What is the Gospel?

Tim Challies is hosting a conversation based on the question posed by the Together for the Gospel Blog“What is the gospel? What is the most serious threat to the gospel in the evangelical church today?” There are a few good thoughts but I am surprised to hear nothing about power, or the gospel as gift, no reference to the Old Testament, and no immediate return to the message that was “received and passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4)


(Image found on Ishmael’s ‘emphatically apophatic‘)

The emerging church as I have witnessed it, does not deny propositional truth in the Bible, despite what the article says. But a proposition-only gospel is not the full story – where is the resurrection power, historical narrative and missional obligation that the reception of this good news demands? The story behind the good news is just as important as the good news. They depend on each other. Its a both/and – the propositional AND the narrative. I dont feel the trauma of choosing between narrative or proposition. To me, the gospel (“good news”) points to an actual historical time-space event (story) and an understandable message to represent the meaning and promise of that event (proposition) that will demand a response – either reception or rejection of the gift.


(Door to Heaven, 1941)

But the question still stands. What is the gospel and what threatens it today? How does the emerging church threaten the gospel? How does fundamentalism threaten the gospel?

If the emerging church has attempted to restore the Good News back to a full and healthy state by its stubborn insistence on accompanying it with a holy life, power, justice for the poor, beauty under opposition, then we have failed to be heard, at least by the men in this corner of the room. So, if you are part of the emerging church or the global non-western church [we REALLY need your voice] then go over to Challies and join the discussion. I hope the conversation over there will not become a hyped-up Calvin Kleaning of modern evangelicalism nor a nostalgic party in the Sola-torium without a fresh return to the Christ event.

Related: Internet Evangelism Day is May 7. Andrew Careaga tells me the emergent bloggers were not very involved when it kicked off last year. Should we jump in this year? What would be a good contribution?

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Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Kate Hamilton says:

    Hey Andrew,
    sorry this comment doesn’t have anything to do with this blog but I noticed from other blogs that you’ve been hanging out in Dublin recently.
    I’m at Uni here and was wondering if you could enlighten me as to where to find some interesting/alternative christian-type community? I would appreciate it alot.

  • andrew jones says:

    hi kate.
    yeah – i went there twice recently but have not mentioned them (forgive me ireland) because i was waiting for their blog to get going.
    but here we go. i hung with the good people connected to The Journey who are starting a number of good things.
    I would have thought you had connections with the Core Church in Dublin?

  • joeturner says:

    This is the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
    The main threat from the emerging church AFAIS is that being cool is more important than having substance. Yes, being church is important, but when being doesn’t actually fall over into very much doing, then there is a problem. I think ordinary people can see through that.
    The main threat from fundamentalism is that Christianity is projected as God-with-a-big-stick waiting in the wings to catch you doing something wrong so he can hit you. I don’t think ordinary people actually see that as good news.
    But then I don’t really fit neatly into any camp 🙁

  • Kate says:

    Cheers Andrew I’ll give them a whirl. Regarding Core- I rek I was holed up in the office doing admin whilst the two churches were building good relations because it somehow passed me by. Yeah those days make me nervous.

  • Ed C says:

    I just barely have time to read this post and reply, let alone go over to Challies and read the article and comments, so here are a few thoughts.
    It’s interesting that we look inside the church for threats to the Gospel. In a sense, this could be correct if something not of God infiltrates the church. But I’d say that sin and the principalities of this world are the real threat to the Gospel.
    When we let the sin and the ways of the world pollute our thinking, as the church, and our doctrine, then we have a problem. But it’s not one group or another, it’s sin. I don’t view the Fundamentalists as a threat to the Gospel. I view sinful Fundamentalists as a threat, just as a would think the emerging church is not a threat, but sinful emerging Christians are a threat.
    And even to use the word threat is a bit strong. When I think of a threat to the Gospel, I think of things like financial prosperity, power, greed, racism. When you wed any of these with the Gospel, you have a threat. A sinful Christian may misrepresent the Gospel and get it wrong, as we are wont to do, but are they a “threat” to the Gospel? I’m not sure. Perhaps, but I don’t think we should put things like left-leaning-post-conservative or right-leaning-fundamentalist doctrines of dubious worth in the same camp as the threat from the world.
    As for what the Gospel is, I’m with NT Wright (What Saint Paul REally Said). The Gospel is the proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ through his life, death, and resurrection. When you proclaim that Jesus is Lord, you say something about the spiritual and physical realms, for there is nothing outside of his rule. That is the only way I can make sense of the kingdom of God from the Gospels and the epistles. This is my imperfect paraphrase of Wright.
    OK, I’ve already gone on too long. Gotta run!

  • Ed C says:

    BTW, about internet evangelism day . . . I’m tempted to leave my computer unplugged. We’re supposed to always be the aroma of Christ, always letting our lights shine. If I need a “strategy” to share Jesus, then the problem is in my life and relationship with Him. I could rant, but I saved it for my own blog.

  • andrew jones says:

    ed – thats a great answer!!!
    maybe we should have one day a year when, for 24 hours, we dont share from our lives on the internet and allow God’s love and life to flow through our media.

  • Matt Glock says:

    I’m wondering where we get the language of threat? As if something associated with God could be undone…
    The Gospel is never under threat. Our culture bound institutions, now they are under threat. Our narrow interpretations that suck the life out of the Gospel, they are under threat…
    God’s kingdom is coming.

  • Perhaps the greatest threat to the gospel is when the Church ceases to be a threat to the principalities and powers of this present age… Just a thought.
    Andrew, what is your “definition” of the gospel? I wrote a series on this (probably not finished it) as a means to wrestle this out myself. I’d love your insight.

  • andrew jones says:

    would it be a bad thing if i DIDNT have my own definition?
    send me a link to your series when u finish it.

  • Ed C says:

    Andrew, maybe something like “show, don’t tell day.”
    Jamie, I like where you’re going. The best defense is a good offense. Then defense isn’t necessarily a problem. Challenging the world’s system sounds like a good place to start. That means we have spiritual and physical fronts to be aware of.

  • Ars Gratia says:

    What is the Gospel?

    It must be a sports thing, but I love it when we get back to the fundamentals. It started on March 27 when C.J. Mahaney posted the following questions at the Together for the Gospel blog:
    What is the gospel?
    What is the most serious threat to the gospe…

  • Ted says:

    These days I’m hanging out in Ephesians and various passages on spiritual gifts. Under the heading, “things I know but didn’t know”, I would have to put the emphasis on love in these ‘gift’ portions of Scripture. Whether gospel, gifts, or spirit power, the writers always either preface or conclude with an admonition to love.
    I realize that not all conversation about doctrine, moral issues (such as the abortion issue in the USA), emergents, fundamentalists, etc. are without love. But there are certainly enough loveless words to pollute the whole – at least in the eyes of those who may most need the message.
    Could it be that this fruit of the Spirit (love) is what gives credibility and attractiveness to our message? Conversely, could it be that the greatest threat to the gospel message being believed is the lack of love demonstrated by professing believers? “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one for another” (Jn. 13:35, NIV). Love may not define the gospel message, but it certainly demonstrates it.

  • Tony says:

    May I pick up on the comments on Internet Evangelism Day. Of course, I may be partial, being the IE Day coordinator!
    And yes, IE Day is for Christians to learn, not (on this occasion at least) to go and do.
    And yes, I’d strongly agree that ‘aggressive proselytizing’ is usually negative and indeed counter-productive. There are certainly some cringeworthy sites around.
    I do feel caught between a rock and a hard place too, in talking about ‘strategies’ because it sounds impersonal. On the one hand, there are people who just say ‘preach it’, on the other those who feel it is non-relational.
    In fact, I am entirely with the emerging emphasis on relationship. If you read our page on the IE Day about using blogs for evangelism, you’ll see that the ‘strategy’ (if you want to call it that), is to just build relationships and live out your life transparently through the blog.
    Likewise, if you check our stories of people who found God online (and indeed just about most Christians’ life stories anywhere), you will note the unifying factor – which we also highlight on the site – that in each case, it was ongoing email mentoring relationships over a period that helped these people on their spiritual journeys.
    The idea that the web can be some sort of blanket tract distribution system, which just ‘works on its own’ and garners ‘decisions’ is in most cases just invalid.
    The novel ‘The Gospel Blimp’ , though written a good few years ago, illustrates the same basic truth.
    It’s also true that people learn about anything, be it the gospel or whatever, through relational interaction rather than one-way proclamation. See:
    Adult Learning.
    Another thing I like to use is the Gray Matrix, which displays visually where people are on their spiritual journeys, and therefore gives us insights as to what is appropriate in our relationship with them: Gray Matrix.
    So – I’m saying that emerging insights are particularly valuable in understanding how we can best share with people online! And that the post-modern nature of the web is particularly in tune with these.

  • Jon says:

    Internet Evangelism Day: Yeah, if I blogged about that, I’d scare away all my friends. I’ve spent years building relationship and sharing the gospel with them, online and offline. Internet evangelism is not just 24/7: it is actually removed from time because Google leads people to stuff I wrote years ago.

  • Jon says:

    …But don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Internet Evangelism Day, specifically, teaching Christ-followers about evangelism in a new realm. I’m a big believer in Internet evangelism and am all for instruction in what is helpful (and not). I just can’t blog about it because that would be like bringing in a seminar to observe a street mission. “Next, I will interact with this bum, whatever his name is, and you will see how I pretend to be his friend.”

  • andrew says:

    yeah . . but
    IED is still young and has only one year of history.
    i wonder what COULD be done on that day?
    we have already done grid-blogs and other co-ordinated projects together . . . maybe it would be fun to do something on the same day as everyone else. . . just thinking out loud . . .

  • Andrew says:

    I certainly can relate to Tony’s feelings of being caught between a rock and a hard place. He’s trying to promote the idea of the Internet as both a medium and a community through which this “gospel” (which I don’t have a good definition for, either, btw) may be shared. And he’s actually trying to promote this idea to more traditional (even “offline”) Christians — by offering resources that can be presented “offline,” via churches, small groups, Bible study groups, youth groups, etc. But I can see how this can become confusing.
    Andrew, you and many of your readers are pioneers and early adopters of online communications methods. There are still plenty of people who are still puzzled about this whole Internet thing. We’re in the midst of a tremendous paradigm shift, and while the term “evangelism” may seem old-fashioned to many of us, it still resonates with some of the folks we’re trying to involve. (I find it ironic that the corporate world uses the term “evangelism” — as in “product evangelism” — more these days than the church!)
    But, I do think it might be an interesting experiment to do something coordinated online in terms of evangelism. I’m just not sure how to go about it, without drawing more attention to our “agenda.”
    Jon – I completely agree with you about blogging on such a topic. I won’t blog about Internet Evangelism Day on bloggedy blog for the very reasons you cite. That’s why I have the e-vangelism blog — to discuss these issues with a fairly narrow niche of readers.

  • Tony says:

    PS of course – if you are blogging for (at least in part), non-Christians, you’ll not want to mention IE Day!
    And – what I’d love to have more examples of on our site is – blogs which are accessible to, indeed primarily for, not-yet Christians. If you could post them here – or via the IE Day site, that would be great!

  • What is the Gospel? What is it Not?

    What is Gospel? Is it good news? Is it bad news with a silver lining? Is it the promise of getting to thumb your nose at all those who laughed at you for your convictions, while you are swept up in the rapture and they are left behind?
    Tom Challies is di

  • andrew says:

    if you come back [i should really start another post here tomorrow)
    what about some of these seasoned bloggers passing on some skills and knowledge to newcomers on May 7. Would that fit with the theme?

  • Michel Savard says:

    About IE day…
    Can I make a shameless plug for a site my wife is very much involved with? It is http://www.iamnext.com. I invite all friends of this awesome blog (I mean Andrew’s, of course) to go check it out. Send me feedback! I can even keep it anonymous !:)
    The biggest challenge has been to find people who know HOW to write an article for a non-christian reader, which won’t freak him out, or turn him off. Many christians will write a piece, and think it is good. But they (often) don’t get it. But we love them anyway, don’t get me wrong :). And you can only learn how to “interact with the culture” by trying. I wish we could just say “poof” and make instant cutting-edge, culturally-sensitive authors and communicators. Takes hard work.
    Anyway, enough rambling from this side of the pond.

  • Tpmu says:

    Andrew – sure, any wisdom and insights from seasoned bloggers would be highly welcome. Ideally, what I would do is post such thoughts about this, or examples of blogs, on that page about blogging, where it remains a permanent resource!

  • Andrew,
    Of course you can not have a definition. I don’t like describing it as such anyway- too propositionally oriented.
    That being said, my own series may not be completed for some time, but the bulk of it is done, in four parts:

  • A Bob's Life says:

    The Gospel and Its Threats

    Andrew Jones discusses the role of propositional and narrative truth. Jones argues that they are both important in the presentation of the gospel.

  • Jerry says:

    Something to keep in mind regarding online evangelism – people find information about spiritual things by several ways. One way is when they see Jesus through a relationship with a person. Another way is when they ask spiritual questions with Google. If direct spiritual content is not available, their search is in vain. Sure, sites like http://www.GodLovesTheWorld.com have no [initial] relationship or context, but when those sites are in the context of all the other things someone experiences in searching for God, they are necessary and effective.
    When you have a question, you need an answer. Just because someone provides a direct, unqualified answer doesn’t mean it isn’t a meaningful part of a larger discussion or experience.

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