Is This the Gospel?

In the recent issue of Christianity Today, there is an article detailing James Choung's new and simple gospel presentation. This presentation can be easily drawn on a napkin and seems quite simple. But is it too simple and an even greater question is, "Is it really even the gospel?" I have no doubt that Mr. Choung's intentions were not to misrepresent the gospel and quite the opposite, I imagine his intention was to better and more simply represent the gospel to unbelievers in 2008.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

As I'm drawing the four circles, I'll tell the story like this: The world, our relationships, and each one of us were designed for good, but all of it was damaged by evil because of our self-centeredness and inclination to seek our own good above others. But God loved the world too much to leave it that way, so he came as Jesus. He took everything evil with him to death on the cross, and through his resurrection, all of it was restored for better. In the end of time, all will be fully restored, but until then, the followers of Jesus are sent together to heal people, relationships, and the systems of the world.

I don't believe that the Bible teaches that "all evil will be fully restored" when Jesus returns. All evil will be finally judged and condemned to an eternity of perishing, but not restored. Choung's comment here sounds like all will be saved or restored when Jesus returns.

The overriding spiritual question today is: What is good? What will really help the planet be a better place? And our faith better have an answer for it to be relevant today.

I think Christianity does have an answer for that question (Romans 8:18-25), but I don't know that it is irrelevant if it doesn't address this primarily and I have an even greater issue with this being the "overriding spiritual question" of the day. Now it may in fact be, but it should not be and I do not believe that Scripture seems to frame that as the overriding spiritual question. Scripture seems much more focused on "How will our sinful and rebellious hearts be reconciled to a holy God?"

Choung goes on to say,

We need Jesus to help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world. Only he can fully help us put to death our self-centered ways so that we can truly live. So if you really want to be a part of healing the world in a way that lasts, you have to go through Jesus.

Jesus does not "help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world." This statement almost seems like we can do some good in the world on our own, but Jesus is needed to add what we lack. The gospel says that we have no good in us and there is nothing eternally good that we can do for this earth. Any good thing that we may do, apart from Christ, is done with sinful motives.

Choung does speak on sin:

But we still come back to the concept of sin in the context of a broken world. Each person contributes to the mess. We all do. And when we present sin in the context of results we see in the world (instead of, to a postmodern, an arbitrary set of rules we see that one tribe happens to live by), then our sinfulness is much easier to accept.

What about sin in the context of man being in rebellion against a holy God and therefore rightly and justly condemned by Him? What about that rebellion against a holy God being the reason the world is broken? Choung seems to couch sin as primarily against the world and not against God. Man's main problem is not that the world is messy, but that his heart is messy before God and he and his messy heart have made a messy world. Would Isaiah agree that when sin is seen in the context of results we see in the world, then our sinfulness is much easier to accept? Was it the results Isaiah saw in the world around him that made him cry out, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips..."?

No it was not. Isaiah very clearly gives the reason why he saw his sin: "...for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" What was it about this King that He had seen? The holiness of this King. "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." John 8:41 clearly tells us that this King Isaiah saw was the Lord Jesus Christ. It was when Isaiah was presented with the holiness of God that he saw and accepted his own sinfulness.

Well, there are a few other quotes that are noteworthy, but you can read the whole story and see them for yourself. I am not sure that if the gospel that people believe in is repentance from sin of the results they see in the world and not repentance of sin in their own hearts against a holy God that they will be restored in the last day. I am not quite sure that if people come to Jesus to help them become the kind of good they want to see in the world that they will be "restored" in the last day.

I like Jesus and Paul's version of the Gospel much better. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) Let the Gospel be the Gospel.

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