Tuesday, 12 October 2010

D.A. Carson on the Gospel

D.A. Carson, ‘What is the Gospel?—Revisited’, in Sam Storms and Justin Taylor (eds.), For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 147-70.

This brand new essay has been made freely available online here.

In the first few footnotes of the essay, Carson refers to other items he has written on the gospel, available elsewhere online. Those familiar with those treatments will not be surprised with the content and conclusions of this new one; but it’s enormously helpful to have this as a way-station to future promised publications. In fact, Carson refers to two larger projects, one showing how the New Testament relates ‘gospel’ words to an array of theological and pastoral themes, and another exploring the significance of the ‘evangel’ for evangelicalism (148). I’m aware this latter is forthcoming as a book sometime next year, all being well.

The opening chunk of this essay is devoted to a survey of the ‘evangel-’ words in the Septuagint and the New Testament (148-54). This is followed by some ‘preliminary observations’ on the ‘gospel’ words, taking in word study fallacies, literary genre, the gospel and the Roman imperial cult, and gospel content and gospel proclamation (155-57).

The closing section offers ‘more probing observations on these gospel words’ (158-70), under the following points:

• The gospel is heraldic proclamation

• The gospel in its wide and narrow senses

• The gospel is not simply important news, but good news

• The gospel is not just for unbelievers, but also for believers

• ‘Evangelists’ in the New Testament are simply proclaimers of the gospel

• The gospel is not only revelation, but also history

• What the gospel rescues us from, and what it saves us for

Carson maintains his emphasis from earlier essays on not confusing the essence of the gospel with the entailments of the gospel (my categories, I think). Hence:

‘The heart of the gospel is what God has done in Jesus, supremely in his death and resurrection. Period. It is not personal testimony about our repentance; it is not a few words about our faith response; it is not obedience; it is not the cultural mandate or any other mandate... The gospel is the good news about what God has done’ (162).

And, on the issue of whether the gospel is ‘purely a matter of individual salvation’ or should be seen ‘essentially in terms of community and social justice’, he comments:

‘That the Bible addresses both of these topics is beyond dispute. What is more doubtful is that the Bible treats either as the gospel. The better question asks the extent to which the Bible insists that there are both individual and communal outcomes to the preaching of the gospel, neither of which is the gospel itself’ (159).

No comments: