At Work & Theology 101

Is Your Gospel Missing Something?: The Four-Chapter Gospel (Part 2)

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If you are like me and have been in an evangelical church, you probably understand the gospel as:

  1. God made you and wants to have a relationship with you.
  2. Your sin separates you from God, and there is nothing you can do to bridge the gap.
  3. On the cross Jesus took the punishment your sins deserved, making it possible for you to be in relationship with God.
  4. If you repent from sins and trust in Christ for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by grace and go to heaven.

Upon discovering the idea of the Four-Chapter Gospel, I realized that I had learned an abbreviated, introspective version of the gospel.  My faith narrative was missing something. As Nancy Pearcey put it in her book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity:

Today religion appeals almost solely to the needs of the private sphere – needs for personal meaning, social bonding, family support, emotional nurturing, practical living, and so on. [This] represents a truncated view of Christianity’s claims to be the truth about all of reality.

Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy calls this the “gospel of sin-management.”

Despite the greatness of the Biblical narrative, in the past two centuries the church in the Western world has looked at the Bible from a different and more limited perspective. In the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century came the great religious revival called the Second Great Awakening. It was led by individual preachers such as Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, Peter Cartwright, and Asahel Nettleton.

These revivalist preachers embraced a view of the gospel which focused on personal sin and individual salvation. “Come forward and be saved,” “Pray to receive Christ,” “Walk with Jesus,” and “Share your faith with other people” became the common language of the Christian faith. While the movement had substantial positive effects, it led to this truncated view of the gospel that we have all learned. Its view of Scripture can be called the Two-Chapter Gospel.

In the Two-Chapter Gospel, Chapter One (the Fall) presents our problem: separation from God because of our sin. Chapter Two (Redemption) presents the solution: Jesus Christ has come into the world to bring salvation and reunite us with God through His work on the cross. The problem is that half of the grand story told in the Scriptures is missing. This omission has greatly distorted our view of work and calling (and other things as well).  If you don’t know where you started and you don’t know where you are going to end up, you have got a big problem.  Join us tomorrow to see just how big a problem it really is…

Question: What are the negative ramifications of having a limited view of the gospel on your understanding of work and calling? Leave a comment.

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  • dave T

    You are wrong to blame Finney, et al both historically and theologically because it has been the the fundamentalist and dispensationalist of the 20th cent who have made the emphasis on “just get em saved.” The 19th Cent. church almost universally were post-mills who taught that the church had perfect society and bring in the millennium. That was often the view of the Reformers as well as Wesley’s and the Booth’s who also revived the teaching of personal heart religion that the RC had neglected. You have the right diagnosis but the blame is misplaced.

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