Theology 101

More Than Just a Bus Ticket: The Four-Chapter Gospel (Part 3)

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As we said yesterday, today’s evangelical church has edited the Four-Chapter Gospel (creation, fall, redemption and restoration) down to two chapters (fall and redemption).  The opening chapters of Genesis are now only used to argue creation vs. evolution and not to remind us that we are made in the image of God.

Not only does the Two-Chapter Gospel leave out God’s reason for our creation (which we will consider later as the Cultural Mandate), but it also downplays the Christian’s final destination on the new earth when God restores all things.

As my friend Mike Metzger, president of The Clapham Institute, writes in his blog:

The new starting line was Genesis Three. It reminds people that they are fallen sinners. We’re both—made in God’s image and sinners. Yet the two-chapter gospel accentuates our wounds. The four-chapter gospel elevates our worth as image-bearers of God. The two-chapter story focuses on our deficiency. The four-chapter story reminds us of our dignity.

While sin and salvation are undeniable realities, they are not the complete gospel. In this abridged version of the gospel, Christianity becomes all about us. With creation edited out, the gospel becomes all about sinners being solicited for salvation.  It is all about us getting our bus ticket to heaven.  Our life here on earth is just time spent waiting for the bus and what we do while we wait really doesn’t matter.

We must understand the Bible teaches salvation is not an end in itself; it is a means to fulfill God’s ultimate plan for his whole creation. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City puts it this way in an article on outreach:

Some conservative Christians think of the story of salvation as the fall, redemption, heaven. In this narrative, the purpose of redemption is escape from this world; only saved people have anything of value, while unbelieving people in the world are seen as blind and bad. If, however, the story of salvation is creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, then things look different. In this narrative, non-Christians are seen as created in the image of God and given much wisdom and greatness within them (cf. Ps. 8), even though the image is defaced and fallen. Moreover, the purpose of redemption is not to escape the world but to renew it. . . . It is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew all things. . . .

 

If we lose the emphasis on conversion, we lose the power of the gospel for personal transformation. We will not work sacrificially and joyfully for justice. On the other hand, if we lose the emphasis on the corporate—on the kingdom—we lose the power of the gospel for cultural transformation.

There is an important practical reason to read the Bible as one narrative: it enables us to understand our identity as God’s people as we see our role in His story. From this perspective we clearly see our call to participate in God’s redemptive mission.

Question: If the gospel is not about escaping the world, but renewing it, what impact does that have on your vocation? Leave a comment.

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