What’s with the gospel the Gospels and the kingdom?

Monday Musings for August 16, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

Have you ever heard the phrase “the gospel” used outside of Christian-speak… referring to some kind of extra-biblical law that it would be in your best interests to heed? I think many of us have. I’ve heard “That’s the gospel around here…” referring to things as mundane as suppertime and something important as respecting your parents.

I’m glad that the world gets mileage out of our Christian language and concepts, because even when watered-down, the phrases contain truth. The problem is after a technical phrase gets subsumed by the language and culture, its primary meaning can change.

When that happens, we have to “disambiguate” those terms and concepts before we can discuss them reasonably. It is a fool’s errand to discuss issues when both parties do not mean the same things by the same terms.

Things can get ugly, too. When one party seeks to “win” an argument through obfuscation — that is, by purposefully hiding the truth about the underlying terms or premises (either directly or by omission) — not only are they committing a logical error; they are practicing deception… and deception is a sin.

Now, no one is “sinning” in today’s question. Just the opposite. We are clarifying… and daylight makes a good disinfectant. I only brought up obfuscation to emphasize that words carry ideas and ideas matter. And if all truth is God’s truth (which is our stand around here), we should always be pulling concepts toward clarity and completeness.

In the marketplace of ideas, some say we should “Let the buyer beware.” But we know better than that. We know the Head of Sales! (Genesis 3:1). Instead, we contend for the truth because our Lord is the truth (John 14:6). We have nothing to fear from any data or any of its analyses.

We have two issues before us today… and the issues are well taken. Once we figure out the relationship between the books known as The Gospels and the concept of the gospel — including to what extent the Gospels contain the gospel — we slam right into the kingdom… and the word “kingdom” can make some evangelicals a little nervous.

Christians of the dispensational stripe live in mortal fear that people will confound the Church with Israel. They tend to dodge talk about “the kingdom” because it’s a soft inclusive term… and if — in its softness — it included both the Church and Israel, to a rock-ribbed dispensationalist, that would be the end of life as we know it! … life in the Millennium, anyway.

But, no matter what we have for eschatological bents, it is always in our best interests to be clear about the terms under discussion. When it comes to “the kingdom,” a good place to start is by asking, who is “in” the kingdom? Then ask, how do you think those people got there? How do you think “the kingdom” worked in history? What will be its future? Does it even have a future?

 

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