I have been impressed of late with this thought: how people define the gospel is determined by where they start or, even more interesting, where they end up. Put slightly differently, what is the problem being resolved by the gospel?
It is common to begin, rather abruptly, with the Fall and to see humans as sinners in need of forgiveness. I do not dispute either that we are sinners or that we all need forgiveness. Sometimes, so it seems to me, our sin is understood as little more than a legal standing or a judicial sentence against us, and that means that forgiveness follows in line: it, too, is understood as little more than a standing or judicially.
But, both of these problems — how we understand sin and how we understand forgiveness — are created by beginning at the wrong place.
Instead of beginning the gospel story with the Fall, I am suggesting we begin with the Creation of humans, both male and female, as Eikons of God. That is, as made in the image of God (imago Dei). The gospel begins, and only begins, because humans are Eikons of God.
Instead of seeing humans first and foremost as sinners, we need to see them as Eikons of God, created to relate to God, to relate to others, and to govern the world as Eikons. The Fall affects each of the previous: our relation to God, our relation to others, and our relation to the world. Humans, then, are cracked Eikons. There is all the difference in the world in depicting humans as simply sinners and seeing sinfulness as the condition and behavior of a cracked Eikon. Humans sin, but their sin is the sin of an Eikon. They can’t be defined by their sin until they are seen as Eikons.
The gospel, when it begins with Creation, is God’s work to restore and undo and recreate (whichever image you might prefer) what we were designed by God to be and to do. To begin here means the gospel is about restoring Eikons rather than just forgiving sinners. This gospel is bigger and it is bigger because the human condition is bigger than a Fallen condition.
Now, one brief comment as I end this post today: sin itself is more than judicial failings and more than offense against the Law. Sin is the disruption of the relationship of loving God, loving others, and governing our world. Which means, the gospel is designed to heal our love for God, our love for others, and our relationship to the world.