Keith McCrory is my pastor and my boss and my friend. And on his blog he is currently trying to start a conversation within our church about just what the Gospel is. For Keith, it has to be all about reconciliation. I think that re-examining the assumed business of what the Good News is is always going to be a positive exercise.
All this conversation, which is after all just a small local dialogue, is taking place against the backdrop of a larger dispute within evangelicalism. Nasty evil men like Steve Chalke dared to question received wisdom and in return enjoyed the natural consequences of disobeying the heirs of the Reformation- basic excommunication.
My own instincts warn me very strongly against cult-like “disfellowship” of people who we disagree with and yet too often in disputes about what is the Gospel and the strengths and weaknesses of certain models have taken just this form.
I became a Christian based on a realisation that Jesus, his ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, the whole deal, was a real historical event. It was in the most wholesome and winsome church context you can imagine so I didn’t get caught up in any silly disputes about how the Gospel worked out. It was the summer of 2003 that I first realised that we should be able to explain how the Cross works in some sense. I was sitting in the kitchen of this college in northern Slovakia. Soapbox and his friends explained it to me on a blackboard.
The way that they explained it to me is called the Bridge Diagram. It is much maligned. In a very simple cartoon consisting of three squares, six lines and two stick-men, it gives a reduced explanation for what the Gospel truly is. I loved it. I still do. Sure, it is reductionist and strips away something of the glory of the Gospel. But you can scrape it into the sand with a stick so it has something going for it.
Whatever the Gospel is, and I think it involves a whole lot more than the diagram can imply, it has to involve the core of this diagram. The world may be shattered by evil but individual humans are too. And Jesus steps into that chasm to make space for reconciliation between God and man. It might not be the most trendy thing to say and it certainly isn’t the purest way to start a discussion about the Gospel but personally, the insight that this diagram brought for me in terms of the God-setting-things-right nature of Christianity was the beginning. Sin is a problem that has to be dealt with. The Gospel has to do with Jesus being a sacrifice for sin.
But my journey to the place I am now has many more stops than just that little town in Slovakia and so over the next few days I am going to please Old Man McCrory and unpack what the Gospel is.
Your Correspondent, All the stars were crashing ’round as he laid eyes on what he’d found