Monday, October 31, 2005

The Church Gospel vs. Paul's Gospel

In the year and a half since I was a pastor I have only had the opportunity to preach on rare occasions. Of course I have missed it. Interestingly, only recently I have had a chance to preach fairly regularly. In fact, in November I will preach in 3 different churches representing 3 different denominations within a 4 week span (Christian Church, UMC and PCUSA).

As I prepare for some of this teaching I am revisiting rockstar theologian N. T. Wright's What St. Paul Really Said, a radically orthodox and thoroughly original vision of St. Paul's message, based upon a deeply historical understanding of Paul's background and writings. One of my favorite sections is his work on the misunderstanding of "gospel" in the modern church, along with Wright's description of what Paul really meant by the "gospel" which, of course, is radically different from what most Christians believe.

Within the emerging church conversation (or whatever we are calling it today), we have been unpacking this for a number of years. What is interesting is to try to preach this in a short time period without losing the audience, or a job in the evangelical world. I think Wright does a good job bringing it along slowly. In fact, while leading a church the only chance I had was to bring about different aspects over the course of a long period of time, so nobody noticed they were askign these questions until they were comfortable with these questions.

One of my favorite resources for teaching on this subject has long been Dieter Zander's Regeneration Quarterly (RIP) article from a few years ago, The Word of Life: Abandoning an Incomplete Gospel, which begins with the provocative sentence "I was abducted by an alien gospel." It is one of my favorite personalized synopses of the questions many within this emerging church conversation have been asking. I just hope a more complete reading, teaching and understanding of the Gospel begins to indwell the churches of Christendom in the near future.

I will share quotes from Dieter's article and N.T. Wright's writings on the Gospel during the next few days as I prepare. I hope you enjoy. If you know of some other excellent resources we can share, please make them available on my comments section.


ER said...

Zander's article is "spot on"! The mischaracterization of the Gospel (or should I say the myopic view of the Gospel) has been one of my biggest frustrations with "evangelism" and continues to be a focal point of my teaching. If this is at the heart of the Emergent movement, you will find many allies within evangelical Christianity. Thanks for posting a truly revealing article that any one of us could have written out of the frustrations of the state of the Church today.

Bob Robinson said...

Amen on that Dieter Zander article. A great resource that I use as well!