Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Which gospel do you choose?

posted by Scot McKnight

CrossCrowd.jpgThe gospel is my focus in study and research these days, and the subject of most my extra lectures I’m giving at various places, and I want to post two definitions of the gospel I’ve recently seen. How do you “define” the gospel?

Here’s a first option, which I’ve slightly edited, and one that is becoming more and more a way articulating the gospel for some:

“The gospel is not a call to follow Christ’s example or his teachings. It is not a proclamation of his kingly reign. It is not an invitation to enter the Church. It does not include a promise of his return. These are all aspects of Christian teaching. But the Gospel, very specifically, is the starting point that prepares for the teaching. The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save us from our sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead.”

The second one comes from NT Wright, from his book called What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?
:

My proposal has been that ‘the gospel’ is not, for Paul, a message about ‘how one gets saved’, in an individual and ahistorical sense. It is a fourfold announcement about Jesus:

1. In Jesus of Nazareth, specifically in his cross, the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil, including sin and death themselves.
2. In Jesus’ resurrection the New Age has dawned, inaugurating the long-awaited time when the prophecies would be fulfilled, when Israel’s exile would be over, and the whole world would be addressed by the one creator God.
3. The crucified and risen Jesus was, all along, Israel’s Messiah, her representative king.
4. Jesus was therefore also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one at whose name every knee would bow.

Two options on the table here. What do you think? Which best captures the gospel for you? What would add to each or either to make it better?



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Shawn

posted March 30, 2009 at 6:50 am


The second. I would add a strong statement specifically about the Kingdom – realm/commonwealth – of God to complement and communicate #2 and #4 just a bit more.
The Gospel is all about the Kingdom of God, as was Jesus’ life.
Excellent post, Scot.



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RJS

posted March 30, 2009 at 7:06 am


Does it matter how we define the word “gospel?” In some sense this discussion is framed by a desire to neatly separate and systematize the reality which is not so easily divided and contained. But in another sense the discussion is important.
It seems to me that the problem with the first is that it is not big enough. It emphasizes the individual too much, it is a “Christianese” code for a limited view of the work of Christ on the cross, and it doesn’t actually reflect the scope of the experience of the people, even Paul, in the NT. The problem with the second is that Wright gets too wordy and political in his outlook – if one reads his work there is some “code” in here as well.
The good news is that Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, did for us, collectively and individually, what we could not do for ourselves – paid the price and led the way – to inaugurate the kingdom of God. This includes “save us from our sins” but is much bigger than that. Jesus Christ is Lord and the only appropriate response is to join in and follow – if to death, so be it.
I’ll be honest – in my mind reducing the gospel to the first doesn’t explain why the apostles and so many Christians of the first several centuries faced martyrdom with bold assurance. It is a statement that only makes sense in a context of security and tolerance.



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Daniel

posted March 30, 2009 at 7:08 am


The problem that I have long had and continue to have with option #1 is that I don’t know what it means to be “saved from my sins.” It is abstract and intangible to a mind-boggling degree, and the diversity of (usually unsatisfying) explanations only confuse the issue more.
There are other problems with the first version of the gospel, of course. It’s awfully ego-centric–even though the language is “our sins,” the most common way to make sense of that is that it “saves me from my sins, and it does the same thing for you.” This version of the gospel also inevitably focuses on the the world to come over and against the current world. That’s because the most obvious point at which we need to be “saved from our sins” is before the final judgment of God.
What I like about St. Paul’s understanding of the good news of Jesus of Nazareth is that it lays everything on the line. It can’t be glossed over. In version #1, it’s possible to say, “The world is no different from 3,000 years ago, but I know that I am saved from my sins, for what it’s worth.” In Paul’s version, either the world is has changed and is continuing to change under the rule of Christ, or the gospel is a lie. In point #2 of Paul’s version, I would add N.T. Wright’s wonderful phrase, “the already but not-yet” regarding the immediacy of the kingdom of God. It also seems curious to me that there is no mention of Jesus as God or at least as the Son of God–though perhaps that belongs more as an explanation of how Paul’s point #1 was accomplished.
I enjoyed this post. Thanks for it.



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John Lunt

posted March 30, 2009 at 7:32 am


I don’t honestly like either one. The Gospel is the Good news of the Kingdom -first coming near us – then coming within us, bringing all that that entails. Yes it is Jesus’ reign. Yes it is also eternal life. Yes it is healing. Yes it is deliverance. Yes it is love. Yes it is Peace. Yes it is joy. Yes it is God’s Glory…. and a lot of other things. Frankly, I’m beginning to believe theologins have too much time on their hands.



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RJS

posted March 30, 2009 at 7:38 am


John (#4),
The gospel – in Acts and Paul – is clearly centered on Christ, crucified and risen. How does that fit into your statement? The wording of your definition could make that an irrelevant detail.



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RJS

posted March 30, 2009 at 7:53 am


— which leads me to another observation.
I think that the first expression is an Adam centered gospel with an Adam centered view of history.
Wright doesn’t quite correct this. The gospel is Christ centered and we need a Christ-centered view of history.



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Scott M

posted March 30, 2009 at 8:39 am


Which leads me to an observation as well, RJS. Original sin, the idea of inherited guilt specifically, keeps the discussion Adam centered. It also seems to imply that if Adam had not sinned, there would have been no Incarnation and no need for one. I would agree that, if we had not been in bondage to death and sin, there would have been no need for the crucifixion. But if the ultimate goal is complete union with God, I’m not sure there was ever any way to reach it without God first assuming our nature.
To the question itself, obviously Wright’s more closely echoes what the NT actually says again and again. Given my interest in ancient history, once I actually knew what was translated ‘gospel’, the parallels between, say the opening of Romans and the proclamation of a new Caesar became obvious to me. The shortest form of the gospel proclamation in the NT is: Jesus is Lord. That’s fleshed out and expanded in a pretty wide variety of ways, but remains the center of it.
And that probably is part of the reason my understanding of the atonement (which is not the same thing as the gospel) has always been more along the lines of Christus Victor, even before I knew the label or the details of the ideas.



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Bob Young

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:01 am


When Jesus came preaching the “good news of the kingdom of God”, it didn’t have to do with his death, burial, and resurrection. Is Paul’s good news different (i.e., a different gospel), or just more complete due to additional historical information? Was Paul just using different metaphors that the Gentiles would understand, but was really talking about the same thing?
FWIW, I find it amazing how many times Jesus referred to “the kingdom” in the “sermon on the mount” – I had always been taught that he was referring to the afterlife there, but now I’m not so sure…



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Ryan Kearns

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:02 am


Daniel I am with you in the throwing around of the phrase “saved from your sins.” The question to what are we being saved, is always the most important. I think the answer to that is how one understands what the Gospel is. I believe that we are saved from our sins TO reconciliation with our Creator God. That the decay and death of our sin is taken away so that we may have new life and have fellowship with God again because of his work on the Cross.
The Gospel is always incomplete when we say “God saves you from your sins.” Because it makes it sound like the Gospel is simply guilt and shame removal (which is bi-product of it). The Gospel is God putting things back to the way they are supposed to be, through his victory over Satan, sin and death on the Cross.



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alan hitt

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:22 am


I would say it this way, adding a bit:
“The gospel is the good news that by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, Jesus came to save us from our sins, transform us into his image, and make a way for us to participate in the ongoing work of the Kingdom of God.”
Otherwise the Gospel seems to be about nothing more than accepting a propositional truth and getting your ticket punched for heaven.



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Tim Bailey

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:22 am


I like NT’s better because it seems to concentrate more on the idea that this is primarily God’s story. Isn’t the gospel only good news to creation if it has a desire to worship its Creator and is frustrated by the inability to do so? The Fall seems more about God losing worship and Heaven seems more about Him gaining it back, than about us losing the garden and gaining a mansion.
I wonder if we haven’t been looking at the gospel too much from the “us experiencing God” point of view instead of the “God experiencing His Creation” point of view.
Maybe the good news is good news to God, primarily. Maybe we’re just secondary benefactors in His regaining true worship. Maybe that’s why there was “joy set before Him”…



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michael

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:27 am


What if the answer to this question is not an either/or between description 1 and 2 but a both/and?
N.T Wright describes the big picture. What if you added point 5. addressing the individual (which the first definition does) and that point went something like this: “What this means for the individual is that Jesus invites us to a re-created life with Jesus experiencing the defeat of evil and the freedom of living with Jesus as king in their life.”
having said that, I find myself agreeing with RJS (#2) that it’s mysterious — why do we need to neatly define the gospel?



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Ed Cyzewski

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:39 am


I find Mark 1:15 compelling: “The time has come,” he [Jesus] said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” It would seem that all of Christ’s work fits within this Kingdom, hence Lordship, understanding. That seems to capture the big picture of what is happening. However, if we do not understand the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we will miss out on the Lordship of Christ and his Kingdom.



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T

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:42 am


I’m with the second. I like John’s and RJS’s articulations as well.
Scot, are you thinking about evangelism here or how we think about the gospel as a whole (that ends up shaping how we do evangelism)?
RJS, not to answer for John, but I tend to think about God’s reign, or specifically God bringing his reign more effectively and thoroughly to earth, as the larger plot line in which Jesus is sent as the leader of that government and its mission to bring earth back into the fold. The cross is how God’s government comes near to us with “good will” instead of immediate judgment; the resurrection is the preview of God’s global intentions.
Also, I think the terms “Christ” and “kingdom” are so strongly linked that each, properly understood, implies the other. No ‘reign of God’ without a ‘Christ’ and vice versa. Meaning, I think every time Paul (or any Jew) said “Christ” he was thinking about ‘kingdom.’ So his kingdom gospel was ‘Christ-centered’ and his ‘Christ gospel’ is about the kingdom. But we’ve lost this connection.
If we are talking about evangelism here, I think we need to think more practically about all these things. People understand governments and would-be leaders. They know such folks at least pretend to have an agenda that cures what ails us. We should think and describe ‘kingdom’ and Jesus in such terms. That puts him in motion, motion with (or against) which we can work. His life and death (and life again) says so much on the character of this king, on what his government and his governed do, seeing it can pull at anyone to join up, to follow.
I think Dallas Willard’s question is always helpful: Does the gospel you preach naturally and logically lead those who accept it into discipleship to Christ? If not, we’ve probably not given the gospel of the NT.



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jhimm

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:52 am


Those two options don’t strike me as being substantially different from each other, just worded very differently.
The primary problem with the gospel as “Jesus’ victory over your sin” message is that for the overwhelming majority of people I have met in my life, this is not good news. This is grounds for getting offended and taking an even dimmer view of Christians and Christianity because on top of being (what the media teaches them by focusing only on the most extreme cases) bigoted, hateful and intrusive into other people’s freedoms, we’re also (now, because of this gospel we’ve shared) judgmental and a busy body.
The gospel message, the true gospel message, has power, as The Good News, over all. The gospel as articulated here has NO POWER over the mindset of “but I’m a good person, I don’t need Jesus’ forgiveness”. And if it has no power, it isn’t the true gospel, it isn’t The Good News. It is incomplete. This is the fundamental reason why Christianity no longer “sells” like it used to. We have made our gospel too narrow in the name of theological orthodoxy.



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Randy

posted March 30, 2009 at 9:57 am


I found NT Wright’s description of the gospel mind-blowingly helpful when I first read it in the 1990s. Today I would add to that some aspect of Paul’s declaration in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old has gone, the new is here.”
That said, I find RJS’s comments about trying to reduce and define to be an excellent caution against thinking any definition has “captured” all that gospel is an entails for us.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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Patrick

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:09 am


Scot, I was greatly blessed by Embracing Grace and your sketching of God’s grand narrative of recapitulation in Jesus. I think this sort of ‘big’ gospel mirrors the gospels themselves which revolve around the narrative of Jesus the Messiah, the crucified and risen Lord in whom is found life, freedom, forgiveness, a new identity and a new purpose. As with others I think Wright captures this much better than the first definition (although I’m not persuaded when he reduces the gospel down to the statement ‘Jesus is Lord’.) The thing I would add ? – the transforming and empowering presence of God’s Spirit must be part of the Good News …



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Matt K

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:38 am


As its been said by others, I’m not really satisfied with option #1 because of the decisionistic/propositional nature of it and the abstract idea of “save us from our sins”.
What might be lacking from Wright’s definition is the New Testament emphasis on the mercy/forgiveness of the cross and the “eschatological hope” that belongs to those who answer the call to discipleship, those who are “in Christ” fear no condemnation or those who would kill the body.



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Joel

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:40 am


It’s hard to argue with NT Wright. You should have posted his definition without first telling us it was from him. I think I could have thought about more objectively that way. I like both! But the second is a little more comprehensive.
BTW, why is there so much buzz about how to define the gospel lately (like in the last two weeks or so.)



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Steve

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:40 am


#15 JHIMM
?????????



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phil_style

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:41 am


On this subject, I read today the following from a commenter at Michael Spencer’s blog. It vexed me. I hope the quote is not too long to simply re-post it here, but I think it worth reading. When boiled down to this, the gospel does seem very unjust indeed, does it not?
“[I had]…a discussion about why God lets bad things happen to good people. The answer given was that He wants everyone to know him, so He does things to wake them up. Like tsunamis, or children dying of cancer. God casts people into hell to burn for an eternity because they don?t believe in Jesus. On the other hand, faith in Jesus is a ?get out of jail free? card that allows any amount of sin to be forgiven.
You all can argue theology until the world is flat, but this is the cornerstone of Christianity as believed by millions and explained to me since childhood. Theology is theory. What gets taught in thousands of Baptist churches every Sunday is ?fact.? Is it any wonder that Christians are seen as evil? We tell people that they can do anything and go to heaven as long as they?re a Christian, but the most moral person on earth is bound for hell unless they believe John 3:16.
This is justice? This is the philosophy of the Prince of Peace?”



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ET

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:48 am


I`m with the second, partly because it is rooted in history and tries to do justice to what really happened in the first century.
I`m reading the gospel according to Luke right now and i noticed that i tend to downplay all the phrases about the promises to Abraham and jump to the forgivness of sins (eg. the words Zacharia said when John the baptist was named luke 1: 67-79) but the promises to Abraham root this gospel in history and in a very specific history. moreover, i think that the big picture Bishop Wright describes helps us glimpse what a great thing the gospel is. and above all i think it makes more justice to the evidence in scripture.



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phil_style

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:49 am


The strongest image/metaphor for me that has always summed up the Christian message is that of the Temple curtain being torn.
Ever since even being a child was I was informed by my mohter that it was about being able to approach the father. Things like ‘eternal life’ etc came along later.



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ChrisB

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:51 am


I know I’ll shock everyone by saying I think the first statement is the more accurate statement of the gospel.
The second makes true statements, but the cross is little more than a footnote. It’s almost like Wright cherry picks through Paul’s writings to find all the implications of the gospel he can find and then decides they outweigh that nasty substitutionary atonement which appears on every other page in Paul’s writings.
In the comments I saw the usual complaint that the first statement is too “individual.” Of course. You are the one making the mistake that God only deals with communities. Even in the OT, though God certainly dealt with Israel as a body, God interacted with and judged individuals based on their own actions.
As for it being too man- or Adam-centered, I don’t think that’s true. The gospel is that we rebelled (and rebel) against God and God stepped in to fix it. That’s not man-centered.
The Kingdom is only possible because Christ saved us from the penalty of our sins.
I don’t have a problem with the statement offered above that Jesus came to put things back to the way things were supposed to be, but that implicitly includes why things went wrong and how they were fixed.
Neither statement is perfect, but the first comes a lot closer to the core truths.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:53 am


Joel #19,
Why? It’s not just recent.
1. For some, the rediscovery (in the Bible) of justice in the kingdom vision of Jesus.
2. The dissatisfaction of some with their past evangelical faith and its gospel.
3. Biblical studies that have thrown other issues onto the table and which have shown some focal points in the Bible and Chrsitian tradition that have been ignored.
4. Seeming incongruity of emphasis on heaven and lack of concern with earth.
5. The lack of transformative power — other than getting to heaven — on the part of how some have seen the gospel preached and “lived.”
6. The New Perspective on Paul.
7. Learning to read the Bible as Story and thinking that Story ought to be in the gospel.
That’s a start. We are at the cusp of a whole new conversation in the Church today.



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RJS

posted March 30, 2009 at 10:58 am


ChrisB,
One of the problems I have with the OT is that while God sometimes judges individuals for individual actions he more often judges groups for both group and individual actions. Children are to be stoned along with the father for the sins of the father for example. The entire exile makes no distinction between those who remain true and those who do not. On many occasions punishment is disconnected from individual culpability.



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T

posted March 30, 2009 at 11:18 am


ChrisB,
I agree with what I think you mean re: “The Kingdom is only possible because Christ saved us from the penalty of our sins” in that our welcome participation in it is only possible via Christ’s cross. I’m with you that substitutionary atonement is necessary, even climactic and more.
But in what sense, in your thinking, was/is Jesus’ (and Paul’s) kingdom announcement properly ‘good news’? And, given Jesus’ nigh obsession with ‘kingdom’ as gospel, (and Paul’s with Jesus as ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’) is it proper to relegate these themes to the footnotes?



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dac

posted March 30, 2009 at 11:35 am


I thought Calvinism was the gospel?



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Rick

posted March 30, 2009 at 11:42 am


I found Tim Keller’s “One Gospel, Many Forms” article helpful:
http://www.ctlibrary.com/le/2008/spring/9.74.html
I particularly liked his review and wording of Gathercole’s work on the subject:
“What, then, is the one simple gospel?
Simon Gathercole distills a three-point outline that both Paul and the Synoptic writers held in common. (See “The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom” in God’s Power to Save, ed. Chris Green Apollos/Inter-Varsity Press, UK, 2006.) He writes that Paul’s good news was, first, that Jesus was the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:4ff.)
Second, by his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.) Third, on the cross Jesus broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.)
Gathercole then traces these same three aspects in the Synoptics’ teaching that Jesus, the Messiah, is the divine Son of God (Mark 1:1) who died as a substitutionary ransom for the many (Mark 10:45), who has conquered the demonic present age with its sin and evil (Mark 1:14-2:10) and will return to regenerate the material world (Matt. 19:28.)
If I had to put this outline in a single statement, I might do it like this: Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.
One of these elements was at the heart of the older gospel messages, namely, salvation is by grace not works. It was the last element that was usually missing, namely that grace restores nature, as the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it. When the third, “eschatological” element is left out, Christians get the impression that nothing much about this world matters. Theoretically, grasping the full outline should make Christians interested in both evangelistic conversions as well as service to our neighbor and working for peace and justice in the world.”



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Beth Bilynskyj

posted March 30, 2009 at 12:07 pm


Actually, I wouldn’t add anything: I’d edit them both down, the same way that those who have gone before us did. The liturgy puts the gospel at at its center in the memorial acclamation. It is short, sweet, memorable, and transcends every culture:
“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
This puts CHRIST at the center, and requires us to position ourselves in relation to Him each moment of our lives, either to move toward Him, or away from Him.
Whether this proclamation of the gospel better coincides with #1 or #2 matters less than whether we are able to enter into it in faith, with hope, in order to love. I look forward to being able to make this confession every time we have communion at VCC.



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Mark Baker-Wright

posted March 30, 2009 at 12:34 pm


Like some others, I’m hesitant to “pin-down” a single “definition” of the gospel, and I feel that to choose between the two formulations given here is something of a forced choice. That said, I would certainly agree that how we define the word “gospel” has powerful implications for how we view Christianity, and indeed how we live our lives.
If forced, I’d choose #2, and am more than a little confused as to how ChrisB can argue that the cross is “little more than a footnote” in it, given its primary placement in the formula.



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Percival

posted March 30, 2009 at 12:38 pm


Jesus is the gospel. That should be the focus. The word gospel can talk about what he did, but it is primarily the fact that he is, and he is the I AM.



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ChrisB

posted March 30, 2009 at 12:40 pm


RJS said: “Children are to be stoned along with the father for the sins of the father for example.”
You’ll have to refresh my memory — I don’t remember that one.
I know whole families were occasionally punished by God (e.g., Korah), but as far as human justice went, the rule was as in Ez 18 — “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”
But God did warn them up front that they would be dealt with corporately. As a people they were called to be holy, and as a people they rebelled, so as a people they had to be punished.
We don’t like it, and it is very different from modern notions of accountability and individuality, but God does not apparenly see things like we do.
T said: “in what sense… was/is Jesus’ (and Paul’s) kingdom announcement properly ‘good news’?”
The part about being rescued instead of being punished sounds like good news to me.
As someone put it above, and as Wright has written elsewhere, the gospel can be described as God putting everything to rights. I think that’s fair as long as we understand the role of sin in that.
Jesus said, “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” but He also said, “repent” and that He came to give His life as a “ransom for many.” Was Isaiah 53 part and parcel of the Kingdom message for Jesus just like Is 61? Did Jesus think the Kingdom would exclude any humans without the atonement? Did Jesus think reconciliation with God included dealing with the consequences of our rebellion? I think so.



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Scott M

posted March 30, 2009 at 12:47 pm


ChrisB, I would say that the Cross and Resurrection freed us from bondage to death and sin and altered the nature of man and indeed in some sense all reality. Those who give their believing allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth are becoming truly human. When you insert the word ‘penalty’ as in ‘penalty of our sins’, you are using a word that only appears once in the NT and I think not quite in that context. ‘Punishment’ is just about as rare a word.
Frankly, I find it a gross overstatement that penal substitionary atonement appears on “every other page” of Paul’s writings. In fact, I can hardly find it all. If I squint and look sideways, I see how Romans 5 could be read that way, though I don’t believe it’s a correct reading.
You seem to equate the theory of penal substitionary atonement with the gospel. The atonement is not the gospel. It’s an aspect of the gospel not the gospel itself. More importantly, it’s not even vaguely possible that first century people within the Roman empire, especially non-Jewish people, could have heard someone proclaiming an ‘euvangelion’ and understood it to mean anything even vaguely like the first statement. That’s so much an historical anachronism it almost tilts into absurdity.
Even among the Jews, when we find the word in the septuagint, it’s mostly in Isaiah and is associated with the idea of the reign of God over the nations. When Israel’s God comes to reign over Israel and the nations, that’s good news for the whole world. We have examples of the euvangelion of, for instance, Tiberius. And the opening of Romans, written to the largely gentile church in Rome, strikingly parallels it.
Within that larger picture, we do find the atonement. We find that the crucified and risen Jesus has defeated all the powers, including death through his passion and Resurrection and offers unlimited forgiveness to all who will turn to him and give him their believing allegiance as the true Lord of heaven and earth. But the atonement fits within the proclamation of the good news of the reign of the true Lord. It is not in and of itself the good news.



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Scott M

posted March 30, 2009 at 12:59 pm


Hmmm. As I mentioned, I do agree that the simplest formulation of the ‘gospel’ is: Jesus is Lord. The reason it’s usually fleshed out is because as soon as you assert that, you have to explain who Jesus is and why he — as opposed to anyone else — is Lord. And it’s usually helpful to throw in some of why it’s good news that he’s Lord. And the more you flesh each one of those out, the longer and longer it becomes. But that’s the heart of it.



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Dave

posted March 30, 2009 at 1:20 pm


I’d probably lean toward #2 because #1 is so “me-focused”, and seems to be only a subset of what happened through the entire life and work of Jesus Christ. It also doesn’t seem to jive with the use of “gospel” throughout the old and new testaments.
My main comment is that I am SO relieved to know that I’m not the only person asking these questions. Sitting in the pew on Sunday morning, listening to the language used, I feel like such an oddball. Thanks for approaching this subject, Scot.



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T

posted March 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm


ChrisB,
I think I hear you saying that Jesus & the apostles thought that the only proper “good news” part of the kingdom announcement was “the part about being rescued instead of being punished.”
I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so which “rescues” that the government/Christ of God accomplishes do you see as included in the good news of the government/governor of God coming near? I’m just trying to see how wide or narrow you mean ‘rescue.’ (i.e., Does the “good news of rescue” by God’s government/Governor mean avoiding punishment only, or does it include one or more of these rescues: freedom from idols; getting to be an apprentice of Jesus; fruitful and intimate co-working with God; the graces and fruit of the Spirit; a healing family, society [Church], etc.?)



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T

posted March 30, 2009 at 1:30 pm


ScottM (35), Well said.



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T

posted March 30, 2009 at 1:38 pm


Sorry, #34 (esp. at the end) AND #35 were very well said! The reigning of God is the context (and purpose) for the atonement. It really is good news that there is a Power greater than the ones we all know, and that his agenda and ways are so good and so redemptive.



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Elliott Russell

posted March 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm


The Gospel according to Elliott:
1. God’s nature, our nature = impossible problem
2. The good news that God made the impossible possible (as only he can)
3. Jesus (God and Man, hypostatic union) came, lived, died and resurrected perfectly and is willing to bare our sins.
4. There is nothing you can do to earn or deserve this solution to your problem–it is a free gift (grace) that you can choose to accept or ignore.
4. If you accept it your life will change, you will be truly repent and hate the sin you once loved. this repentant attitude is a byproduct of knowing God. Without these fruits you are not saved, as you cannot be saved if Jesus does not know you.
5. God wants a relationship with us, the more you develop it the greater your metamorphoses will be.
This is the Gospel according to Elliott ;)



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Charlie

posted March 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm


This is my first foray into this venue. I don’t consider myself “emergent”, or “emerging” (except that my gut is currently emerging too far over my belt for my preference). I may post again as to my problem with those movement terms.
Be that as it may, its not clear to me what these two excerpts are custom-cut for. Are they simply *in shorthand form* for frequent contributors, and any implied code is understood, and therefore regular readers are supposed to comment on both the facile, and deep, meanings (without the drudgery of additional definitional clauses in the first case) and from the common philosophical orientation of this community?
Or, are the examples supposed to be formal summaries from diverse theological camps which could stand as introductory paragraphs of soteriological monographs? Thus, readers should vote for them on the adequacy to that task?
Or, neither.
In “the Blue Parakeet” under the: “*Relational* Approach to the Bible” section, Dr. McKnight exhorts readers to “distinguish God from the Bible”.
What I see in the OP, here, are soteriological definitional summaries. But the specific question is, “Which *gospel* do you choose?”.
And, keying in on the word “gospel”(eu-aggel-ion) its not clear to me why either one of these choices should be called “the good message”, because a message which will be understood as “good” will include the reader’s relationship to that message, i.e. why it is good for him/her.
To be practical, if some ambivalent soul were read these two statements, I’m thinking the most positive remark would be ‘so what; what is that to me’?



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Matt Edwards

posted March 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm


I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. The short sentence, “The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save us from our sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead” from number 1 is Paul’s Gospel in 1 sentence (1 Cor 15:1?5).
However, N.T. Wright clarifies what Paul means by “Jesus came to save us from sins” with his four points. It’s not about “going to heaven when you die,” it’s about the reign of God.



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MattDB

posted March 30, 2009 at 2:50 pm


I’ve always been intrigued by Jesus’ anointing in Bethany, and the significance of Jesus’ reference to Mary’s actions in relation to the gospel. Allow me the liberty to center on this story to respond to this post.
Mary anoints Jesus head (Matt 26, Mark 14)- symbolic action for a King. She uses perfume instead of oil – symbolic for burial. So the gospel can at least include Jesus being the King who must die. For some reason in John 11, Caiaphas says its better for one man to die for all the children of God. So perhaps this King must die for those who are his? Then Jesus testifies before Pilate that he is king of a different kingdom – one that testifies to the truth. All this happening during Passover, I can certainly see this gospel including the end of “exile”. And what good is talk about his burial without discussing his resurrection.
Putting this all together, perhaps the gospel then includes “God sent Jesus to the world to be revealed as King of God’s Kingdom, to die as King and to rise from the dead, so that his children would believe and testify to the truth, and be restored to His promised land.”
On another note, I realize that we are not the gospel; the good news centers on GOd’s victory in Jesus. But what good is news if it isn’t given? So, where in the discussion of “good news” do we discuss the connection between God’s victory, and God’s children testifying to that victory? Can we understand the good news apart from understanding how we are to respond to God’s victory? Jesus tells us to remember what Mary’s anointing announces each time we discuss the good news. Her anointing also was upon Jesus’ feet (John 12); the act of a servant worshipping a Master. Where do we fit into the “good news” – not as the good news, but as participants who recieve it, and get to testify about it? Mary was singled out as choosing what was best – in worshipping at Jesus feet, she did something memorable in the ongoing testifying of the good news.
This post is fueled by more questions than answers, so help me find clarity in this search for what really is “gospel”…



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RJS

posted March 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm


ChrisB (#33),
Joshua 7 is a start.
You said:
But God did warn them up front that they would be dealt with corporately. As a people they were called to be holy, and as a people they rebelled, so as a people they had to be punished.
We don’t like it, and it is very different from modern notions of accountability and individuality, but God does not apparently see things like we do.
To which I say: Exactly … and my point is that there is a corporate guilt and judgment – and this is why I think that the first statement doesn’t cover enough and is too individualistic. It doesn’t give a big enough vision of the gospel.



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Dave Leigh

posted March 30, 2009 at 3:52 pm


This is a tough choice because both options you lay out have so much in their favor. And it’s hard to think about this subject without hearing Paul’s repeated warning in Galatians 1 that there is a curse on anyone, even angels, who preach a gospel other than the one the Galatians received.
On the one hand, you have Paul saying in Galatians 3:8-9:
“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
But then on the other we have Paul’s preaching in Galatia recorded for us in Acts 13 as he delivered a clear salvation message in Pisidian Antioch, which bears some resemblances and differences to the choices presented above in this blog.
The Galatians passage seems to be more of a broad summary or application primarily for the sake of the Gentiles in Galatia. But the message in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-43) is more detailed and was addressed to both Jewish and Gentile listeners (vv. 16,26,43) in the synagogue there(vv. 14,15,42).
As I read that sermon, which echoes Peter’s Pentecost address with remarkable similarity, I see the following outline:
A. Paul reviews Israel’s history of Messianic hope as background ? vv. 16-23
i. This leads to identifying Jesus as the promised Son of David – v.23
B. Paul recounts the gospel-related events of their day (i.e. “News”):
i. John the Baptist’s Ministry ? vv. 24-25
ii. Jesus’ ?reception,? death, and resurrection ? vv. 26-31
C. Paul spells out the good news, with emphasis on the resurrection – vv. 32-33: “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”
D. Paul applies the meaning/application ? (i.e. Why this is “Good News”!)
i. The Messianic promise of the Scriptures has been kept ? vv. 32-37
ii. Now forgiveness of sin is proclaimed and offered to you ? vv. 38
a) If you will but believe, then justification is yours – v. 38
b) This surpasses what the Law was able to provide or accomplish – v. 39
iii. Therefore be warned: God is doing something you couldn’t have imagined or even believed, had you been told. Yet those who scoff at (or disbelieve) this message will perish ? vv. 40-41
The next day Paul makes it clear that this message involves bringing “salvation to the ends of the earth” as light to the Gentiles (v. 47). And Luke tells us that those who believed were all those who were “appointed for eternal life” (v. 48).
It seems to me then, that the gospel Paul gave the Galatians (which must be held in order to avoid his anathema) involves a telling of the Christ-Event and its implications for legal justification, forgiveness, and salvation unto eternal life. Jesus’ identity as the Messiah also has obvious implications for understanding the Messianic Kingdom and its arrival in Christ’s coming, death, resurrection, and ascension. The kingdom implications may have been more readily inferred by first-century Jews than 21st century readers, but was carefully spelled out in Jesus’ teachings during his ministry and again between his resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3). All of this apparently satisfies the good news God gave Abraham in advance (as per Galatians 3), regarding the Gentiles in God’s plan.
Certainly Jesus’ own gospel and preaching placed more accent on the kingdom he was ushering in. He may even have kept his identity somewhat ambiguous for much of his ministry (i.e. the messianic secret). But Paul and the early evangelists focused more on Jesus’ identity and on his inauguration of the kingdom with its implications for both Jews and Gentiles. They did not see individual and collective salvation as mutually exclusive but instead preached, as exemplified by Peter: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you?even Jesus.” (Acts 3:19-20)



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Mr. T!

posted March 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm


I been thinking about this for a few decades and discussing it with anyone who will suffer me [my buddies on the ooze have suffered me long and hard]. The two comments that bark up my tree here are number 8- Bob Young… when he comments that what Jesus was preaching as good news is different, to some extent, from what Paul was preaching. And I think we should expect that difference. Evangelical-style presentations seem to resemble Paul’s more than the kind of good news Jesus preaches in the Beattitudes or from the Isaiah scroll. But if we put the different approaches together, it is indeed a very full gospel.
That brings us to comment number 29- Rick’s link to Tim Keller’s article. A very good read. Keller attempts to reconcile and condense the differences… but alas, in the name of a shortened simplified gospel. Other than its pragmatic handiness as an evangelism tool, I don’t see the bible imperative for reducing and simplifying something that’s mostly presented as a long, complex, and full narrative. Everyone I read in the scriptures is talking long and wide and deep about the meaning of Jesus. What harm comes to the message when we simplify it, continually repeat the shortened version, and build our communities around it?
I say keep the shortened gospel message at about the length of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John… and Acts and a few others. The long version is much longer than that.



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Rick

posted March 30, 2009 at 11:37 pm


Thanks for giving us a choice:) I like NT Wright’s more than John MacArthur’s (I know you didn’t cite him, I did). And like other commentors, I don’t think Wright’s excludes the first one. I just think that wright’s view could stand to be unpacked a bit (which I’m sure he does in the rest of the book, though it’s been a long time since I’ve read it. But all the elements are there in broad headings. Especially, once you explain how Jesus understood his mission as messiah, then you have all you need to say about him dying for sins on behalf of the world so that those who acknowledge him as lord can have the new covenant blessing of forgiveness of sins, the holy spirit, and share in the new life (again, other things could be added here).



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Mr. T!

posted March 31, 2009 at 12:38 pm


I think there’s one more contextual element to “gospel” that’s often missing from our modern presentations. Like other terms [logos, ecclesia,"Son of God", "Lord", Kingdom, etc.] the term for gospel… “euangelion”… already had a meaning in the ancient Roman context. For Jesus to proclaim his gospel would have been subversive to his hearers… a flipping of its Roman meaning. It would have meant more that just the content of the message. The hearer would have understood that Jesus was challenging other systems… Roman or Temple or Rabbinic… with his message.
I wonder if our presentations also carry that subversive, challenging kind of effect. Or whether the message has been co-opted into a safe, institutionalized kind of orthodoxy. There are still plenty of systems and kingdoms contrary to the way of Jesus to be challenged by our “good news”.



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Patrick

posted March 31, 2009 at 1:32 pm


# 46 Mr T!
I’m with you but only part of the way. Yes uniformly reducing the gospel will do damage both to the message and to the shape of Christian discipleship. But no – let’s not make the gospel so long and complex that only those with lots of time and a theological education can grasp it. There need to be different ‘entry points’ into the gospel for different people at different times. It may be the love of God in Jesus, it may be forgiveness of sin, it may be resurrection hope, it may be God’s justice … let’s be creative in relating where someone is at to relevant points in the gospel narrative. Once someone is drawn into the story, there is a lifetime to keep unpacking that story and their place in it. But someone can’t be expected to ‘get’ the whole thing before they enter it.



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RickY

posted March 31, 2009 at 3:04 pm


Speaking of contextual elements, I think there’s one that’s been *added* to modern presentations of the Gospel: the Wrath of God. Do a Google search on What is the Gospel? and you’ll see what I mean.
… the revelation of God?s love and sacrifice that saves us from God’s righteous judgment upon sinners.
…the good news that Christ lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead to satisfy God’s wrathful judgment on the world.

Where’d that come from? How did that become the Gospel? So I’m thinking about the impact of the “4 Spiritual Laws”. CCC claims that since the mid-sixties 1.5 BILLION of those little booklets have been published into the earth [http://www.greatcom.org/laws/] . That’s a lot of tracts. And that’s not counting the copies and paraphrased spinoffs. Add to that the impact of Billy Graham’s Crusades, whose rap is nearly identical to Bright’s, and you got major MAJOR impact [http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp]. And don’t even get me started on Jack Chick!
My theory is that the Four Laws were written to try and get the 60′s kids to behave themselves. And because the rap was simple and tidy, easily memorized and replicated, it took on a life of its own, and eventually became the definitive de facto translation of the Gospel for most new believers, especially for Evangelicals here in the West.
It’s become the norming norm for most. Hasn’t it? How big an impact is that? It’s created a cultural crater so huge we can’t even see it, because we ARE it.
Here’s the problem with that message, though: it says that God saved us from God. Doesn’t it?
And what’s heard is (ask anyone) “Become a Christian or else you’ll be tormented forever.”
Makes me ill just thinking about it.
We need to get our Story straight. So this is a good conversation to have. Thanks for making space. God help us.



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RickY

posted March 31, 2009 at 3:23 pm


ooops…
sorry, those are old links above and I should have checked before I posted. Things change. Fancy that.



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RickY

posted March 31, 2009 at 7:30 pm


What Patrick said in #49



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Marc

posted April 1, 2009 at 10:32 am


I’m with Wright that the Gospel is an objectively true announcement about Jesus (who he is, what he’s done) and that atonement for individuals, justification by faith etc. are subjective implications of this (more here).



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MikeyB

posted April 3, 2009 at 11:14 am


The Gospels ARE, indeed, “a call to follow Christ’s example or his teachings.” And they certainly do include a promise of his return. And the last line of the first definition is probably the ‘great synopsis’ of the Gospels – “The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save us from our sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead.” A wonderful invitation to the story and events and teachings of Jesus Christ.
As for the second definition, I agree “In Jesus of Nazareth, specifically in his cross, the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil, including sin and death themselves.”
But this is not the end of sin, or death, or evil… this is but a good stepping-off point for each of us to change ourselves and the events happening around us… for following the teachings and example of Jesus Christ… for making this a better, more forgiving, more loving world to pass on to our generations.
God Bless us all, MikeyB



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Melissa

posted April 4, 2009 at 1:52 pm


The Gospels of John are the most impactful in my life.



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Ben Pun

posted April 4, 2009 at 2:12 pm


Scot, do we have to choose one of these? I think there is somewhat of a false choice, if we are made to choose between the two. I believe the gospel is the good news that Jesus was incarnated as a man, recapitulating Israel’s story, he died for our sins, freeing us from them, and that he is making all things new, as king over all creation. Your first choice doesn’t include the resurrection as an integral part, but I don’t think Wright’s version does justice to the biblical meaning of Christ dying “for our sins.”



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euphony

posted April 4, 2009 at 5:02 pm


I cannot see how the New Testament can be separated into such parts. 50 days after Jesus’resurrection (if I remember that point correctly), Peter and the Apostles preached and everyone heard the speech in their own languages. Paul was struck on the road and thereafter spent all his time and energy presenting Jesus Christ to people, using what God presented to him and what he said was his own ideas to complement that information. The whole Bible leads to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, and we must do as it says within our own understanding and within meeting together as a congregation worshiping God..



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Mike E

posted April 5, 2009 at 1:10 pm


Matthew is the most lengthy and therefore the most indepth but if John were added to it it would be more complete.



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Elijah "NatureBoy" Alexander, Jr.

posted April 5, 2009 at 6:14 pm


For the most parts, I reject them both.
The word gospel, I have found, is defined as “good news”. I recognize good and evil to be abstracts, words without any sense recognizable existence, therefore it should be defined only as “the news”. Matthew 28:19-20 is one of the places we find that to be the proper definition. The name which is the father’s and also common to the son and holy ghost is I AM THAT I AM.
That name being the only name by which one can be saved says it all. It says good and evil do not exist, what is, is what it is, therefore everything any life does is what it is supposed to do.
As soon as one began to recognize that fact they began to find purpose for every thing happening rather than judging them. In that way they are purified from the mind of good and evil and cut away from all attachments causing them to use all thing according to the found purposes and receives life everlasting.



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Lawrence

posted April 6, 2009 at 12:53 am


I don’t believe either of the choices given are entirely correct. I believe that the Gospel is the good news that though he did not have to, Jesus (The Word of God) chose to leave the splendor he had known in Heaven and come to Earth to pay the debt we all owed for our sins and offer himself for our salvation from ourselves and from Hell. This includes being born to a virgin in a lowly manger, living 33 years on Earth, Being rejected, scorned, and beaten before finally being hung on a cross, buried in a borrowed tomb, and rising again after three days and he still lives today and is still willing to forgive our sins, turn our lives around and help us through life’s toughest times. I believe this is the theme found in all of the books of the Gospel.



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Your Name

posted April 6, 2009 at 5:21 am


Faith comes by hearing and hearing the words of God.Hearing and hearing means a repeated act over and over,not necessarily just hearing,but for that sake,one requires to go to church to hear
pastors and spiritual messengers of the words of God.Faith requires
reading too day and night or 24/7 commitment,not litterary reading
but by your insights of what you have heard and read,apply or meditate
the words day and night as you live everyday.Before making list of
books or hymns of where you base your faith and belief,answer the
Question,do you Faith in God?Once you have answer,then your
references will automatically draw to you as you are seeking for the truth and will continue to shine.The simplest form where to
base your faith is when you start to ask and wonder who created
nature?There must be a baseline from inside of you to start your
search and so on and so forth…



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plac zabaw producent

posted September 9, 2014 at 9:55 pm


Strona świadczy o ciekawych zagadnieniach, zapraszam do rozmowy



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http://tagstoke.meopost.com/

posted September 20, 2014 at 5:56 am


Hi there, all the time i used to check web site posts here early in the break of day, since i like to learn more and more.



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