Adrian's Simple Gospel

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Adrian has posted the Simple Gospel, the Gospel message broken down into 10 simple points designed to be understood by young children. He drew some criticism in the comments about it being too simplistic--it leaves out one important theme or another. That seems completely forgivable to me; this is the simple 10 point gospel after all. If you wanted to be exhaustive about the gospel, the people listening to your gospel presentation would have to have a lot of spare time on their hands, and you would need a lot more than 10 points.

That there is no explicit mention of the love of God for us is somewhat disturbing to me. Adrian tries to correct that in his comments. I'd rather he correct it in the actual points themselves.

I myself would probably not put the Holy Spirit dead last. And I probably wouldn't include anything on baptism at all. But otherwise, this seems like a very straightforward presentation of the Penal Substitution model of the Gospel. (I've already noted my disagreement with Penal Substitution as a model, but I don't want to get into that in this post. That will have to wait for a subsequent post.)

Despite these nitpicks, his presentation seems fine. What worries me about this post is the tone that Adrian takes with it. He seems to think that this way (or a way that maps to this way) is the only way to present the Gospel. Adrian's statement, "why is it that certain people want to make it more complicated and won't accept this as it is?" (emphasis added) implies that this is the only legitimate simple gospel presentation. And in his comments, Adrian says "There are many people who cannot accept the simple gospel- some who are not chrisitans, some who claim to be chrisitans.", which, despite the presence of the qualifier "some", indicates that Adrian has some serious doubts about your Christianity if you do not endorse this simple gospel as the One True Gospel Presentation. Combine that with statements he has made in our Atonement discussion which were along the lines of "Without Penal Substitution, there is no Gospel" and it seems clear that for Adrian, any and all Gospel presentations must include Penal Substitution.

This is disturbing in light of the fact that almost everyone recognizes that there are many aspects to the atonement. And seeing as this is a short and simple gospel presentation (see my first paragraph), I don't at all see why it would be an invalid gospel presentation to focus on a different aspect of the atonement instead of the Penal one. Depending on the circumstance and the audience, it seems like a Penal approach would be appropriate at times, and a Ransom approach at others. And a Socinian approach at yet other times.

The apostle Paul certainly used a variety of simple gospel messages. And while the Epistle to the Romans certainly has a strong Penal focus, not all of his gospel messages did. (The shortest, simplest gospel message that Paul gives seems to be Acts 16:31, which gives no mention of Penal themes.)

So what I'd like to know is if Adrian would accept a simple gospel that focused solely on a different atonement theme, recognizing that that theme does not exclude the Penal theme and that a short and simple presentation must by necessity exclude some themes?

Anybody have any thoughts? Have I totally misread Adrian?

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2 Comments

I'm not sure you've completely misread Adrian - he states where he stands pretty clearly - but you may have read more dogmaticism or harshness into his post than I suspect is truly there. He seems to be a pretty gracious fellow and slow to judge others. He also strikes me as someone with sufficient humility to allow for his own growth and change - even theologically!

Maybe I'm seeing him the way I want him to be, but my interactions with him have led me to this conclusion. As I said in my own post re the 10 points, I think he would agree with some of my statements even though they are not included in his own list.

I disagreed (though a bit too harshly) with Adrian at the time. I disagree with the primacy of the penal element in atonement theory and have started a series on my blog discussing the key biblical texts, but it will take while to complete.

I posted my own 11 point Gospel on my blog which puts my own view across rather than the penal element. There has, in my view, been too much over-emphasis on the idea of retribution in some theologies of the cross, and little or no emphasis on God's redemptive purpose for humanity achieved in Christ, which I think is the greater thrust of the NT.

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