For God was so angry at the world that He sent His Son to punish Him so that whoever repents and says the sinners prayer can go to heaven instead of hell when they die.
My previous post contrasted two different views of the gospel. It is convenient to refer to them as western and eastern although there are probably better labels for the two views.
When Scot McKnight posted the orthodox chair video, he said, “I am not entirely sure this view is that much different than the Protestant, evangelical view (what do you think?).” Out of Ur posted the same video and asked, “Is one right and the other wrong? Or are they two facets of a greater mystery?” I appreciate the attempts to take an ecumenical stance, however, it is important to recognize the fundamental differences in the two approaches.
This week I spent some time reading and reviewing various gospel presentations because I do not want to misrepresent or create a caricature of the western view. I would like to point out the main points of disagreement that I have with the common presentation of the western evangelical gospel and explain my thoughts on those points.
Sin is typically presented in a moralistic framework of rule-breaking. The first objective of many gospel presentations is to convince a person of their sinful state, i.e. their inability to perfectly obey the rules.
Alternatively, sin can be defined as self-imposed alienation from God which often results in destructive behaviors. Shame and guilt magnify this alienation and are barriers that must be overcome to approach God. In this view, the primary effort in sharing the good news is to convince a person of God’s love for them and His acceptance of them.
Wrath and Judgment
Contrary to popular opinion, God is not angry or disappointed with you. Unfortunately some misguided pastors preach that He is really angry at you. Last summer a well-known pastor went so far as to say that “God hates you.” You can google it if you want to see it; I won’t link it here.
The wrath of God is not his anger AGAINST humanity, but rather it is His passion FOR mankind. As a Father, he passionately opposes those things which damage us or cause us to remain lost in darkness.
God’s decisive judgment for sin was and is forgiveness, not punishment. From the beginning His response to the failure of mankind was not punishment or rejection. The idea that God is too holy to look upon sin is simply untrue. God extends unmerited grace to the very depth of our failure.
If you…, then God… Typically stated, IF you repent of your sins and believe Jesus took the punishment on your behalf, THEN you can be saved.
What God has done in Christ to reconcile the world to Himself is an accomplished reality. It is not a transaction contingent upon your response. Your response does not in any way affect God’s stance toward you. His gift is unconditional; faith is not the action that makes it a reality.
Repentance is not self-condemnation; it is to turn and to see things in a new way. This will occur when one comes to experience and understand the love of God. Faith, acceptance, and belief are vital to how we grow and experience life with God as we encounter the reality of His kingdom.
Too often gospel presentations are presented as a choice about the afterlife. If eternal life simply means heaven (or hell), then the gospel has little practical connection to everyday life and discipleship.
To have eternal life is not simply to go to heaven when we die. It is participation in divine life today, learning to live in the present reality of eternal life as we journey daily with God.
The Father, Son, and Spirit
Finally, we must be careful of any presentation of the gospel that pits God against Jesus. The well-known preacher I mentioned earlier went so far as to say God hated Jesus while he was on the cross and had to look away from Him. This is actually a heresy concerning the nature of the trinity. It might seem like an extreme example, but there are subtle tones of such division between the Father and Son in many gospel presentations.
The Father, Son, and Spirit are of one will. Their eternal plan was to rescue mankind through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
There is plenty of academic support and evidence in early church teaching of a more grace-based view of salvation, but very little of this doctrine is easily found or accessible at a popular level in mainstream evangelical teaching and belief.
Consider this, it is the strategy of the enemy to perpetuate the myth of alienation by upholding accusation against a person and by falsely portraying the anger of the Father.
My hope is that we come to the place where the most common message of the gospel that is presented is one of God’s love and embrace for humanity and His desire to share life with us.