Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?

This week The Gospel Coalition is holding its national conference, focusing on the Gospel of Luke. There are many topics that are being addressed at this conference. From atonement theology to missions this conference is being very comprehensive. Tonight I watched the panel discussion featuring D A Carson, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, and Tim Keller tackle the question: Did Jesus preach the Gospel?

This is a question that very much interests me. The question stems from the fact that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) focus on Kingdom, John focuses on Eternal Life (using kingdom three times), and Paul focuses on Gospel and Justification (well, in two letters he focuses on justification). Traditional evangelical theology tends to favor Pauline texts and its theology to be the lens through which the whole Bible is read. There is a movement that ebbs and flows that its adherents want to be Red Letter Christians, people who only read and follow the words of Jesus. Then there is a new movement, associated with New Perspective writer N. T. Wright and others, that want to use the Gospels as the lens through which Paul is read, and then the Bible. This last movement also emphasizes reading the Bible as a story above the reading of the Bible as a system of theology and doctrine.

This panel was going to show how Jesus did preach the same gospel as Paul, or so I thought. Rather, the panelists dismissed the question as absurd and, well, stupid. In point of fact, Piper explicitly defended the idea of reading the Gospels through the lens of Paul because he comes later. But fails to see that this is begging the question that the panel was asked.

There was very little discussion of how Paul’s message of justification and the Gospel’s message of kingdom are one and same. That Jesus and Paul preach the gospel. They hinted at it but failed to flesh it out. Rather they rabbit-trailed about the kingdom and what it means. They really didn’t answer the question.

They had some good things to say about the kingdom itself and its impact on the present world. The kingdom means we fight to end poverty and other forms of injustice. But the kingdom isn’t a mere social program. It is the defeat of death and sin. It’s about God rescuing his people from their great enemy, the satan. So I don’t want to pain these men as saying nothing at all.

But in the end, the panel failed to answer the question. Instead, they dismissed the questioned as stupid. They articulated and defended a hermeneutic that only begs the question to be asked, reading the Bible and the Gospels backwards. But they never answer the question. They never show how Jesus preached the gospel. They never gave a definition of what they believe the Bible says the gospel is! DeYoung tried to read Mark as the gospel being forgiveness of sins but failed to take serious the specific texts in Mark he cites.

I came away very disappointed in and with the panel. I hope the rest of conference has been a more fruitful discussion of the God who reigns in and through Jesus the Messiah. But if the panel I saw is any indication, I feel sorry for the attendees. They will soak up every word these men say and never once critically examine them. We all have our idols (mine is N. T. Wright!).

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~ by hankimler on April 10, 2013.

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