Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Will The Real Gospel Please Stand Up?

A great article over at Out of Ur quotes Scot McKnight's summary of what's wrong with the gospel as [almost universally] preached from today's evangelical churches [you may want to check out McKnight's previous article on the topic as well]:

1. No one in the New Testament really preaches this gospel.
2. This gospel is about one thing: humans gaining access to God's presence.
3. This gospel creates and individualist Christian life.
4. This gospel sets the tone for the entire evangelical movement.
5. This gospel leads to spiritual formation being entirely about "me and God."
6. The evangelical gospel has created a need for evangelical monasteries.
7. The evangelical gospels turns the local church into a volunteer society that is unnecessary.
8. The evangelical gospel is rooted in Theism or Deism, but not the Trinity.

In the previous article linked above, McKnight notes the following:

Many evangelical Christians feel "most spiritual" when they are praying or reading the Bible and do not see their marriage relationship, their parent-child relationships, their sibling relationships, or their relationships with others – in the Church and outside the Church – as part of their "spirituality". Instead, those elements are at best "implications" of their relationship to God (which is the focus of spirituality) rather than central to that spirituality.

But, we must be more willing to ask this question: Why all the emphasis on love and peace and reconciliation and community in the Bible if these elements are not central to the spiritual life? Is not the Bible's emphasis less on the individual being transformed than the community being created in which that individual finds transformation? Do our spiritual formation courses adequately address community formation?

My conclusion after studying the Bible on the meaning of "gospel" is that one of the major reasons for each of the above examples is a gospel that gives rise to (1) a radically individualistic understanding of the meaning of life, (2) a non-communal perception of what the gospel is intended to accomplish, or (3) a God-only understanding of the gospel.

There, he also finally concludes:

What then is Christian spirituality? It is the person who is restored to God, to self, to others and the world – all four directions for all time – by a gospel that emerges from a "communal God" (the Trinity) to create a community that reflects who God is. Do we preach a gospel that gives rise to holistic restoration and that can create a fully biblical spirituality?

This is resounding stuff. I just visited a couple of church services last week in another city/state and heard what would be classified as "good sermons" and experienced "dynamic worship" and I have to say that the emphasis was exactly what McKnight talks about - a gospel focused on self and dealing with the "sin problem" between the individual and God.  I will not take for granted the leadership at my congregation and the teaching that emphasizes the communal aspects of spiritual formation!

1 comment:

scott said...

This is great stuff. I was at a conference this past weekend where I was supposed to tell my "story." Part of what I shared was a history of leading what I called a "binary" life. That, ultimately, my salvation was between me and God and everything else fell outside of that.
And if anything threatened that--morals, relativism, secular humanists, etc--I could act any way necessary to protect my salvation.
I always missed the communal aspect of salvation. That has changed my preaching drastically.