What is the Gospel: Back to and Beyond Eden
What is the Gospel? When I think over my time at college I can see a definite movement in the way that I would respond to this question. There is of course the small booklet by Greg Gilbert "What is the Gospel" which outlines the answer with which I arrived at college. He boils it down to God, Man, Christ, Response. Or, to skip the explanations, he boils the Gospel down to "salvation".
In the last few years it has been in vogue to talk about the Gospel as being something broader than salvation. Scot McKnight incited plenty of debate in the evangelical blogosphere with his "King Jesus Gospel" and of course NT Wright has been saying the same sort of thing for some time now. In an interview with Trevin Wax Wright describes the Gospel as:
God is becoming King and he is doing it through Jesus! And therefore, phew! God’s justice, God’s peace, God’s world is going to be renewed.
In other words, the Gospel is not just about salvation (which, in these terms would be submission to Christ's lordship), it is about the renewal of the world.
Not to follow the crowd, I think there is something to be said for this broader view. Imagine evangelism in which the offer of the Gospel is not only the promise of an invisible inward change but the promise that the world around you will escape the corruption of sin. The world around you will be filled with the colours of promise and hope. Of course, there is inward change. Of course, there is submission to Christ's lordship. Of course, the Gospel includes and, perhaps, centers around salvation. Without these the Gospel may as well be the next NGO, they are essential. But the Gospel is God's plan for the universe.
Ever since expulsion from Eden, the world has been groaning. This view of the Gospel is that God plans to restore the world around us to an Edenic state, where everywhere you look, what you see is good. It's not just back to Eden though, the Gospel takes us beyond Eden. This is Eden 2.0 in which God has redeemed a people for himself from a world of corruption and rebellion and restored them to the point of indelible perfection.
The Gospel is the bellowing voice of God in reply to a world molested by evil. It is his saying, "Thus far you will come and no further." It is an answer that he responded with in Genesis 3 that promises the overthrow of evil, the wiping away of every tear and life as he designed it. It is an answer that we will see come to fruition when Christmas comes again - when Jesus comes to earth a second time, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Gospel is God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.