Gospel Under Fire
In our time, there has been much confusion about the gospel. In fact, perspectives on its content and scope are nearly as diverse as the human race. As a result of the fall, every generation of human beings has inevitably wandered from the truth, and our contemporary culture is no different than those that have come before us. Unfortunately, the church is not immune from the same, devastating malady. When the church becomes intoxicated with contemporary culture, it renders itself ineffective and indistinguishable from the Christless world around it.
Regarding the relationship between the church and culture D.L Moody wrote, “The place for the ship is the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets into it.” In extending the analogy, the ship is carrying a priceless cargo—the gospel message—as it navigates its way through the tumultuous sea. The church, as a gospel-people, have been entrusted with “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Yet many churches, even some professing to be evangelical, that should be “the pillar and foundation of the truth” are instead compromising the very message that should define them. They have abandoned their post of proclaiming and defending the pure message of God’s holy character and sacrificial love—the gospel of Jesus Christ–and have embraced a substitute which is no gospel at all.
Rob Bell, a Grand Rapids pastor well-known for his compelling NOOMA videos, recently published a controversial promo for his forthcoming book, Love Wins. In the video, Bell questioned the traditional, orthodox understanding of the gospel and seems to indirectly affirm universalism (the idea that “God saves everyone regardless of their knowledge of or response to Christ”). Given the destructive combination of Bell’s wide-spread popularity and his dangerous theology, several evangelical leaders responded with words of caution and dismay: Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung. While engaging as a communicator, Bell’s teaching reveals that he is anything but faithful to Scripture.
As a pastor and theologian, Bell regularly compromises the very gospel message that is central to Christian faith. The reaction to Taylor’s honest-yet-loving critique was mixed, and it even came from some within the evangelical movement. While some gave resounding affirmations at Taylor’s stand for the purity and primacy of the gospel, others offered a firestorm of hatred and unjust criticism that Bell’s faithfulness would even be questioned. Biblically-speaking, any pastor (or Christian, for that matter) who claims the name of Christ while denying the truths of His saving work should be questioned, and probably avoided at all costs. In light of the controversy, Kevin DeYoung offered an insightful clarification on the issue at-hand; it’s worth reading.
Why It Matters…
So, why does this controversy even matter? And, why do Christians need to read a book entitled What is the Gospel?
The answer is simple. Our faith—our standing before God, our present life in the Spirit, and our future with Christ—is completely dependent on the accuracy of the gospel message and our faithful response to it. Not only do we need to understand it, but we must also be able to defend it in a day when attacks come from the world, as well as professing believers. Greg Gilbert’s book, What is the Gospel?, is a much-needed clarification on the truths most central to our faith. He summarizes the good news in the biblical storyline of God, man, Christ, and response, after which he elaborates on its transforming power in the life of the believer. Here’s a brief summary of the gospel and here’s a guide by which you can “preach it to yourself” everyday.
May we, as Christ’s bride, become a gospel community who joyfully embrace, thoroughly understand, and firmly-yet-humbly defend the message that defines our past, present, and future existence. Otherwise, we are little more than a sinking ship unwittingly welcoming the sea into our midst while remaining blissfully unaware of the tragic consequences. Let us anchor ourselves to Christ by faith as we cling to the message that He preached and the response that He commanded. And let us be prepared to articulate, apply, and defend the truths that define us.
 Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, 2009).