The Gospel, the Social Gospel, and Gospel-Only-ism, Part 1: Death and Resurrection?

Peter Pentacost

The Gospel, therefore, is a public exhibition of the Son of God manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16) to deliver a ruined world, and to restore men from death to life. It is justly called a good and joyful message, for it contains perfect happiness. Its object is to commence the reign of God, and by means of our deliverance from the corruption of the flesh, and of our renewal by the Spirit, to conduct us to the heavenly glory. For this reason it is often called the kingdom of heaven, and the restoration to a blessed life, which is brought to us by Christ, is sometimes called the kingdom of God… . (John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke)

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This is Biblically undeniable. But what is the gospel? There appears to be an underlying disagreement among Christians over this definition, fueling charges of both “Social Gospel” from one side and “Gospel-Only-ism” (or the like) from the other. The truth is, both of these systems obscure the true meaning of “gospel”; the former verging on Materialism and the eclipse of the individual, the latter verging on Gnosticism and the eclipse of community. I hope in this short series to offer some clarification, for I too believe that the gospel is the answer to all individual and social ills.

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Addendum: I Believe Systemic Racism Exists Because of Biblical Anthropology, Hamartiology, and Soteriology

biblical anthropology

[T]here is nothing wrong with Black people as a group, or with any other racial group. That is what it truly means to think as an antiracist: to think there is nothing wrong with Black people, to think that racial groups are equal. There are lazy and unwise and harmful individuals of African ancestry. There are lazy and unwise and harmful individuals of European ancestry. There are industrious and wise and harmless individuals of European ancestry. There are industrious and wise and harmless individuals of African ancestry. But no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene—not now, not ever. Under our different-looking hair and skin, doctors cannot tell the difference between our bodies, our brains, or the blood that runs in our veins. […] Black Americans’ history of oppression has made Black opportunities—not Black people—inferior. (Stamped From the Beginning, p. 11)

Introduction

As I’ve stated before, the existence of SYSTEMIC OR INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM, i.e., “polices, practices, and procedures of institutions that have a disproportionately negative effect on racial minorities’ access to and quality of goods, services, and opportunities” (Vernellia R. Randal), is a simple deduction from three premises:

  1. Well documented and vast social and economic disparities between black and white Americans, including de facto neighborhood, school, and church segregation.
  2. All racial groups are equal; in Ibram X Kendi’s words, “no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene—not now, not ever.”
  3. The majority of Americans are not overt racists, members of a neo-Nazi party, or intentionally discriminating against black Americans due to conscious prejudice and hatred.

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Anthony Bradley & “Cosmic Redemption” : Herman Bavinck & Imago Dei

Cosmic Redemption

Reading Dr. Anthony Bradley’s recent article, “The Great Commission Christianity Keeps Blacks Away From Evangelicalism,” I was reminded of the section of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics entitled, “The Whole Person as the Image of God.” Bavinck is careful throughout to capture all that it means to be created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-28), in order to properly know who man is, what redemption must include to fully restore him, and to rightly know the “Last Adam,” our Lord Jesus Christ, who is to accomplish this redemption.

In this post, however, I hope to narrowly focus on the correlation between redemption and the image of God in man, as I think this aspect of Bavinck’s study nicely reinforces Dr. Bradley’s emphasis on “Cosmic Redemption.”

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Basic Reformed Stuff 3: “General” and “Special” Revelation

Open Book!

As discussed in the LAST TWO POSTS of this series, the “true religion” is the revealed religion, the “preached” religion; it is “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations” and is a religion which “we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom” (Col. 1:26,28). And as we will see, it is in fact the revealing and preaching of Jesus Christ Himself, in both Old and New Testaments, for “there is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) and “no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).

As such, we must next discuss what exactly “revelation” is. For starters, the Greek word we commonly translate “revelation” is apokalýptō, from the roots apó, “away from” and kalýptō, “to cover.” Literally speaking, it means to take away the cover, revealing what is hidden, veiled, or obstructed, especially the inner concealed make-up. In Greek texts it often means to show forth the unseen, immaterial, deep nature of something—what cannot be known by the senses alone.

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Basic Reformed Stuff 2: Religion is Doctrine AND Practice

Open Book!

In our LAST POST we argued that religion is not only not a bad word, but is implanted into the very nature of man, God having revealed Himself in man and all of His creation. The Scripture teaches that this leaves men without excuse before God, but also that fallen mankind is nevertheless unable by natural light alone to truly know and worship God as He truly is. True religion is revealed religions—it is the mystery of Jesus Christ as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments (see Col. 1:24-28; Acts 4:12; Jn. 1:18). All men worship; the only question is whether they worship the creature or the Creator (Rom. 1:19-25).

Here, we will briefly address whether true religion is primarily intellectual, or primarily practical, allowing us to offer a proper definition of “religion” in the Biblical sense, and also justify our claim that the proper object of this series ought to be religion, not doctrine simpliciter.

So, is religion primarily intellectual? Continue reading

Answering Four Common Laymen Objections to ESS Critics

group_discussion

[This post was originally published nearly 2 years ago on a different blog site, but has since been removed. So that my readers may still have access to this article, I have republished here under a different title.]

As the layman class, of which I am a member, begins to come to terms with the possibility that their Sunday School teacher may have led them astray by teaching that the Son of God has been subordinate to the Father for all eternity, recurring questions and rejoinders are nevertheless heard in small groups and church foyers across the reformed-ish world.  They may have already come to terms with, for example, the multiple wills objection[1] and have become thoroughly convinced of the historical novelty of ESS/EFS/ERAS[2], even rightly concluding that the Council of Nicea and Athanasian Creed roundly contradict the teaching.  But, being students of the Scripture, submitting admirably to its authority, and seeking peace within the Church of God and charity towards those who may err, I have in my experience heard the following responses to ESS/EFS/ERAS critics over and over, and have read very little direct response to these rejoinders at the popular, accessible level:

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What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 2. “Race” and the Racialized Society

Race

[I have since added some needed clarification to this post, beginning with “Correcting (my own) Normativity of Whiteness: 1. From the Arrival of the First African Slaves to ‘Partus Sequitur Ventrem’.”]

As we concluded the last post,

[T]here is nothing particularly pernicious about the social construction of race as such, any more than there is in the construction of genos, ethnos, or phulé [in the New Testament]. The insidiousness of the concept comes when a society, consciously or unconsciously, constructs racial distinctions for the very purpose of division, systematic subjugation, and a permanent caste system. And this brings us to our next post, “What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 2. ‘Race’ and the Racialized Society”.

We will now discuss “race” in the racialized society as we find it today, particularly in the United States. I ask only that you forgive the relative length of this piece; it will prove fruitful context for the topics that will follow. Also, I would like to make explicit that this discussion is in no wise intended to ignore the plight of other minority people groups in American society. Much of what is said here can apply to the experience of other race and ethnic groups as well, though there is a very definite distinction of degrees, length of history, and legal specificity within racialized institutions. As Condoleezza Rice once said, “I do think that America was born with a birth defect; it was slavery.”

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