From Dallas Willard to N.T. Wright to Scot McKnight the voices are piling up that our view of the Gospel has been too narrow. It isn’t some new fad dismissed by claims of cultural accommodations. Their arguments are deeply rooted in scriptures that have been hiding in plain sight. They are voices of those who have a respect for the authority of the scriptures to draw us back to biblical definitions of core biblical ideas and doctrines. Yes, our view of the Gospel became too narrow when we focused almost exclusively on getting our sins forgiven rather than the bigger picture of God making all things new and restoring all things (which certainly includes forgiving sins).
Why did we make this move? How did we go from a holistic view of the Gospel as presented in the New Testament itself to a gospel scaled down to what Dallas Willard called the “Gospel of sin management”?
When the Gospel started out with the poor and oppressed they understood that the Good news was about their needs as whole people. As Christianity has gotten more affluent and influential in society we believed we could take care of those other things ourselves. Does your body need healing? That is what the doctors and insurance are for. Even if you can’t pay your bills, it is no longer the church that stands in the gap, rather it is the government. We don’t even functionally believe in evil spirits any more so no need for exorcisms. We can get out of season fruit at the grocery store by shipping it from the Southern hemisphere…okay, now I am going a bit overboard but I hope you get my point. As we continue to learn ways to meet our own needs we end up like the people who are so hard to shop for at Christmas because they seem to have everything already…except one thing. There is one little thing left over that no matter how much money you have, no matter who you know or how what your dental deductible is you cannot atone for your own sins. It is the leftover item we cannot account for our insure our way to security on.
This is the item we were left with having to go to and through Jesus for so this is what Gospel becomes. This, I believe, is how we have functionally and then doctrinally ratcheted the gospel down to one item covering one aspect of our personhood rather than a big, broad, bold message of the kingdom and restoration.
What happens when we broaden our view of the Gospel out to what the scriptures themselves show us the Gospel is? We begin embracing a more biblical and robust mission. We begin relying on God for more and self for less. We change the way we see ourselves and our resources. We become bearers and givers of good news to those we can help whether it is helping them with a doctor’s bill, some food, or the message of Jesus…these things can and should all coalesce into a bigger picture in our minds of what the Gospel is and how we embrace and embody it today.