Earlier this week, I started a series on “gospel” as I prepare notes for a talk on Sunday evening. I thought that doing a short blog post for each idea in order to help me to prepare was a swell idea. If you would like to join along, you can start here and here.
It is my suggestion that the gospel that we claim to share, believe, etc. needs to be “whole.” Typical renderings of the gospel include a problem that God fixes. The problem that gospelers normally point to is the Fall of Humanity from Genesis 3. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the curse of sin shattered God’s good world “all the way down,” touching every aspect of human life.
Scot McKnight, and other theologians, suggest that the text in Genesis 3 reveals four fractures in the human condition:
Between Human and God
Between Human and Human
Between Human and Self
Between Human and Creation
So, if the problem is the fracturing of God’s good world in four, foundational places of human life, we should expect the solution directly addresses and reconciles these fractures. A whole gospel would place all four of these issues at the center of importance. An incomplete gospel would address some but not all of the fractures.
This may seem menial or disinteresting to some, but I find it to be a vibrant theological and pastoral conversation. For instance, if our gospel sharing helps to mend the Human and God relationship, but neglects the Human and Human relationship, it would be awkward, right? This seems to be of central importance for one of John’s letters to a church; one cannot claim to love God and not his/her brother. Sure, we might find it inconceivable that someone would love God and not their neighbor but common experience shows that we’ve had a tough time separating church and hate.
This lack of wholeness is revealed in the way that people read the Gospel books of the NT. Some tend to read them as long introductions until Jesus finally dies for individual sins of sinners. To them, the things that Jesus did before his suffering, death, and resurrection are not directly involved in “the gospel,” they function merely as preparation of it.
Others read the gospels the other way, that Jesus did so much for individuals who were oppressed by Empire and it was such a shame that Rome finally caught up with him in the end. Imagine what would have happened for human progress if Jesus could have lived a bit longer. This “gospel,” then, is something that reaches out to the Human and Human, Human and Self categories without addressing (directly) the fracture between human and God.
The gospel, then, is “hyper-relational,” as McKnight puts it. It speaks to this amazing idea that Paul wrote to the Colossians, “For God was pleased to have his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things…” (Colossians 1:19-20)
All sounds like a whole lot more than just me and my sins and more than just a recycling campaign.
So, ask your gospel a couple of questions:
“Are you whole? Do you give an anticipation and hope that God is making all things new and mending the four cosmic fractures deep within all of human life?”