Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Gospel Today

I'm trying to finish up today a piece for Catalyst, a Methodist journal for pastors, on the gospel.  I've been delighted to write two dictionary articles on "gospel" for the Global Wesleyan Dictionary and the InterVarsity revised version of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels.  So I've written the first half of the article, which gives my sense of how the content of the word "gospel" might have developed from John the Baptist to the second century.  Now comes the most important part for pastors--how do we appropriate this rich history?

I don't think I should write out the whole second half here, but I thought I would use the blog to help me organize my thoughts.  It seems to me that there are at least four key appropriations:

1. Gospel as the good news of God's kingship
The cornerstone of the good news for John the Baptist and for Jesus was ultimately the good news that "our God reigns."  God is in control of things.  Despite how things may look, God wins.

2. Gospel as the good news of Christ's kingship
But Jesus the anointed one stands at the heart of God's reign.  God the Father reigns on earth through Jesus, whom he has enthroned as cosmic king of the universe.  This is good news because Christ is the Savior of the world who brings peace to conflict and the blessings that are usually associated with the good news in the New Testament.  This is good news because it means the defeat of the forces of evil in this world, which are ultimately subject to his authority.  This is good news because it means life from the dead, both ultimately and in our mortal bodies.

3. Gospel as good news for the poor and dis-empowered
In Luke especially, the gospel is a social gospel--it means sight for the blind, liberty for the oppressed, and good news for the poor.  It means that Christ's servants are not only interested in empowering the individuals who are weak, but in changing the structures of society as we are able into good news for all.

4. Gospel as the redemption/reconciliation of the world
The good news means the redemption and reconciliation of the world.  We see this first in the gospel as the reconciliation of Israel in the ministry of John the Baptist to Paul's good news for Gentiles.  It is the entire story of redemption culminating in a coming day when God will set everything right.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Your scenario here is an eschatology of John Wesley, which is a specified vision for a particular denomination. (wasn't Bence's dissertation along those lines?) It's political vision plays into Islam's vision for the world, a transcendental KING ruling over subjects via an "eldership" (or magisterium under the Divine Command Theory).

Historicizing texts into a "gospel frame", which the Hebrew "tradition" would render the social conditioning of said "subjects" (or discipleship plans of conformity!)

MEN are the ones that make pragmatic plans! Weren't those plans laid out by a group you referred to in another post during "coffee breaks"?

Socializing economic policy is a view for NGOs or NPOs, but that is not what the American vision is about, is it? But, it could be useful for those promoting a certain vision for the world.

FrGregACCA said...

Obviously, I can't argue with any of that, Ken, but in reading this piece, I am left wondering: how does this apply to ME? How is this is "good news" to ME and those closest to me?

If this question occurs to me in reading this, I know it will also come up for others, especially those who do not know theatre from theology.

I hope that you will address this in a future post.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Your rendition sounds like intersubjectivity. The Eastern view of "faith", as personal revelation, not rationalized theology. Karth Barth was good at such dogmatic theology. Faith witout reason is irrational action via Kiergegaard. Martydom as a means of promoting the Church's vision. I don't think that we should be promoting irratonality, in today's climate of relgous zealotry1

Ken Schenck said...

FrGreg, I don't know if the flesh I put on it did what you were looking for, but it is finished ;-)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Are you looking for human experimentation, in finishing out how you might flesh out such a subject?

Angie Van De Merwe said...


How can anyone think they can understand anything about "the personal" when it comes to "the Gospel"? "The Gospel" hides, or covers over reality, as it makes for a transcendent, or "special realm" or "special revelation"!

It makes personal claims about "God" that aren't rational only "by faith".

This was the point I was makng about "dogmatism", and even theology in general!

Scott F said...

Especially in light of the rise of Wrightianism, do you plan to address the Kingdom of God more explicitly when addressing God's and Jesus' kingship? It might be a nice way to wrap up the personal, social and global aspects of the Gospel.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Scott F,
Yes, let's do "wrap it up"! Not sounding too much like a philosopher, there, are you?

Pragmatic "needs" are at hand, so let's get going with "crucifying Jesus", and "creating Paul" so the personal, social and global world can be saved!

Forget that "Jesus" is a human being, too! No, his life is only useful for historicizing 'the gospel" for today, so those "chosen" to be philosophers can use others "chosen" to be "Jesus" or "Paul"!

Scientists have "useful functions" to bring in the funds, as their very purpose is pragmatic application of the philosopher's theory.