Just what IS the Gospel? What IS the “Good News”? And when it was used in those earliest days of the movement, just after the Ascension, what do YOU think those who used it meant?
Longer version of question and why I ask it…
Up most all of the night at the hospital taking care of very sick folks in the OR and we had a patient die. We all did our best but he simply succumbed to the onslaught of all his co-morbidities.
Afterwards my anesthesia team and I were talking about death and God and heaven and hell and what happens when we die and what happens in eternity. One anesthetist is a devoutly fundamental evangelical who is very active and knowledgeable. And he took a verbal swipe at the “heretic” Rob Bell (about whom there is much conversation here these days) and his “soft, postmodern, squishy” God.
And it dawned on me that for this man (and for a great many others) the good news is simply that Jesus died on the cross to save me from having to die that same death. Good news is about the opening up of a path whereby he can avoid hell.
But it seems there are as many ways to formulate ideas about what all the good news entails and the vast number of ways it is spoken of in the bible that his version really misses a lot. No mention of the triumph of God; the victory of God over sin and death; the effecting of reconciliation from estrangement; no concept that the good news is that “Love Wins” (to steal Bell’s book title!); no concept of the entire fallen creation being redeemed and recreated through the faithfulness of Christ.
For some reason, I’d never seen it so starkly and bluntly before: the good news as possible pathway to salvation for those who chose it. That’s it.
For me, the Good News can be articulated in as many ways as there are voices and minds to announce them! But mostly, the Good News is about GOD! He’s not as His enemies have made Him out to be…
What do you think?
Good question! A lot of people think that belief in universal salvation means that there is no “Gospel” to preach. Speaking of Chapter 6 in Rob Bell’s book (which I have ordered but have yet to receive) Ben Witherington says:
How would I answer your question? Just what IS the “Good News”?
It’s not “fire insurance”, that I know. I think the church is complacent and has missed the heart of the GOOD NEWS because of how they see atonement and salvation. Salvation is not from future torment. Salvation is from PRESENT torment, from the flesh which wars against the Spirit. The Good News is that we can share in Jesus resurrection power through which we become born again, a new creation, a “new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10)
I just like this verse and it mentions good news I’m trying to think of something profound to say about it but nothing is coming
Ah, I have something, although I don’t know if it’s profound. Maybe Jesus is implying in the above that Good News is “liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”?
I remember a lunch break at work some time ago where a christian colleague must have perceived I was looking a bit down.
He sat next to me and began to ‘cheer me up’. He said: “Hey, brother, don’t forget we’re saved - you and me! We’re going to heaven! Look at all these others” (there were about 20 other colleagues) " They’re all going to hell, but we’re saved, Praise God!"
There wasn’t a hint of irony, not a glimmer of compassion. He was absolutely sincere.
This weekend we had a visiting evangelical preacher come preach Sunday morning. His topic, “The Lake of Fire”. Typical hell, fire, and brimestone preaching. And he did have an invitation at the end of the service for anyone who wanted to escape hell. Boy, he pleaded vehemently, but oddly no one came (I know we had a number of visitors that day, which one had had to assume some weren’t saved).
I worked the sound booth that service and was alone, and I had a copy of J. Preston Eby’s “The Lake of Fire” tucked inside my bible. So I read it during the sermon. I tell you I was quite depressed listen to the sermon while reading the article.
Afterward, I thought about giving the visiting preacher Eby’s article, but I’m still kinda a closet universalist in my very evangelical Baptist church. Instead, I pointed out the the word ‘brimestone’ is ‘theion’ in the Greek, which is also translated ‘divine’. He’d never heard of that before, so I said, yeah, go look it up. Who knows, maybe I planted a seed.
I pray that it has Dondi. I hope the lack of response to the minister shows that people are finally starting to see thru ECT. That it doesnt add up or at least it’s not the kind of God you would want to come. Not Good News for most people.
What really bothered me is when he addressed Christians on the matter of our responsibility to tell others. He said in effect, that we as Christians will be there as witnesses when the unrighteous will be cast into the lake of fire. And we will bear our shame and sorrow that we didn’t do enough to tell people about Christ and we’ll see those people that we should have told empty out into hell for all eternity. And that is why in Rev 21 we need to have God wipe away all our tears, because of our failure.
I don’t know about you, but I hate having a guilt trip put on me. I think it puts a terrible burden on folks and results in people witnessing forthe wrong reason. We wouldn’t be doing it out of love, but out of fear, not for the other person, but for ourselves, lest we would be ashamed. How can the Holy Spirit operate like that?
I’m all for warning people about consequences of their sin and their need for Christ, but since I’ve come to believe UR, I find I have more compassion for those I witness to, without the urgency of getting another number in. In fact, I’ve enjoyed witnessing a lot more because I believer God is in control and as we pray for people we share the gospel to, we can be assured that God is working to draw then in. Our job is to lovingly encourage them to come to Christ for a new life in him, not just warn them of the dangers of hell. People seem to respond better that way, in my experience.
Yes, witnessing out of fear and guilt is terribly destructive for both parties, the witness and the witnessee. I believe that faith and love are much more powerful motivations - faith in the power of the goodness and the ultimate triumph of Christ and love of God and of people. Love never fails!
I also believe that a major reason so many evangelicals are so lack in sharing the “Gospel” is because deep down inside they know that what they have to share is NOT “Good News” but is really very bad and depressing news! “You’re all going to die and go to Hell one day unless you repent and put your faith in Jesus who really loves you but who will damn you if you don’t trust in Him!” The love and forgiveness of God is only available now, during this short life; after that man it’s all over, God stops loving you, hates you and consigns you to be tortured forever!
No wonder Christians are not active in sharing the “faith”, because they are more confident, have more faith for damnation than they do for salvation!
2 Cor. 5:19-21
"…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The good news also involves some mention of judgment (although I am almost ALMOST ready to accept that this does not mean ECT)…
After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”
I’m thoroughly enjoying this question, but Total Victory, are you a doctor? It’s always nice to have a little background on people and understand what they do outside of this forum.
By the way, this question seems so relevant in light of responses from Christians that sharing Christ is irrelevant if one day God will be able to save all. I think it points in the direction that their sense of the goodness is not whole. I saw a comment about the gospel not just being fire insurance and this is how we often treat it.
I’m with the Tillerman - 2 Cor 5.19 is my favourite verse. Also, whenever Jesus preached the good news it was always about the kingdom of God is near or with or within you – never about escaping from earth to “get to heaven”.
Gotta add that one to my list! Not sure how it slipped through…
I’ve been bothered lately by what I think is an abuse of the term “good” news…
So I tried to write an essay – well, more like a column. Seems many items and publications ask for columns of between 500 and 750 words. So it’s a good exercise to try and get an idea across well in that few words. I will also post this in the section called “Essays”
If you’d like to help me add, subtract, clarify, sharpen it’s content, do over there if you will.
[size=150]The asterisk* (*except of course) Gospel[/size]
God’s magnificent intervention on behalf of sinners and against sin, through His Son Jesus, the Christ, is called The Good News by we Christians. The Gospel! Rich scriptural images of the far reaching effects of this Good News are numerous.
Families - fathers and sons - being reconciled; Love never failing; Reconciliation being effected for all; Destruction of sin and death through Jesus; Return to the blessed state of oneness with God; Redemption of the entire creation in all it’s vastness; Nothing short of Total Victory by God. And these images of the Gospel are matter-of-fact. Thorough, complete, vast, comprehensive, all inclusive, full.
For a great many Christians however, the Gospel is more restrained, limited, and constrained. Tenuous even. It is restricted by any number of clauses and qualifications and exceptions. What might seem at first glance to be transparently positive in fact then, for these people, becomes opaque, vague, and insufficient. It’s good news only “if”… The goodness of the news thus rests entirely on my response to it.
I would like to propose that we call this version of the Gospel the “asterisk(*) Gospel”. It could also be called the “except of course” Gospel, but the “asterisk Gospel” seems slightly more concise. This Gospel version takes plainly positive statements and waters them down with vagueness and uncertainty and exceptions. Fine print – apparently unnoticed and unread by the more exuberant versions of Gospel (which is to say that of Universalists) – negating and muting what had first seemed perfectly clear and straightforward and wonderfully welcome. Good news is thus morphed into merely pretty good news, or sorta good news; good news “lite”.
Here’s how the asterisk* Gospel works…
– The Good News is that God, through Christ, (this is Colossians 1) has reconciled ALL things to Himself*
(*except of course those things which refuse to be reconciled; like maybe particularly nasty and stubborn sinners…)
– The Good News is that Love, (this is 1 Corinthians 13) the very defining virtue of God and embodied in it’s infinite fullness in Jesus, never fails*
(*except of course for those unfortunate ones for whom love does fail… you know, the “lost”…)
– The Good News is that In Christ, (this is 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5) ALL will be made alive*
(*except of course those for whom this is not true…)
– The Good News is that at the Cross, (this is also in 1 Corinthians 15) God won the Victory over sin and death for all time*
(*except of course for those unfortunate victims for whom sin and death remain an actuality…)
– The Good News, is that as a result of God being “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28) there will come a day when EVERY knee will Bow – and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!*
(*except of course those are knees and tongues that have been forced to do this…)
– The Good News is that nothing – nothing! – can separate us (this is Romans 8) from the Love of God*
(*except of course you; you can separate yourself from the Love of God and you can do it forever…)
Two millennia after the announcement of Good News to all mankind, isn’t it high time we rid ourselves of the asterisks that attenuate and neuter the Good News and start sharing the true beauty and completeness of what is, for ALL men, truly Great News? The Goodness of the News is not modified or diminished one bit by the recalcitrance or stubbornness of created minds. Rather, it’s Goodness rests fully, and completely in the very person and character of The Redeeming Savior God. And that Goodness will, in time, sweep all up in it’s redemptive reality and the entire creation shall actually experience Reconciliation with God. (May that blessed day be hastened!)
I am very new to all of this, but it seems we should not in any way try to candy-coat the reality that God’s judgment on unbelief in this life is still a terrible thing. While it may not be everlasting, it doesn’t sound like a little slap on the wrist either. To quote Andrew Jukes, “one can understand how terrible must be the judgement on all that grows in a future world from the seed which has been nourished here of self-love and unbelief; a judgment in comparison with which any present pain is light affliction!”
Oh My Tillerman! Do you really hear candy-coating here on the site?
(if so, tell me who it is so I can cast the first metaphoric stone! )
I find I’ve never been around a group of folks who are more respectful of God’s judgement than this site! Respectful enough to discover it’s real purpose and seriousness!
As a personal aside to you, I had much the same worry back when I was in the process of embracing UR. And one of the most wonderfully honest and insightful things I’d encountered was right here on this site by Robin Parry (then GM) over in his section titled
"How Universalism has impacted my life"
Here is a snippet of that incredibly wonderful post and quite frankly the one that helped convince me to join this site because of how seriously it takes judgement!
Of course the warning is incredibly important. No doubt. But the warning is not to be conflated with the Good News in my opinion…
I was just saying that in a general way, not specific to any one person’s comments. I’m probably talking to myself more than anything, you know "Rick, you know there is more to the gospel than just “God has a wonderful plan for your life” There does seems to be varying degrees of understanding within the Christian Universalism community as to the nature of judgment. Still trying to get to the bottom of it, although I really am impressed so far with Andrew Jukes’ treatment in “Restitution of all things”
It is ironic how often I hear that UR downplays God’s judgment and wrath, when my experience has been just the opposite. I have a much greater respect for it than I did before. I was terrified of God’s wrath and with horror when I believed in ET, but now I believe in the absolute justice and mercifulness of God’s wrath, as well as the inexorableness of it. God’s wrath will accomplish His purpose and will not relent until we let go of all those pet sins and selfishnesses we hide within us and which are so dear to us.
And that is almost a more fearful thing than a hell that will allow us to hold on to those.
If we will not give them up, He’ll burn the house down around us to free us from them. And saying the “sinner’s prayer” won’t protect us from that, for it’s not those who say “Lord, Lord” who are saved, but the one who does the will of the Father. Man’s wrath does not achieve the righteousness of God–but God’s wrath does.
Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury—
A violent whirlwind!
It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.
The anger of the LORD will not turn back
Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart.
In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.
Even my husband who I’ve been discussing UR with for 6 years now–and is leaning that way–will still frequently say, “But you can’t get around the fact that there’s going to be judgment and punishment…” And I always reply, “Do you see me trying to get around it?” He knows I’m not, but he’s trying to work it all out in his head. It’s not easy to switch paradigms.