To say that we Christians have the “gospel” is to say we have “good
news that resolves the bad news.” So, we ask, What is the problem to
which the gospel speaks this good news? What is it that Christianity “fixes”? The most significant problem
many presentations of the gospel face is that the problem the gospel is trying to fix is not robust
enough. In other words, the problem has become the problem.
What is the need humans have that the gospel satisfies? I’d be interested in your response to this question.
Which is to say: until we define the problem aright, we aren’t offering a robust gospel. In my book Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us I try to define that problem. So what is it?
casting glance both at Genesis 1–3 and at how the Bible’s big Story
works, reveals there are four major problems and that means that the
“gospel” speaks to each of those four problems, and I believe these problems are deeply important to all of us — Christian or not:
1. A problem with God: fear.
2. A problem with Self: shame.
3. A problem with Others: enmity.
4. A problem with the World: exploitation/irresponsibility.
problems emerge from Genesis 3 when the Eikon, humans made in God’s
image, cracks — we crack in four directions: with God, with self, with
others, and with the world.
The fundamental reminder that every
Israelite reminded herself or himself with daily was to love God with
heart, soul, and strength (the Shema: Deut 6:4-5). On top of this,
Jesus clarified that loving God meant learning to love others as
yourself (this comes from Lev 19:18). These are what Eikons who work right do daily … they love God and they love others. I have to believe the gospel is designed to fix this kind of problem, the problem that humans don’t love God and don’t love others.
And any serious reading of
the Bible’s Story reveals that God cares deeply about how God’s people,
Israel and the Church, lives in this world. Page after page in the
Bible we find stories and episodes in the life of the nation, in the
life of the Church, and the focus is how that people conforms to the
fundamental obligations to love God and to love others. Community is
So, the human problem is loving God, loving self,
loving others, and loving the world enough to be God’s good stewards.
The gospel — the act of God to restore cracked Eikons in the life,
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the powerful gift of the
Holy Spirit — is designed to restore our
1. alienating, hiding fear of
2. our discord with ourselves with shame,
3. our enmity with others, and
4. our irresponsiblity toward and exploitation of the world.
Any gospel that does not address each of these problem is not big enough because it has not defined the problem big enough.