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Jesus Creed

In this the fourth in a five-part set of posts on the Four Spiritual Laws, I will look at the 3d spiritual law:

Jesus Christ is God’s ONLY provision for Man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life… The “law” then goes on to point out that Jesus died in our place, that he rose from the dead, and that He is the only way to God — citing Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 15:3-6 and John 14:6 as scriptural proof. The diagram at the bottom shows the chasm between God and Man bridged by the Cross of Jesus.

Whenever anyone shortens the gospel to a tract of this size there are elements that any one of us might wish were present but which aren’t. The issue is whether or not central elements are omitted or whether or not secondary features are raised to be central.

First, again, the focus of this tract is “God’s love and plan for your life.” I see too much Individualism here. I do not dispute that the “plan” of God concerns individual persons being drawn into union with God, but the one-sided focus is obvious. (After all, it might be argued, this is for witnessing to individuals. Which is precisely the problem. An individualistically-shaped gospel produces individualistically-shaped Christians.) I would say that God’s plan is for the world, and that “my” plan is to get into God’s plan for that world.

Second, I like the personal emphasis of the “law”: Jesus Christ is God’s only… It is in relationship with Jesus Christ that the Christian is reconciled to God, to others, and to the world. But, the 3d spiritual law spells out “Jesus Christ” in impersonal categories: he died, he rose. But, to come back, the last scriptural text appeals to Jesus being the Way, Truth, and Life. Once again, personal.

Third, it is the diagram, which is the image that was used in the 2d spiritual law as well, that concerns me. Here there is “Man” and “God,” and it is the Cross of Jesus that enables the human being to get back to God. Once again, we are dealing here with a truncated gospel: the diagram depicts a gospel in which the problem is separation and the resolution is reconciliation. The gospel is always defined by the problem it depicts, and the Bible describes this problem in a number of ways, including but not limited to separation. In other words, if you define the problem as separation, once separation is resolved in reconcliation, the gospel has run its course. Once a person crosses the Cross to get back to God the gospel’s work is done. (Few admit this; but the image seers it into the mind of those who are being evangelized and it leads to Christians who see the Christian life as the “second phase” and not the “gospel” phase; it leads to seeing fellowship/ecclesiology as something in addition to the gospel and not integral to the gospel; it does to the same to holiness, etc..)

Is reconciliation of individuals all there is to it? What then of the Church? What then of the World? Whenever the gospel is understood as an individual person finding his or her way back to God, the gospel is reduced to Individualism — and anyone who reads the Bible knows that page after page is about the people of God (Israel and then the Church) and that the “plan” of God is to build a people for the good of others and the world.

Fourth, I believe the Holy Spirit has to be brought into play whenever we talk about the gospel. Campus Crusade has a tract that led in part to my own conversion, and that tract is happily called the “Bird Book.” It has the title “Have You Made the Wonderful Discovery of the Spirit-Filled Life?” The 4th spiritual law will bring this up as well, but for an accurate depiction of what God does — which is what the 3d spiritual law is doing — we need some Holy Spirit to give a biblical view.

I will bring this matter up again: I am dealing here with the tract, and not with Campus Crusade or with the individual users of the tract. I worked for eleven years with an excellent evangelist and an excellent teacher of evangelism, and he got tired of our carping about the Four Spiritual Laws and urged us to evangelize and quit carping. His name is John Nyquist and my work with college kids has only made me admire his teaching more. My point is this: time and time again we were told that the tract is shaped by the evangelist. I agree and will agree again and again. I know for a fact that many use this tract and take it up into a much wider sense of the gospel in the dialogue. My issue is not with them: the issue is how the gospel is told and I see room for improvement.

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