Wednesday, 4 January 2012

What is the Gospel?

Over at his blog Sentire Cum Ecclesia, our erstwhile Lutheran brother David Schutz has written:

‘I have asked before (and will keep asking) the question “What is the Gospel?” because I firmly believe that unless we grasp what the Gospel – the Good News – actually is, we will not be able to proclaim it. ‘

My first reaction was sadness that David, a former Lutheran pastor who became Roman Catholic ten years ago (after which event he still claimed to be in some sense 'a Lutheran') would have to ask this question of his fellow Roman Catholics and himself. But those of us who have closely studied the doctrine and life of the Roman Catholic Church would certainly not be surprised at the confusion David has found (and evidently experienced within himself) in his adopted ecclesial community as to this most basic and urgent of questions: what is the Gospel?

The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes it (Rom 1:16) and David is profoundly correct in stating that unless the Gospel is clearly defined it cannot be proclaimed. I would add that without such proclamation sinners are not being saved, no matter how many of them fill the pews at each Mass (indeed, I can't tell you how many ex-Roman Catholics, my dear wife included, who I have heard say 'I never heard the Gospel in the x number of years I spent in the Roman church').

So, in the interest of furthering the cause of the Gospel among our Roman friends, I have humbly offered a definition in the comments section of David's post; this definition is basically a paraphrase of what is written in the Lutheran confession of faith known as the Formula of Concord [@ SD V, 20]. I hope this might go some way towards answering David's question in his own mind and that of his co-religionists:

The Gospel [the Good News] is the proclamation that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, has taken upon Himself and borne the curse of the Law and has expiated and paid for all our sins by his suffering and death on the Cross. Through faith in him we enter into favour with God, our sins are forgiven and we are delivered from death and all the just punishments our sins deserved, and are eternally saved.

Bible references, I added, could be supplied if needed, or, I suggested, one might simply want to read Paul’s Letter to the Romans for the definitive, inspired theological exposition of the Gospel.

More could be said on the subject of the Gospel, of course, but in my estimation that is exactly how Rome has fallen into error - with what it has illegitimately added to the divinely revealed Gospel - a damnable tendency I like to call 'the Roman and': faith and works, Jesus and Mary and the saints, God's will and man's, and so on (just read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) to be disabused of the notion that Vatican II changed any Roman doctrine concerning soteriology). So, I will leave it at that for the present - after all we are seeking clarity, looking to sweep the Roman church clean, so to speak, of the accumulated doctrinal dust of centuries which has obscured the pristine beauty of the foundational Gospel God gave it at the brilliant dawn of the Christian era. It was, after all, to the Roman Christians that Paul wrote his seminal letter, which still shines incandescently with the grace of God almost two millenia later.


It will be interesting to see what comments this elicits from those who 'think with the [papal] church' on David's blog. If interested, you can follow the discussion here. Caveat lector: false doctrine abounds, so venture abroad (i.e. follow the link) armed with the sword of the Spirit:

'But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.'
Romans 3:21-25 (NIV)

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!


Terry Maher said...

God bless me sideways if you didn't get me to violate my resolve not to visit David's blog any more! But I only lurked and read, did not comment. And, as always happens when I come into contract with Catholic things, I was happy to leave! Rather like a prison visit -- you know you'll be outside the door when it closes.

Nothing could more exactly exemplify the need for a reformation that Catholic stuff. For me it's twice over. Once in that now I know better as a Lutheran. But twice in that what is postconciliar Catholic is so far from what I knew, in which one did not wonder if we knew what in the hell we were even about!

Which makes conversions to Catholicism these days sad twice over -- they ain't getting the Gospel and they ain't getting Catholicism either.

Judas H Priest, OSB. On a bleeding raft.

Terry Maher said...

And re his response to your comment -- well hell no would such a proclamation have made sense to a 1st Century Jew or Gentile.

Great Caesar's Ghost in the Forum, the NT even bloody says it didn't -- a stumbling lock to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

And so it ever is. The Gospel doesn't make sense to anybody in any century.

Schütz said...

Dear Mark,

I have given an extended reply to this post on my own blog at:

Unfortunately, if Terry wishes to follow the conversation, it will necessitate another visit to that hateful territory...

Schütz said...


For a start, the reason it seemed both foolish to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews was the little matter of the Crucified Jesus.

But to say that the message ("the Gospel") appeared either as a "stumbling block" or as "foolishness", does not mean that it was unintelligble to either the Jews or Greeks who heard it. They heard it, they understood it, but either, as in the case of the Greeks, it did not seem "wise", or, as in the case of the Jews, it was a hard pill to swallow. With regard to the latter, it is notable that Paul uses a phrase which Jesus used to refer to himself. The Jews understood Jesus' message alright, loud and clear. But the consequence of that message - put your faith in me or destruction will come upon you - was too much for them to bear.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Thanks for the heads-up, David.
I have made a quick reply to your post as I am on a public computer.

Terry Maher said...

I'm not joining any conversation at SCE, David. Despite everything else, I rather like you, however re the blog the sole reason for my visits there was to bring a Catholic, not a Lutheran, message there. I don't believe that message now, but I know what it is, and it is not what the RCC says now, though like the Lutheran message it has large points of overlap.

The Greeks were quite right. The Gospel is not wise. There is no way to make it wise, and the world always ends up preferring its wisdom straight rather than with a Gospel re-interpretation. Because it is not wise, it is unintelligible in human terms.

As to the Jews, no they did not understand Jesus, who is in no way Messiah as Judaism understands Messianic prophecy, which is not a matter of a divine saviour from sin. Because it is not according to Messianic prophecy in Judaism, it was unintelligible to them.

But the Greeks and the Jews are small potatoes if, in the context of what is held to be a 2000 year old church in apostolic succession from the Apostles with Holy Ghost guaranteed fidelity in faith and moral teaching in a Petrine ministry, it is even possible to wonder if the Gospel is even grasped.

Terry Maher said...

Damn, Pastor H, I should have added something else I was thinking, because now old David has gone ahead and done it. I was going to predict that you will see this "what is the Gospel" thing take its fruit in that ultimately it means to be in the Catholic Church.

That is the one thing the Catholic Church believes in, itself. It thinks it believes in all the rest because it thinks it is the community or communion, past, present, future, this world and world to come, of all the rest.

Which is why they are confused about all the rest.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

I think 'sola ecclesia' is the slogan you're looking for, Terry ;0)

Pr Mark Henderson said...

I'll have a follow-up post shortly, d.v.