Gospel-This and Gospel-That

Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction It probably goes without saying that in conservative evangelical circles there’s a “gospel” movement.  I mean this in a positive way: evangelicals are using phrases like “gospel-centered” this or that.  Although these types of phrases are sometimes ambiguous and somewhat trendy, I’m glad Christians are focusing on the gospel.

At the same time, I wonder if this “gospel-centered” movement puts enough emphasis on the Holy Trinity.  Do books, sermons, and conferences on “gospel-centered” this or that explain and apply the gospel in trinitarian way?  I appreciate how Michael Bird said it:

“The God we are confronted with in the gospel is the Triune God.  The gospel and the Trinity are internally configured toward each other because the saving acts of God point to a God who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The salvation that the gospel promises portrays the Father as choosing, Christ as redeeming, and the Spirit as renewing – all in a unified work by distinct persons in a single Godhead.”

“As Kevin Vanhoozer puts it: ‘The very logic of the gospel – the declaration that God enables believers to relate to God the Father in Jesus Christ through the Spirit – implies the divinity of the Son and Spirit as well.’  Vanhoozer rightly claims that the ‘integrity of the gospel is fatally compromised if either the Son or the Spirit is not fully God.  If the Son were not God, he could neither reveal the Father nor atone for our sin.  If the Spirit were not God, he could unite us neither to the Father and Son nor one another.  The gospel, then, requires a triune God.’”

“What is more, the Trinity is not an esoteric doctrine forged in an unholy marriage of Greek metaphysical speculation and dodgy biblical interpretation.  Rather, to experience the salvific blessings of the gospel is to be immersed in a Trinitarian reality.  The gospel invites us to faith, a faith where we call God our Father, Christ our brother, and the Spirit our comforter.  Our experience of God in gospel, prayer, and worship is not unitarian or tritheistic, but authentically Trinitarian” (p. 92).

Of course Mormons talk about the gospel – but it’s not the biblical and Christian gospel since it’s injected with meritorious works and since it denies the doctrine of the Trinity.  We would do well to remember what Bird, Vanhoozer, and the historic Christian church remind us of: the gospel is a trinitarian truth!

The above quote was taken from Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).

shane lems

2 Replies to “Gospel-This and Gospel-That”

  1. This is excellent! I am somewhat troubled by something: last week at Multnomah Seminary used book shelves I picked up “Essays on John” by CK Barrett, whose style is delightful and whose independence and clear-mindedness as an exegete I really admire. He has an essay entitled “The Father is greater than I–subordinationist Christology in the NT”-it raised some difficult questions for me, especially the old rule of thumb that the economic Trinitarian functions of the history of redemption rest on and reflect immanent and ontological realities. I am not sure what to do with this.
    The possible solution, the Father as “fons divinitatis” or “pege theotetis” of (especially) the Eastern Churches seems to head us in the direction of a two-level deity: the Son and Spirit as derivative and the Father as the “real” God; but someone is who not the real God is not god at all, and so I understand and agree with the intention of the Athanasian Creed. Some inexplicable issues remain in straightforward reading of the NT, though.


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