it.  Check out How God Broke Me To Fix Me.
  • Pete Wilson preaches at a church in India that their church in Nashville helped to start.  Check out Cross Point India part one, and also part two.
  • I get into some strange discussions during the course of a week, and in that process have learned all sorts of information about various faith groups, not to mention the times my wife and I have visited mosques, a mandir and a Buddhist temple.  But I had never actually heard of Mormon Underwear.   Or, as they prefer, “garments.”  Honestly, I had to look this up online.
  • When a business like Ashley-Madison advertizes promoting the value of having an affair, it’s no wonder that Albert Mohler sees it as a kind of adultery industry.
  • That’s it for this week; if you missed them, check out posts at this blog for the last few days; there’s always something happening here.   Our cartoon is from Jon Birch’s popular ASBO Jesus blog.

January 14, 2011

The Gospel In a Single Sentence

When Dane Ortland, a senior editor at Crossway Books asked some people in his Rolodex to summarize the gospel in a single sentence, below are some of the responses he got.  Actually, to be fair, the question asked was to summarize The Bible in a single sentence.  But it’s a re-hash of a familiar theme among certain blogs repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and over again: What is the gospel?

I remain perplexed by this preoccupation, this obsession that certain people in the Reformed tradition have with trying to formulate the ultimate definition of the evangel; the good news. Without being flippant, I think that, like pornography, you know it when you see it; or in this case hear it or read it.

Mylon LeFevre, the musician from the early days of CCM put it this way, “If it didn’t sound like good news, you haven’t heard the gospel.”

I also think that, when considered in the light of the Jewish appreciation of the scriptures as a great jewel that reflects and refracts the light in infinite ways each time we look at it, the idea of trying to formulate a precis of the Bible is to venture into an endless and perhaps even frustrating mission. What would Jesus think of trying to consolidate something so great, so wide, so high, so deep into a finite number of words?

That God loves us and cares for us enough to intervene — that incarnation should ever take place at all — is such a mystery.  Why mess it up with over-analysis? Instead of reading about the gospel, and writing about the gospel, and — oh my goodness! — blogging endlessly about the gospel; would it not be better to get out into the streets and be living the gospel?  My answer would simply be:

  • It’s the story of the history between God and humankind.

Is that not sufficient?

Why? Why? Why? Would someone from within the Reformed tradition be so kind as to give me a reasonable solution to this riddle: Why so much time, so much energy, so much angst over trying to answer a question that never seems to be answered to everyone’s satisfaction?

Nonetheless, here are few answers to Dane’s question:

  • God is in the process of recreating the universe which has been corrupted by sin and has made it possible for all those and only those who follow Jesus to be a part of the magnificent, eternal community that will result.  (Craig Bloomberg)
  • The movement in history from creation to new creation through the redemptive work of Father, Son, and Spirit who saves and changes corrupted people and places for his glory and their good. (Paul House)
  • The message of the Bible is twofold: to show how people can be saved from their sins through faith in Christ’s atonement AND how to live all of life as a follower of God. (Leland Ryken)
  • God reigns over all things for his glory, but we will only enjoy his saving reign in the new heavens and the new earth if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the crucified and risen Lord and who gave himself on the cross for our salvation.  (Tom Schreiner)
  • God made it, we broke it, Jesus fixes it! (Jay Sklar attributed to Michael D. Williams)

Two of the authors merely paraphrased a familiar verse in John 3:

  • God created mankind in order to love them, but we all rejected his love, so God sent His Son to bear our sins on the cross in order that by believing in His sacrificial atonement, we might have life.  (Grant Osborne)
  • God was so covenantally committed to the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life! (Dan Block)

I thought there was actually more life in the answers given in the comments section:

  • God chose one man (Abraham) in order to make of him one great nation (Israel) so that through it He might bring forth the one great Savior (Jesus) and through Him demonstrate God’s glory and extend God’s grace to all creation.  (John Kitchen)
  • The good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the penalty and power of sin, by the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone, plus nothing – all to the praise of His glorious name.  (Seth from Lynchburg)
  • Jesus, God’s promised Rescuer and Ruler, lived our life, died our death and rose again in triumphant vindication as the first fruits of the new creation to bring forgiven sinners together under his gracious reign.  (attributed to Steve Timmis)
  • Why try and better John the Baptist? He succintly summarizes the Bible: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”(John 1:29). It’s all there – epiphany, sin, sacrifice, salvation, redemption, justification, forgiveness, release, freedom and victory. (Michael Zarling)
  • The Triune God of Eternity restoring the demonstration of His glory in that which He has created by the redemption of creation through God-man, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rick from Dallas)

But at the end of the day — if you haven’t already spotted the pattern here — my favorite item in the comment section is this one:

  • Why didn’t you ask any women to contribute?  (Gillian)

To read many of the other featured definitions; and dozens of other comments; or to add your comments to the mix; click over to Dane’s blog, Strawberry Rhubarb.

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