Another interpretation?

So, hopefully without too much distortion, I presented the ‘normal’ Gospel – certainly the one I was brought up with – yesterday. What though if that presentation is not a true representation of what we find in the pages of the NT? Years ago in a process that is probably the root of the ‘new perspective’ on Paul E.P. Sanders suggested that Paul’s understanding was shaped by an awakening that Jesus was the solution, therefore the question he had to work on was what was the problem (plight). This of course is the reverse of most presentations. Problem = Universal Fall / Solution = cross. A personal response is then required otherwise personal guilt remains.

The implications of our understanding of the Gospel has enormous knock-on effects. So taking a cue from Sanders but not applying it as he did, what if we start at the ‘end’. The outcome is for ‘the reconciliation of all things’ under one head. The final putting in place, rightly ordering of all things – maybe what we can summarise as the fullness of the manifestation of the kingdom of God. Of course, for some, that might instantly lead them to a ‘Universalism’ conclusion – though by no means a necessary conclusion. With that sort of final outcome, the perfection of Creation it is necessary to understand the death of Jesus as being at a cosmic level. It is indeed a political event. The Gospel being political, corporate in its outworking. The church, as per Israel before, is not to be a separate community condemning the others, but a forerunning community of the community.

To reduce the Gospel to a personal level is a much more recent understanding of the cross (with such understandings as guilt / debt etc.). The prominent (though not only) early church view was one of dealing with everything hostile, disarming the powers that held the ‘world’ in bondage. It was not of paying a debt but of breaking the stranglehold of ‘Satanic’ bondage. Freedom from bondage – yes freedom from sin as that was the cause of bondage, but not primarily freedom from sin in terms of a ‘guilt’ issue.

We see this in Matthew’s description of Jesus’ ministry as ‘he will save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). That chapter places Israel in ‘Exile’, as living in the punishment resulting from their sins (or in Deuteronomic / Pauline words – ‘under a curse’). Unable to be who they were meant to be (not free as a result of sin) they were subject to all kinds of over-rulers. Rome, but Jesus had bigger fish to fry than Rome. Not simply Roman, but also internal with their own religious rulers who complete with their ideologies made their disciples even twice the son / daughter of hell that they were. Yet the internal and the external, the religious and the political rulers, were simply sub-rulers for the one known as ‘the Satan’.

The cross means ‘we’ are free from our sins and this has to be primarily a power issue, a transfer from one ‘kingdom’ to another. ‘Born again’ is an appropriate language to use, but we need to remember that it was to a religious leader those words were spoken. It is probably not inappropriate to use that narrative to suggest that Jesus could well say to many ‘born again Christians’ that they need to be born again or they will not ‘see’ the kingdom of God. Like so much of our language we reduce in meaning what it seems to me the original phrases implied. (Classic is where we reduce ‘being saved’ to something along the lines of ‘will not burn in hell at the end!’)

So what is the good news that is centred in the death and resurrection of Jesus? It is that there is good news. God is not condemning the building project that we have messed up so badly. The plans remain, our contribution to the debt has been resolved. It’s a new day, indeed so great is the transformation that those who can believe this will enter a ‘new world’ being energised in incredible ways to work on this project. The project being transformation. Those who likewise – even with other beliefs – but carry the same core values will be found to be ‘for us for they were not against us’.

Evangelism then is living and communicating in that context. It is living out an incredible generosity that invests in friendships even when there is no return (not even a ‘they came to Christ as a result of friendship evangelism’). It is being energised by a convinced hope. It is not proselytising but it is seeing the image of God in one and all. Evangelism is not seeing the only thing that counts as people coming to ‘salvation’ but the need to be consistent in faith. It does not mean no sharing of faith, no leading of people to Jesus, far from it, but it does not reduce evangelism to that level, which at its worst is simply a marketing exercise.

Now are those two just variations on a theme? Or are they two different Gospels. One Bible in common, one Jesus that the believer declares to be ‘Lord’ but some huge differences in application.

Here are some of the potential differences:
Jesus is Lord

  • personal Saviour whom I worship and this will affect my personal morality
  • or Lord of all whom I owe my allegiance to and has implications for my lifestyle in the light of global issues and my allegiance to all other powers including the state

Enemies of the Gospel

  • those of other faiths, and sinners in general
  • or those who oppose the values of the kingdom, those who align with the powers who rule

Sin has been paid for

  • Jesus died for our sins and I am no longer under wrath and guilt, and one day will not burn in hell
  • or, all the powers have been broken. Powers that were in place as a result of sin. Now we are free

Evangelism

  • Evangelism is witnessing and bringing people to a point of decision
  • or co-operating for the outworking of God’s order in and through all things

So dependent on the lens that it is viewed through will depend on what is seen. As for two pages or two Gospels, I currently think there is a small overlap. There is common ground but too much ground where there will be happy and mutually-beneficial co-working in the same space.

Different pages – same Gospel?

Words are a means of communication. What they mean will determine what is communicated. And the complex part of communication is in closing the gap between what I meant and what was understood by the hearer. So the word ‘Gospel’ and related words such as ‘evangelism’ I am finding are increasingly becoming challenging words. We can find ourselves using the same words but mean something different – certainly this can become evident in terms of the outworking. Maybe it puts fellow-believers on different pages, sharing belief in the same Gospel. Maybe it is not simply different pages – it might also be different Gospels. I am not sure on how to describe the differences, hence the question in the title.

In presenting positions there are very many varied nuances that are not represented, so forgive me for making a more rigid presentation than it deserves. However, a fairly ‘normal’ Gospel set of beliefs would include (and I take the quotes from The Gospel Coalition’s confessional statement):

1) Humanity is lost:

As a result, all human beings are alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being (e.g., physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, spiritually) and condemned finally and irrevocably to death—apart from God’s own gracious intervention. The supreme need of all human beings is to be reconciled to the God under whose just and holy wrath we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can rescue us and restore us to himself.

2) Some are foreknown / elect to salvation:

We believe that from all eternity God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, and to this end foreknew them and chose them.

3) Jesus died for our sins – paid the price

We believe that by his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus Christ acted as our representative and substitute. He did this so that in him we might become the righteousness of God: on the cross he canceled sin, propitiated God, and, by bearing the full penalty of our sins, reconciled to God all those who believe.

So given the above typical framework when I view the world – all are lost, and their ultimate destiny is one of ‘hell’. Jesus took the punishment due us (God’s wrath) and those who respond in faith to him (and only those foreknown can do this) are saved. Our task as those saved is to evangelise which of course means using appropriate language, and preferably through building a bridge for friendship to share the core ‘Gospel message’ and provoke a response. When the chips are down there is not a lot of value in other activity as there is a primary activity. If one likened it to knowing that people were inside a burning building and if they stay there they will all perish then anyone with a level of compassion is going to warn them, seek to persuade them, and perhaps even come close to dragging them out. Not to do so would be to knowingly allow people to perish.

Of course there are variations on the above, but probably that is not too far away from capturing the core.

But what if the ‘Gospel’ is understood differently? What if the above is not considered to be representative of the ‘Pauline’ Gospel? That is why it seems to me that either we end up on different pages, or maybe end up with different Gospels.

About this site

I am the main contributor to this site, though there are guest writers from time to time. Hopefully, what is presented are perspectives not the final word!

I am currently developing a part of the site with a focus on the 'gates of society'. That section will develop more as a forum with links to other articles, so that it becomes a resource for the future. I will also be looking for other contributors into the various subject-areas.

In my spare time(!!) I enjoy putting together wordpress sites, and also coaching people to make their own - open to hearing from you on that too.

Magazine articles

Just some more blogs? No, of course not, nothing even similar... well maybe very similar indeed, but hopefully you can use them differently. At the foot of this home page you will find 10 more blogs, these ones are grouped together, they will only be replaced every few months with a new set of 10. They can be downloaded as an emagazine, or read here as blogs (click on one and read, or use the 'emagazine' link in the menu above). Here on this site you can also add your comment.

Their core focus will be toward the gates of influence in society. They will not be the final word, hopefully provocative with some practical aspects thrown in.

The first four volumes will be uploaded here in quick succession, after that a breather before the next one. You can access earlier volumes from the emagazine page using the menu at the top of this page.

So you see - nothing like a blog!!

WordPress design

I develop WordPress based web-sites specifically made for your site. This site here is based on WP and uses a theme that I have developed. It can be as simple as a set of posts and some pages, or a few additional elements can be added such as this animated set of tabs that are activated here. I also plan the sites so that they are mobile-friendly, being responsive, they adjust to the device being used to view them.

If interested in a site feel free to make contact. I also have various courses on WP theme development. If interested in taking one of them online, or indeed you would wish to contact me about presenting a course to a small group.

Previous posts

For the Gospel

I have been provoked a lot these past months about how we understand the Gospel. Partly it is, in a season of being practically busy, it also gives time to reflect on other matters. So I will get to this in due course – like so many other things ‘in due course’. Then there are […]

It is not the end

I confidently announce that the end has not arrived in all its fullness. No not some great prediction there just to update on what I began with writing on the issue of eschatology ‘simplified’. I have not finished the series (the end in all its fullness?), but am working toward getting it into an ebook […]

Temples and slavery

Chris Bourne sent me a link to an essay he had written A walk among the ruins. He had sent it to me as ‘A little cure for insomnia’ but it might be long-ish but it was certainly insightful and provocative. Comparing and contrasting the Tabernacle to Pharaoh’s battle tent Chris then moves on through […]

Exit Darcus

Must be the time to review books? Second one in a few days. Exit Darcus I read while travelling to and from the UK last month. Written by Kerry Cole – I have known Chris and Kerry for almost 10 years. A couple who carry integrity in their actions. I was intrigued to read the […]

Tales from the Couch

Tales from the Couch Memoirs of a Drunk Monk by Dave Vaughan The back cover ends with this note: Many have encouraged Dave over many years to get these stories into print, this book is eagerly anticipated and heavily weighed down with ecstatic life, ENJOY! I looked forward to reading the book having known something […]

Random Read #9

Gayle and I almost invariably read together first thing in the morning. Often the Spanish Bible, a chapter of a book that will stimulate and provoke. So this post is an update from this morning. Maybe I should entitle this ‘Compulsory Read’? First – we are almost finished ‘Journey to the Common Good’ by Walter […]

More days of crisis?

The Supreme Court made a ruling this past week making same-sex marriage a (US) nation-wide right. Although not all Supreme Court justices were in agreement the ruling was passed on a ‘constitutional’ issue. One of the very interesting responses I have read came from an evangelical scholar and NT professor at one of America’s prestigious […]

A successful ministry…

Just realised this past week that Jesus stated after his work in Israel that Israel would be more demonised than before. Quite an astounding statement: When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from […]

Flying Home

Gayle and I come across to the UK on a few short visits each year. Normally to be involved in a few small, below the radar events. Always we leave touched and impacted. In a few hours we fly home but will again be reflecting back. At the centre of what we have we have […]

Magazine Articles

Editorial Vol 2.1

In this issue there are a number of articles to respond to. Dyfed reviews Roger Mitchell’s thesis Church, Gospel & Empire. Roger’s book is his thesis so we should not expect it to be an easy read, however, with Dyfed’s review I think the book will be accessible for most. In a recent blog Roger […]

When is a Gate not a Gate?

It is a simple question. Should religion be treated as a gateway in the model of the city that we explore on this blog? Martin and I have both, perhaps instinctively, said no. Then Martin invited an article on the topic: then I got to thinking: then, well, you’ll see.

Ownership, stewardship & forgiveness

“So the business leaders of today are not capitalists in the sense in which Arkwright and Rockefeller were capitalists. Modern titans derive their authority and influence from their position in a hierarchy, not their ownership of capital. They have obtained these positions through their skills in organisational politics, in the traditional ways bishops and generals […]

It’s the Economy stupid!

So much talk about the economy, but what is the economy? Is it just pounds and pence? Dollars and Euros and cents? The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “the system of trade and industry by which the wealth of a country is made and used.”

W.I.L.D. voices for the poor and the powerless

For some time I have been wrestling with the issues of money, care for the poor and how our present western economic system seeks to support people in need. As a community at Antioch, Llanelli we have a focus on ‘God’s presence and the poor’ and over many years see the day to day pressures of folks who are increasingly struggling financially in these challenging times.

Church, Gospel & Empire: a review

‘How is it that the best of church experience in both traditional and radical expressions tends to relapse to hierarchical domination and control?’ This is Roger Haydon Mitchell’s chilling question in his introduction to his newly published PhD thesis, Church, Gospel & Empire.

Art shaping culture

It has been received wisdom for a while now that economic power is shifting from the old world to the new world. Continental Europe is faced with tremendous headwinds to do with spiraling social costs and an ageing population that means growth over the next 100 years will be hard to come by. In the developing world on the other hand very low wage rates and high worker motivation are combining to create a compelling long term argument for excess growth rates and wealth creation for those markets.

Values: unelectability

I watched a film recently ‘Ides of March’. A film looking at people on the campaign trail. The governor has sex with the intern (definitely a big ‘no’ in the film)… However, the areas that were far more challenging though were to do with the ethics of winning votes. One example were meetings with fellow politicians to gain their endorsement. Making a deal so that votes could be guaranteed – in return a position in the forthcoming government.

Wealth: redefinitions

Definitions of course have their limitations, but I was provoked and challenged when sitting listening to a Zimbabwean speak. His question to us was to consider what are we were investing into. To help us he used the two phrases of ‘artificial’ and ‘creational’ wealth. One he said was how the (industrialised) West defines wealth, but is illusionary. This he, therefore, termed ‘artificial’.

Come back Christian nation

Abortion, gay marriage, Sunday trading (sorry, strike that one off, as we like that now)… All evidence that we are losing it. The ‘look, once we could see Cathedrals and church spires on the landscape, now Mosques are where churches once stood’ type of statement are all laments about what is disappearing.