Saturday, August 15, 2015

Different Gospels?

So, some more from the file of "I want to ask these conservative friends questions about their claims/opinions/hunches but they are having none of it..." so, I'm posting here. In this case, the people over at Winging It is speaking of the various "gospels" found in the Bible, noting that Jesus seemed to preach about the "gospel of the kingdom" and John, in Revelation, preached about an "eternal gospel," and that these are different than the gospel evangelicals mean by THE Gospel. Here, he's speaking of the Revelation "eternal gospel" and then concludes...

This good news [in Revelation] was that God's judgment was arriving and He would be glorified.

Not the same gospel we think of when we think of the word.

No, the gospel you and I think about is what is termed "the gospel of the grace of God." That gospel, in fact, wasn't known clearly until Paul brought it up (Gal 2:2). Now, it wasn't new to Paul -- Paul didn't originate it (Gal 3:8) -- but it wasn't known in that form. Paul calls it "my gospel..."

Why is this a critical and strange teaching to me? What questions do I have?

The problem that people like this have, it seems to me, is that we have four wonderful books full of the Teachings of Jesus, the four books of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And in those four books, we have many teachings and sermons from Jesus. In fact, Jesus clearly states that he is preaching the "good news of the Kingdom of God..." Repeatedly, Jesus and his disciples preach this Gospel story.

The problem for evangelicals? Not a single time does Jesus present "the Gospel" as evangelicals understand it. For evangelicals, "the gospel" is the news that

Humans are sinners, doomed to hell because of our sin
God is a loving God, but a Just God, who can't/won't abide our sin... in the famous words of Jonathan Edwards, we are sinners in the hands of an angry God
BUT, God's anger can be appeased by a perfect blood sacrifice
AND the "Good News" (or Gospel) is that Jesus died to shed his blood to sort of literally pay for our sins and save us from an eternity of torture.

Or as the people at Ligonier Ministries put it...

...that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

This is what has been called the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement, and ONLY by affirming this specific Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement (or something pretty close to it) can we actually be saved. Believing in Jesus and his teachings? Insufficient. Being a follower of Jesus' teachings? Insufficient. Accepting God's grace? Insufficient. Repenting of our sins and accepting God's grace? Insufficient. IF you do not affirm the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement, which many derive indirectly from Paul's teachings (and specifically not from Jesus' teachings), then you can not be saved, at least according to many modern conservative evangelicals.

So, while Paul or no one else in the Bible, specifically speak of the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement, it is something that many find in Paul's teaching of the Gospel. For instance, this passage in Romans 5...

But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

So, the problem for these more fundamentalist types is that Jesus and the disciples are recorded repeatedly as preaching the gospel, but not one time does the notion of blood sacrifice to appease an angry God come up in the four Gospel books. How do these more fundamentalist/conservative evangelicals deal with it? Well, I've tried asking that question many times and never have received an answer. But the people at Winging It have resolved it by DISMISSING the Gospel Jesus taught as not the "real" Gospel that Christians mean by "Gospel..."!

I have often suspected that many more conservative evangelical types prefer Paul to Jesus and will make Jesus' teachings subservient to both Pauline and OT teachings, but I've rarely seen any so openly admit it. What are we to make of that?

The problem I have with this is that, as a follower of Jesus, I am a follower of Jesus' words, his teachings. Thus, when I read the Bible, I (and traditional Baptists, Anabaptists and many others) interpret all of biblical teaching through the lens of Jesus' specific teachings. We believe that Jesus is the ultimate and best representation of God to humanity and so, when I want to best understand a teaching or text in the Bible, I take what Jesus had to say as first priority and then interpret the other, through Jesus' teachings, and the obscure through the clear. It's basic biblical exegesis and has been for many years.

Am I hearing this person incorrectly? Is he not dismissing Jesus' gospel as not THE gospel, but only Paul's is the "actual" Gospel and Jesus' teachings are some lesser, small "g" gospel? Help me understand this.

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