Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gospel Articulation: Content & Conceptualizing

Interesting to see how different people conceive the meaning of the gospel in and for today's world. Besides pointing to two Reformed evangelists' presentation of the gospel, I've also included Rowan Williams' take on it. You may notice the subtle difference in content and also the not-so-subtle difference in conceptualizing the answer.

John Piper
The gospel: God sent his son into the world, the God-Man, really man, really god, really human, really divine, live a perfect life, fulfill the whole law, died in the place of sinners intentionally, absorbed all the wrath of God against those who believe in him. Takes away all their guilt, forgives all their sins, rises from the death, triumph over death, and hell, and satan. Since rules with power from on high will come again, gives eternal lives, raise from the dead all those who trusted in him. There is no better news.

Mark Dever:
The gospel is the great news that we as Christians have. The gospel is the story that God is not going to leave this world in the mess that it currently in. God going to, as said in one place, that he would make all things news.

Now that’s not necessarily good news to me unless I’m included in that. So how do I get included in that? Well, I have to come to understand who God is, that I have a creator. I have to come to understand what is he like that he is holy and perfect, that he is loving and merciful. But that I have sinned against him. I’ve separated myself from him by my sin. And that in his love and mercy, God could have simply allowed me an earthly life with some pleasures and then let me fall forever under his judgment. But in his extraordinary, amazing, unparallel love, the son of God has come and taken on flesh.

Jesus of Nazareth is fully God, fully man, and he lived the life that I should have live in perfect fellowship with God. And he died the death that I deserve because I haven’t lived a life in perfect fellowship with God. And then God raised him from the dead, vindicating all the claims that he had made about what his life and what his death were about and what were for. And he calls me now to repent, to turn from my sins and to trust in him as my saviour. So that that which I deserve, I will not get. And that which he is deserved for me will be given to me. So that I have faith in him, I trust him. And this is the good news, this is the gospel. And this is how I can participate in that re-creation that God will bring about that we read at the end of the Bible. That is just so marvellous. And that is great news. And that’s the very centre of what an evangelical church should be about. And what every Christians life should be about.

Rowan Williams:
Let’s try to put the New Testament context into a slightly more contemporary frame. In the New Testament era, people in Jesus’ world were very concern about who belong and who didn’t belong to the people of God. Who really counted as a member of the Jewish people. And there are different attempt to answers that question. Very priestly attempt and legal attempt and so on.

Put that in slightly more modern terms. The question is what does it mean to belong with God? What does it mean to be at home with God, to know who are at home with God? Jesus says that to be at home with God or to belong to God doesn’t begin by ticking the boxes on a list of rules. It doesn’t begin by your inheritance, it doesn’t begin in ritual. It begins in trust. And I think that is just as simple and contemporary just as it was in the first century Palestine. It begins in trust. Jesus says to his contemporaries, “If you trust me when I tell you what God is like, and if you accept the welcome that I’m telling you and God offers you, then that’s it.

Now of course that then plays itself out in the fact that it gets more and more challenging to trust Jesus. How do you trust when he appears to fail and appears to die? Well you trust him because through and in that, his integrity remains, his offer remains. And as far as the crucifixion, the same offer is made. Nothing can destroy that offer. And whole cause of our own confusion and our own unwillingness to live, his blood has eaten up in the act of love on the cross of Jesus. So in a very very short space, “What is the gospel?” Trust Jesus when he tells you what God is like.

Oliver O’Donovan highlights in ‘On Rowan Williams: Critical Essays’ that the often “superficial difference” that those who took up the traditional presentation of doctrines overlooked the fact that “how deeply rooted Williams is and winnowing his doctrine out of careful appreciation. He constructs his doctrine of redemption around the Trinity, reconciliation, and the church, rather than around justification.” (Italics added, p.x)


davinci said...

every truth claim is product of , cultural and lingustic construction of the era..

davinci said...

I think I find it hard to reject postliberal approach of George Lindeck, relating lingustic and cultural construction of truth claim by various system of faith.

What sze zeng's view on this school of thought?

can share in your blog?

maybe you could redeem me intellectually...

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

Lindbeck's approach at best only validate the significance of language used by a community in doctrinal formulation. One of its weak point is that it doesn't take into consideration of the historical past of what had happened in the history of formulating doctrines.

Alister McGrath wrote a book 'The Genesis of Doctrine' which has part that respond to Lindbeck.

I can't redeem anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can :)

davinci said...

I think , more study into historical past of christian community, ironically support Linbeck's approach...

we witness forces of culture, politics, economics, and etc, shaping the church ecology and doctrinal development...

...revealing a "close system" at works..

H Spirit redeem my soul..but you could redeem my intellect...

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

Pls elaborate more how does historical past of christian past support Lindbeck's approach?

And what necessitates or how do the shaping of doctrine by external forces reveal a 'closed system'?

davinci said...

" a closed system" means the world or its each community, interact within itself,involving own forces of politics, culture, game of language, creating proposition, conceptualization, dogmas and etc...which deemed coherent,consistent and significant within such community.

actually, all people within such "closed system" could not know and be able to talk about something transcent that system.

This is akin to the literary theory, that , we read a text as "closed reading".

All we got is the interpretation of the text itself as it reveals to us. we cant read thro the text,as if it is a door, we can go thro it, and know the real author and his real intention of the text.

I think Linbeck borrowed his idea from the literary school.

davinci said...

I heard, Alvin Plantiga has approach, "reformed epistemology" to tackle this.

maybe you could explain...you should be good at the reformed thing...

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

That is the problem with Lindbeck's theory. When i said his theory doesn't account for the historical past, I mean that there is no clear cut between what he call a 'closed system' and 'external forces'.

Take the Arian controversy for eg. The Christian communities at that time were talking about something that not only transcend their community's language, but also create something new ("homoouision").

Lindbeck might argued that that's not a new creation but a discovery of what already there in the first place. But that is not arguing from silent. "Of one essence/substance" even in its concept wasn't there in Christian communities until the Nicae. Lindbeck's argument is naive at this point.

Imagine a manager asks all his employee to draft out a plan for the company within 2 days. The manager himself drafted out a plan as an alternative in case the employee's plan doesn't work. After 2 days the employee came back empty handed. The manager was disappointed. But anyway he let the employee off. He then had no other choice but to used his own draft. When he share about his draft with his employee, his employee said, "Tat's exactly what I had in mind." As if the employee is claiming credit for the idea.

Lindbeck is saying that the Christian community is something like the employee. Whenever there is new articulation of doctrine, it is what already in the mind of the community. But if you are the manager, how would you see that employee?

Yes, Lindbeck got his theory from Wittgenstein's language game theory.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

I don't know how Reformed Epistemology tackle Lindbeck's theory.

davinci said...

relating to the christology argument between Arian/athanasia'''

Linbeck would defend that, whether homo, or homooui, is just a product of linguistic construction, results from interactive forces of societal change, cutural and politics...

Church history has revealed intense power struggle between Arian/anthasia in this regards...at the expense elements of divine revelation..

Sze Zeng said...

Well davinci,

Everything worth remembering or celebrating are results from the interaction between the socio-economic and religious factors within a context. What u are saying is really saying the obvious, since nothing comes out from vacuum.

It seems that you don't get what I mean or we are talking across each other.

Lindbeck says there is a closed system of linguistic community where the community formulates 'form' out of the 'core' of their practices. And such 'form' are the doctrines. Hence the community is only discovering what already is there in the first place: practices.

The problem with that is that there is no such 'closed' system in reality. Every system are opened to be affected by the environment.

If you enjoy reading Arian and Athanasius as just people crazy for power, then be my guest. Probably you want to read Rowan Williams' work on Arian, should you want to reconsider.

I'll stop here.

davinci said...

Divine utterances given to prophet; Logos incarnated, became human Jesus, are examples of something transcend the "closed system" , but intruded into it.

I thought Reformed ppl like to say that? particular revelation?

Barth's "God is in heaven, man on earth"...?

why yu said, nothing could come out from vacuum?

davinci said...

arian, anathanasius, nestorian, marcion and etc were all, genuine, respected church fathers.

I never doubt that..