Gospel and its implications

Mark Dever wrote a rather provocative and intriguing post on his 9marks ministry blog – Church Matters. The central statement is as follow:

THESIS: It is very important to [mentally] divorce the gospel from its implications and entailments. [Do NOT divorce these in your life and practice–that is James 2 hypocrisy!]

Specifically, he mentions a God-Man-Christ-Response(abbv. GMCR) presentation of the gospel i.e. God is holy; Man is sinful; Christ died on the cross to pay the price of our sins; Man needs to repent and put their faith in Christ to be saved. However, there is another way to look at the gospel: Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration(abbv. CFRR) i.e. God created the world good; The world fell through sin; Christ redemptive work on the Cross to reconcile the world; God will restore the world by bringing in the new heavens and the new earth. It seems quite clearly from Mark Dever’s post that he is favouring and insisting on the primacy of the GMCR presentation(by calling it the Gospel).

My thoughts:

1. We usually end up using some combination of GMCR and CFRR in the end e.g. we are not able to explain the present state of the world without referring back to the Fall event. Furthermore, the CFRR approach is a healthy corrective to the perception that Christianity is only concerned with spiritual salvation. The coming of the new heavens and the new earth shows clearly that God’s redemptive purpose is wholesome and complete and not compartmentalized. Furthermore, the CFRR provides a great backgroud to understanding GMCR especially for biblically illiterate people. It should be noted that the GMCR approach already assumes a lot of Christian worldview to begin with.

2. However, it is very tempting (for myself included) to talk about CFRR all day long without ever getting near GMCR. (hence the discomfort Mark Dever spoke of). In the GMCR approach, we have to speak of God’s wrath, judgement etc. We have to speak of sin in a personal way. (There is a version of CFRR which speaks of sin and evil in a structural, societal, systematic way that never gets personal) God is angry at sin not only in a general way. His wrath is personal, it remains on those who rejects the Son (John 3:36)

3. Related to point 2, the advocates of CFRR are usually not good at majoring on penal substitutionary atonement. Christ’s death is portrayed as a paradoxical victory over the forces of evil and darkness(the Christus Victor model) but not as a propitiatory sacrifice to turn away the wrath of the God. But this is a false either/or. We are not compelled by scripture to choose one over the other, rather, we are to embrace both as being taught in scriptures. On the other hand, it is not merely a matter of balance, a mere matter of proportion e.g. giving both perspective equal time. To cut to the chase, the perspective on the Cross as victory over the forces of evil and darkness is based on penal substition. Paul puts them together in Col 2:14-15 “…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” It is by cancelling the record of debt, it is by dealing with our personal sin on the cross, that Christ gave us victory over the forces of darkness. It would take me more words to be clearer on my thoughts on this. But these are some reflections as I have it now.

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5 Responses to Gospel and its implications

  1. Funny thing is that what Dever defines as the core of the gospel (gospel stripped of its implications) is, according to some, already includes implications. Nobody argues that Christ’s coming in flesh, dying for our sins and being resurrected form the core of the gospel, but the fact that are saved by faith in Christ is seen by some (for example N.T. Wright) as an implication.

  2. Sim Joon Edward说道:

    Which is why it may not be always wise to pit the gospel against its implications — A.B.Caneday’s comments on Mark Dever’s post is instructive. There is a difference between “distinguishing” and “divorcing”.

    I don’t really get Wright and I have not read the primary sources yet (will get to do it one of these days). However, even in the first few verses of 1 Cor 15. Paul speaks of the gospel that “saves”. Although one can speak of the historical events as the core of the gospel, but the gospel is stripped of its “gospel”-ness if it is merely the events without theological interepretation. Otherwise, Christ’s life, death and resurrection could be reduced to the merely spectacular without being meaningful at all.

  3. Chen Huaizhi说道:

    If CFRR is God’s cosmic purpose for His creation, is it could we see GMCR as the direct and personal application of the Redemption (the 2nd R in CFRR) to humanity (the elect) ? Question is, whether CFRR and GMRR can both be called “the gospel”. I think they can:

    (i) CFRR – Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14 describe the gospel as “the gospel of the kingdom” i.e. its about God’s rule (which is what CFRR is establishing and re-establishing);

    (ii) GMRR – Ephesians 1:13 describes the gospel as “the gospel of your salvation”

    And it seems that that which “connects” GMRR to CFRR is repentence (and faith, for they go together) –
    “”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

    I’m also not sure what mark dever means by the “implications” and “entailments” of the Gospel that “we can get agreement with many others on”. Surely it can’t be repentence and faith.. could he mean perhaps, the application of the Gospel to areas of life aka discipleship, help for the poor, social justice, etc. ?

  4. Hedonese说道:

    Interesting discussion… 9marks has graciously allowed opensourcemission to translate their stuffs in chinese or bahasa foc.

    i like wat huaizhi says abt no final dichotomy between GMRR and CFRR

  5. […] – a quick response Posted by Sim Joon Edward under The Gospel   I have blogged on this somewhat before. Actually, my own personal belief is that while the gospel can be summarized, it is […]

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