Saturday, October 10, 2009

evangelicals and the gospel

Rob Bell ran into some flack last month for his definition of evangelical in an interview with the Boston Globe:
“I embrace the term evangelical, if by that we mean a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness, a hopeful outlook. That’s a beautiful sort of thing.”
Lot's of people have taken exception to his definition, but, let's remember that this was part of an interview where Bell had just talked about the word "evangelical" having
"been hijacked. I find the word troubling, because it has come in America to mean politically to the right, almost, at times, anti-intellectual. For many, the word has nothing to do with a spiritual context."
There are some who want Bell and other authors to present a checklist of points whenever they speak. One of the things I appreciate about Bell is the creativity to express and declare the gospel in ways that connect in non-churchy language, using non-churchy imagery. For some that is threatening, for others it is a breath of fresh air.

And so, in response to some who disliked his statement, and in response to an interview with Christianity Today earlier this year, Bell has tried to tweet the gospel - express what the gospel is within the 140 character limit of twitter.
The gospel is the counterintuitive, joyous, exuberant news that Jesus has brought the unending, limitless, stunning love of God to even us.

So what do you think of that tweet?
How would you tweet the gospel in 140 characters


Dave said...

I think Paul would not only "tweet" the gospel significantly differently, but he would clearly state that Bell's tweet was not the gospel.

Concerning "evangelical," - he just made up a definition that no one else has ever used to define the term. Using that approach, I could just as easily say "I embrace the term "atheist" if by that we mean a belief Jesus Christ, who is God as presented in the Bible. To know that I am "a theist" is a beautiful sort of thing."

Now, seriously - our faith is only as sure and valid as the object of our faith. Jesus Christ was an historical person, who accomplished specific things on our behalf making forgiveness of sin and eternal life possible. Those things must be articulated in order to articulate the gospel. Paul did this regularly in pagan settings a using non-churchy language and non-churchy imagery. We have the language and imagery that Paul used and that the Holy Spirit inspired because words have meanings. If we change the meanings on the fly, then communication is impossible - and if that happens, no one will be saved.

We are saved by placing our faith in Christ - and another way to put it is to believe the gospel. Believing what Bell tweeted has no saving power whatsoever. That is the only test for the accuracy of any gospel presentation - could someone believe it and be saved.

When it comes to expressing truth that has life and death ramifications, sloppiness is not a virtue.
Dave James
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

Anonymous said...

Excuse me. Jesus came into the world to save men by bringing them eternal life (as opposed to making eternal life possible). He forgave men of sin (as opposed to making forgiveness of sin possible). It is true that "our faith is only as sure and valid as the object of our faith." But it was not originally our faith that caused us to believe. It is the faith of Christ, a gift that comes with and causes salvation (Ephesians 2:8
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:"), as is the repentance given by Christ. (Acts 5:31 “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”) We are resurrected from a "life" that is in reality "dead in sins and trespasses." (Colossians 2:12-13 “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” )