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Mark McCulley
Judge by the Gospel


Cliches Against the Gospel

The traditional gospel "filters out the grand cosmic redemptive purposes of God".
The new gospel "combats the self-preoccupation" inherent in the "Lutheran paradigm."
The Lutheran paradigm is at the heart of Reformed theology and is responsible for the narrow focus on the individual's salvation.
The Protestant doctrine of "justification by faith' is unduely influence by Luther and the "introspective conscience of the West" inherent in Medieval Theology.
The Protestant gospel reinforces the self-absorption which predominates in American Christianity.
The Protestant appproach to sanctification is too heavily dependent on Luther's radical dichotomy between law and grace.
We are all for grace too, and depend on it ourselves. BUT to us grace and faith are more broadly based.
Grace is about God's Fatherly concern for the whole world. God the Father loves everybody.
Grace must save us from not only legalism in all its forms (we don't deny that), but from selfishness in its disguise as a concern for one's own salvation.
The idea of the Kingdom of God was submerged, or rather never recaptured during the Reformation.
The Lord of the cosmos is now in the business of recapturing a run away planet. He came to destroy the works of the Devil - - all of them, not merely the physchological concern about salvation that still plague middle class Americans.
The "morbid introspection' in the Protestant tradtion is a long story which stretches back to Augustine.
The scope of the gospel isn't appreciated.
Protestants begins with the individual person at the center and asks how they can relate to (be right with, justified before) God. This is way too anthropocentric.
Protestants so elevate the forensic side of the gospel (atonement, justification) that these elements take on the whole meaning of the gospel, thereby screening out the broader implications of the gospel.
The gospel as not the answer to questions like: 'How can I be right with God?' and 'How can I become like Jesus?'. If you ask these questions, sanctification will be fundamentally sidetracked.
The old gospel produces spiritual solipsists who cannot break out from themselves to connect with the external world.
The essence of sanctification is not doctrine about God's love but OUR Christ-like love for others.
As Lovelace said, the Reformers stuck with a problem bequethed to them in Medieval Christianity, made a breakthrough in a narrow area of soteriology.
But not to be elite or unkind,nevertheless Calvin still didn't understand the gospel.
The gospel is the good news of the kingdom of God centered in the person of Jesus the Messiah, not His work to save any partciular individuals.
The gospel does possbibly include within it justification and sanctification by faith.
But these theological concepts may have to be revised in light of a more redemptive-historical approach to the Scriptures which is not so theological.
Whatever. The gospel certainly is not circumscribed by these doctrines.
Fundamental hermeneutical and exegetical mistakes distorted the Reformation reading of the Apostle Paul.
Maybe they did.
Did these mistakes distort?
The debate between Paul and Judaism was read through the narrow lens of the debate between Calvin and the theology of merit of Roman Catholicism,
Studies of New Testament Rabbinic Judaism have shown that nobody has ever tried to condition salvation on the sinner.
We need to go to the text with a new set of glasses and defintions for key terms such as 'justification', 'righteousness of God', 'seeking to establish one's own righteousness', 'works of the law'.
Indeed the definition of the 'gospel' needs to be cast in a new light, not of course to exclude those who disagree with the definition of course. Unlike those with narrow defintions, we can include even those who would exclude us. We do not take Paul's somewhat narrow and rabbinic ( secret: jewish) approach to differences in interpretation.
We are so inclusive with you that we will not even tell you our definition of the gospel so long as your defintion happens to work for you. We know how to keep a secret.
Like there will be no second coming, since Jesus comes now in the kingodm and community.
We don't want to offend Jews so we don't tell them that their gospel is wrong. For one thing jews are not gnostics and do talk about the kingdom. For another thing there really aren't any more jews or even catholics or protestants anymore, even though some don't know it yet, since we haven't told them, not knowing if they could handle it.
But keep in mind that all I say is based upon rigorous exegesis. As for what you say, perhaps we should best ignore that.
But since all I say is based on many years of hard exegetical work, it cannot be dismissed merely on theological grounds.
And why not anyway?
Why not believe wahtever you can believe, the more the better?
The rigorous exegesis I have done opens vistas on Paul that are ecclesiolocally and missiologically exciting.
The problem I now addressed ought never to have emerged and would not have had Nt Wright been an apostle.
The 'Lutheran' paradigm fits into a broader man-centered paradigm of theology. On the other hand, I personally like the new perspective.
I confess that I too used to read the Gospels through Paul.
But it wasn't my fault, because I was reading the gospels through Luther's Paul.
Now I understand the Pauline gospel in a much broader redemptive-historical (covenantal) framework (rather than a narrow soteriological one).

Please count me out of this new gospel. It is cursed.

Mark McCulley

Copyright © 2000 by Mark McCulley. All rights reserved.