27th September 2011

Blog :: Counterfeit Gospels (Chapter 1 Response)

My wife and I are co-blogging our way through Trevin Wax's Counterfeit Gospels. See an introduction to our series and Stephanie's recap of Chapter 1 here.

I'm happy to have a co-blogger and a goal to keep things moving on the old blog. Lately I have taught classes, preached, and written reams of personal correspondence - there's a lot going on but not much has made it to my blog. I've also kept up, more or less, with my reading but haven't blogged about any of the many excellent books I've read lately.

It's nice to change all that. Like Stephanie I already had a predisposition to like Trevin Wax's Counterfeit Gospels. I've known for a long time that something is lacking in Evangelical presentations of the Gospel. And despite the renewed focus on the Gospel in evangelical circles lately which Wax alludes to, I still see something missing in many presentations of the Gospel.

For example in 2009 I highlighted a brief clip of Matt Chandler (who wrote the foreword to Counterfeit Gospels) preaching from I Timothy at the Desiring God conference. His focus here is on making the Gospel the center of all teaching and I said:

Matt Chandler believes in preaching the Gospel to Christians - but the Gospel is not limited to "believe in Jesus and you won't go to hell when you die"!

I've also been generally encouraged by reading folks like Scot McKnight to see the Gospel as bigger, more expansive than the formulations I heard around me and have blogged about that in this space from time to time. Given this background I really appreciated Wax's metaphor of a three-legged stool as a symbol for the presentation of the Gospel. Remove any leg - and the stool topples. He rightly drew attention to the dangers of the counterfeit - it resembles the real enough to be true, but may not be nourishing enough to sustain us.

For Wax the three legs of the Gospel stool are the Gospel Story, the Gospel Announcement, and the Gospel Community. I've never heard exactly these categories attached to defining the Gospel before so I'm looking forwards to examining them in-depth.

Intuitively I appreciate his divisions: the way the legs reinforce one another makes sense to me. From my perspective the Evangelical wing of the Church focuses on the Gospel Announcement but by discarding the as inessential the Gospel Community and much of the Gospel Story they get the announcement wrong too. "Jesus died so you can go to heaven when you die" doesn't bear much resemblance to the actual proclamation Jesus made.

And similarly more liberal wings of Protestantism focus more on the Gospel Community and perhaps the Gospel Story as well. But by discarding the Gospel Announcement that salvation comes to sinful man through Jesus alone they end up misunderstanding much of the Gospel Story and the resulting Community only bears some of the marks that should typify the Body.

So what does Wax consider to be the Gospel Story? Chapter 1 focused on the Gospel Story and, as Stephanie discussed, defined the Gospel story within the Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration framework. I've heard of this framework before from people like Tim Keller but haven't spent a lot of time considering if it is a fruitful one for understanding Scripture. It does have some obvious fruits - I'm in agreement with Stephanie that much of popular Christian thought is confused about the role of the Old Testament and this framework solidly unites both Testaments into a single story.

Additionally I always have an eye towards the cosmic end of the salvation story - my main complaint about understandings of the Gospel that only tell a sin/salvation story is that they minimize the cosmic scope both of sin and of the nature of salvation. Framing Jesus in the story of God's good work both past and future properly refocuses us away from a purely individualistic approach. As Wax points out this is what the Scriptural authors do whether it is the "according to Scriptures" Paul or the Isaiahic refrains of Luke. Using the Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration framework helps us see the cosmic scope of God's work and frees us from a me-centered approach to the Gospel.

Posted on September 27th 2011, 09:48 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus