Monday, October 18, 2010

How Do We Draw the Line Between the Gospel and Its Implications?

Via Justin Taylor I learn that Gospel Coalition bloggers will be answering the question this week "How do Christians work for justice in the world and not undermine the centrality of evangelism?"

D.A. Carson was first at bat, and one of his ways listed was this: By learning, with careful study of Scripture, just what the gospel is, becoming passionately excited about this gospel, and then distinguishing between the gospel and its entailments.

That prompts a good question unto itself: How do we distinguish between the gospel and its entailments?

I was grateful this question came up, even though briefly, during a Q&A session with Bill Streger at the Lead10 Conference a couple of weeks ago.

I think it's important to draw the line between the gospel and its implications, lest we "preach ourselves" or attempt theft of God's glory, even unwittingly, and I think we draw that line at the place we start doing something.

Yes, our good works were prepared beforehand that we might walk in them, and yes, as we work out our salvation, it is God who is really at work in us, but when we begin to act, the content of the gospel gives way to the implications of the gospel. The gospel is God's work alone, in Christ's work alone.


Chris Booth said...

"...we draw that line at the place we start doing something."

Wow, I have never thought of it like that. That's good to chew on and has 'implications' for my behavior. Do you mean that though I may have a good grasp of the meaning of the gospel, and could get an A+ on a gospel pop-quiz in Religiosity 101, it won't mean much until I put feet on it and share it? Is that what 'doing something' means?

Can you expand on: "but when we begin to act, the content of the gospel gives way to the implications of the gospel."

what do you mean by, "gives way to?"

thanks for the post...I was having a drowsy night up until now....

Jared said...

Hey, Chris, good to "see" you on here.

Some context for this post might be good.
There is an ongoing conversation in the evangelical world about what the gospel is, namely in relation to things like social justice (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, providing for the poor, etc.). So some will say that social justice is a component of the gospel. Others will say that, no, the gospel is the work of Jesus to reconcile sinners to God, and that alone. In that case, social justice is not a component of the gospel, but an implication of the gospel. It is something that happens because of the gospel.

It is the place of good works, basically. Are our good works "gospel"? Or are are they implications of the gospel?

what do you mean by, "gives way to?"

I mean that what God does empowers and results in what we do.

I am saying that our good works are not part of the gospel's content but implications of the gospel's content, because I think it is "dangerous" to say something we do is good news. It may be a way to "preach" the good news, to communicate that we believe the good news, but if something we do is part of the good news, we share part of the saving work -- and therefore the glory -- that belongs only to God.

My friend Zach Hoag and I have a difference of opinion on this issue, and are planning a point/counterpoint post for our respective blogs in the coming week.

Chris Booth said...

I guess I've always seen social justice as a repercussion or reflex of the gospel, not the gospel itself. I understand the bible to say that the gospel is about Christ's finished atoning work on the cross for sinners. I think I'll be siding with you on this one.

I guess I'll wait to see how your friend will defend good works being good news..........

Thanks Jared for the clarification