One would think a question like that would be easy to answer. What is the gospel itself? How do tracts present the gospel? How do churches present the gospel? How do you understand the gospel? Over the next week or two I’ll be examining this question. It would be good for each of us to sit down and simply write out our definition of the gospel (the gospel is…..).
Today’s blog will look at the solution that can be found in Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.
I’m looking here at his third chapter, “Magic.”
Overall he presents the gospel as story. He doesn’t quite say this explicitly, but he seems to say that it was when he realized that the gospel itself was a story that he could grasp it.
He sees four elements to a story: setting, conflict, climax, resolution. The big picture is that because these four elements are central to who we are, they must be true. (This sounds a bit like Anselm’s ontological argument for God: God is that which we conceive nothing higher than.)
We have a setting: who we are, where we live, what we like, our personal history, our social history, etc.. The conflict is internal and external, which he sees as rebellion against God and original sin (chapter two of his book). Conflict is something we know, and we could not know it were it not real. Therefore, conflict is real. The climax of the story succumbs to the same logic: the Christian climax is decision. And the resolution is forgiveness and a home in heaven. These are basically his ideas.
Conflict: original sin; he mixes in the devil here; he sees symptoms like loneliness.
Resolution: forgiveness and heaven, or the alternative.
So, here is the gospel of Blue Like Jazz — if chp 3 is any indication. I haven’t finished this book, and intend to over the next week or so. The gospel can be broken down into a story with setting (who we are, where we are), conflict (our problem — original sin), the climax (decision), and resolution (good/bad: the good being forgiveness and heaven).
Is this the gospel, I say to myself? I think he’s got the structure right, but I think he’s got the content of those structures narrowed to manageable, but incomplete, proportions.
I think everything hinges and falls with the first two questions: setting (who are we?) and conflict (what is our problem?). I’ll get to these down the road, but to begin with, I think Miller gets the structure right. Not all get the structure right.