"What was the original Gospel?"

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Last May, I posed a simple question to readers on the blog:  “What is the gospel?”  More than forty of you responded, each with a slightly different answer. As a follow-up, I posed the same question to some of my favorite bloggers and writers—Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, Jennifer Fulwiler, John Armstrong, Julie Clawson, Matthew Paul Turner, Mary DeMuth, Ben Arment, Adele Sakler, Eugene Cho, Kathy Escobar, and Renee Altson. Not surprisingly, each one of them responded with a slightly different answer.

On the one hand, I think it’s appropriate that each person’s experience with Jesus is unique. When teaching, healing, and leading, Jesus didn’t stick to a rote formula, but responded to each person he encountered a little bit differently. I don’t think our conversion or discipleship experiences are meant to be exactly the same, and I am suspicious of anyone who insists that a restored relationship with God is dependent upon knowing a certain set of propositional statements or praying a certain kind of prayer. 

But on the other, the lack of consensus regarding the content of this “ good news” we’re supposed to be sharing with the world makes me wonder if we’re missing something important about the original meaning and purpose of the word “gospel.”  I was recently asked to provide a definition of the gospel in a few hundred words, and I found myself really struggling to come up with a coherent response.  I tried several variations before finally giving up. 

With all this in mind, I’m really looking forward to reading Scot McKnight’s soon-to-be-released book, The King Jesus Gospel.  According to McKnight, contemporary evangelicals have built a “salvation culture,” rather than a “gospel culture” in which the good news is reduced to a message of personal salvation.  In the video trailer above, he says that “the so-called gospel at work in many of our churches today is actually deconstructing the Church into a society of the saved instead of constructing a society that follows Jesus to the cross.” McKnight suggests that ramping up our emphasis on God’ wrath on the one hand or his mercy on the other won’t help because “if you tweak a weak gospel, you still have a weak gospel.” 

According to the promotional material, in The King Jesus Gospel, McKnight argues that: 

1. The Gospel is defined by the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15 as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus
2. The Gospel is found in the Four Gospels
3. The Gospel was preached by Jesus
4. The sermons in the Book of Acts are the best example of sharing the gospel in the New Testament.

Sounds like McKnight has repackaged some of NT Wright’s ideas and added some of his own with the goal of making the original gospel message more accessible and exciting to the young adults who are leaving the Church in droves. 

I’m going to try and get  my hands on a copy so we can discuss it here on the blog. In the meantime, you can pre-order a copy of your own here


So what do you think? Have contemporary evangelicals lost sight of the original gospel message? 

And, more importantly, what is the original gospel message?

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