Scot McKnight makes some interesting points about how Baptists have traditionally understood “the Gospel.” After quoting a fairly representative (Arminian-influenced) doctrinal statement on “The Gospel,” he comments:
1. This is the gospel I more or less grew up on. If you read the whole statement, the emphasis on free will (libertarian free will) was our emphasis though I’m not so sure we would have been quite so articulate on some of these ideas. I was surprised, though, by how original sin is articulated.
2. It is almost impossible for me to see a list of Bible references on the gospel and have nothing — and I mean nothing — from either the gospeling sermons in Acts or 1 Corinthians 15. As I argue in King Jesus Gospel, this comes down to method: Where do we find the gospel defined in the NT? First place, 1 Cor 15; second place, the apostolic gospel sermons in Acts.
3. I like their emphasis on the whole Christ event — from “life” to “resurrection” — though I’d like to see even more from the whole life: his incarnation, his mission/teachings, his kingdom vision, and all the way to the exaltation, second coming and finality when God is “all in all.” But, for gospel statements, they’ve got more than most.
4. Of course, they’ve defined the whole gospel as salvation (I call this the soterian gospel) which means this every time it happens: Christ becomes the means instead of the focus of the gospel. As I have said many times, first Christology, then soteriology. This gospel statement is first soteriology, and then second christology (who is seen here as Savior).
5. You knew this was coming: there is no need for the Old Testament for this gospel, and there’s no need for the Story of Israel, and Jesus doesn’t have to be the Story’s Messiah since he’s the Savior. Yes, of course, they refer to the Old Testament a number of times — and that’s good — but it’s because their loci find support in those texts. The framework, however, is personal soteriology and not Israel’s Story.
I think he’s right, of course. I was particularly struck by his second point. You really do have to look at where the New Testament shows us the gospel being preached or expounded if you want to know its content. Baptists should have learned that from C. H. Dodd in the 1930s.
Actually, scratch that. When I took Evangelism at the Seminary Formerly Known as Southern, Dr. Hal Poe (easily one of the most conservative professors on the faculty) walked us rather systematically through Dodd’s Apostolic Preaching before we tackled any other topic in evangelism.
If you’re of a mind to, you can read the entire “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” online.
I kind of have to respond to where he said: “Where do we find the gospel defined in the NT? First place, 1 Cor 15; second place, the apostolic gospel sermons in Acts.”
I would say that 1 Cor 15 and the apostolic gospel sermons in Acts are the best “short-essay” answers to the question, “What is the gospel?” The “full length” answers were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Take care & God bless
Anne / WF