Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Evangelism and the fullness of the gospel

At Jesus Creed Scot McKnight is looking at Bill Bright's classic "Four Spiritual Laws." So far, Scot has posted an introduction along with reflections on the First, Second, and Third spiritual laws. The series is useful in reminding us that salvation is more than an individualistic affair and that the reign of God is much more than a tidy little plan. Consider, for example, the diagram used for the Second Spiritual Law:

Here there is "Man" and "God," and it is the Cross of Jesus that enables the human being to get back to God. Once again, we are dealing here with a truncated gospel: the diagram depicts a gospel in which the problem is separation and the resolution is reconciliation. The gospel is always defined by the problem it depicts, and the Bible describes this problem in a number of ways, including but not limited to separation. In other words, if you define the problem as separation, once separation is resolved in reconcliation, the gospel has run its course. Once a person crosses the Cross to get back to God the gospel's work is done. (Few admit this; but the image seers it into the mind of those who are being evangelized and it leads to Christians who see the Christian life as the "second phase" and not the "gospel" phase; it leads to seeing fellowship/ecclesiology as something in addition to the gospel and not integral to the gospel; it does to the same to holiness, etc..)

Is reconciliation of individuals all there is to it? What then of the Church? What then of the World? Whenever the gospel is understood as an individual person finding his or her way back to God, the gospel is reduced to Individualism -- and anyone who reads the Bible knows that page after page is about the people of God (Israel and then the Church) and that the "plan" of God is to build a people for the good of others and the world.

It's important to take Scot's observations as they're intended. I don't think he's finding fault with the Four Spiritual Laws as much as he's pointing out the risks of seeing the fullness of the gospel in overly stylized or abbreviated terms. In that he's right on target.


Blogger Dan Edelen said...


I've been reading Scot's take on The Four Spiritual Laws. It's good. But it has a distinct problem at this point that I hope he makes up for in the end: it offers no alternatives.

Without an alternative, the question has to be asked if all tracts are ultimately worthless if they don't contain a "more complete revelation."

Too many times Christian bloggers will strip an issue bare, but then not have any better clothes to dress that issue in. I'm getting progressively more tired with critiques that lack solutions. I'm even despairing in my own series on business that I have spent too much time outlining the problems before proposing the solutions. I don't want to ever give anyone the impression that I am merely a critic.

If all of us provided solutions to the problems facing the Church in North America, I think we would all do much better in life, and the world would see us differently, too.

4:29 PM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger maverick mindset said...

A great post outlining a pertinent point. I believe that our personal take on the Bible is determined by the teaching we have received on it. My understanding of the Gospel is that through building a relationship with Christ, we build one with God. What goes up must come down - hence we improve and develop healthy (healthier)relationships with others. There's nothing simplistic or individualistic about it.

4:42 PM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger Scot McKnight said...

Keep reading my blog as I'll have a solution: and it will appear in my book this fall, Embracing Grace.

6:21 PM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger Scot McKnight said...

Here's the new post:

10:03 PM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger Scot McKnight said...

Well, the line was too long, but you can find it at Jesus creed.

10:04 PM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

I agree, Dan, about there being too much tearing down and not enough alternatives among Christian bloggers (although not necessarily from you and Scot!).

5:46 AM, June 23, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, Grant, for visiting and for your praise of Scot's work.

5:46 AM, June 23, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, Scot, for the clarification and for the series in general.

5:47 AM, June 23, 2005  

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