Other Gospels Part 2

Another reason we need to keep asking “What is the gospel?” is this: not only are there many cultural and secular gospels competing for our attention, there are many Christian ways of talking about the gospel as well.

Some versions focus on how we can have our best life now. Some focus on health and wealth. Some go in the completely opposite direction and declare that everything about the world is rotten and corrupt; the good news here is that one day God will deliver the saved and nuke everything else. (We might call this the gospel of leaving everything behind.) Let’s make no mistake: these are gospels, because someone, somewhere is receiving these messages as good news. rapture

When we turn to the New Testament, we find Paul talking about “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23), which many of us were taught was the gospel in a nutshell (more on this in the next post). No doubt Christ’s atoning death is an essential part of what the NT means when it talks about the gospel, and if we leave it out, what we’re left with won’t be the gospel. But then we notice that Jesus himself talks about the gospel in other terms: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). Jesus associates the gospel with the coming of God’s kingdom. Yes, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection, but this was certainly not received by his disciples as good news at the time (Mark 9:32).

So not only are we being pitched all kinds of gospel messages from our culture, within Christianity itself there are many ways of formulating the gospel. If we weren’t already asking “What is the gospel?” in order to distinguish it from secular “good news,” the texts and nature of Christianity force it upon us.

Question: What other gospels can you name besides “health and wealth,” “prosperity,” or “left behind”? Do you think these gospels are helpful to those who need to hear good news, or do you think they do more harm than good?