Did Jesus Preach the Gospel? – Follow Up

August 27, 2012 — 2 Comments

TGC announced that their next conference will be on the topic of “Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?”

Since then there have been a few voices sounding off in response to the video of Carson, Piper, and Keller.

This debate between “gospel scholars” and “pauline scholars” sometimes is framed as either or.

But when the Gospels introduce the gospel (or the good news of the Kingdom, as Jesus says) they are drawing on Isaiah who defines the gospel as hope in the restoration of God’s reign (Isa 52:7, 61:1-3). The good news is when peace, and the release from oppression will be showered on God’s people.

But this only happens through the death of the Suffering Servant. And the Suffering Servant dies as a ransom for many. Therefore the big picture is “God reigns” and his reign is accomplished through Jesus dying for us. When we look at the Scriptures the Gospel is used in both ways.

Below are some of the more salient points that have been brought up concerning this discussion.

  • Scot McKnight responds noting that they assume they have the definition of the Gospel right and then move to try and make the Gospels fit this definition. I think he is right to point this out, although I do wonder if they simply did not have time in a three minute video for such a discussion. Nonetheless, if the discussion is the Gospel, we better get our definitions straight.
  • McKnight also makes a distinction between the “narrative” of Luke and if “Jesus himself” preached the gospel. Although I would like to see more of where he is going with this, I find myself more confused than helped by this distinction. As a person who confesses that Scripture is wholly true, I believe that we only know Jesus through the entire picture that the Gospels give us. Therefore, to drive this wedge between what Jesus said and how the narrative presents him seems to be pulling on historical-critical strings that divide things which should not be put asunder. McKnight is right that the narrative is not necessarily Jesus’ voice, but focusing on the red letters without the black ones surrounding it turns our Gospels into another Gospel of Thomas. I am sure McKnight does not want to do this, but practically and implicitly is he suggesting this?
  • Michael Bird points out some of his agreements with the video but also voices his disagreement with Piper’s view of Luke 18. I see Bird’s point, and think that in its original context, Luke 18 probably did not mean imputation of righteousness. We need to let each text stand on its own.
  • Bird has a good warning when he says, “Despite the affirmation of unity between Jesus and Paul, I still suspect that, presuppositionally at least, Paul is still the canon with the canon that Jesus himself needs to be measured by (though the actual conference may prove me wrong on that!). It still sounds like Galatians rather than Matthew is the default setting for thinking about gospel. But I would want to emphasize that one can, with biblical fidelity and theological integrity, preach the gospel from the Gospels without mentioning the words “justification” or “imputation.” I’m concerned that at the end of the day, rather than being canonically balanced in integrating Jesus and Paul, that it will still be Paul-heavy. Cause I’ve heard sermons that effectively go, “Today we’re preaching through the Gospel according to Luke, Luke is wonderful, he reminds me of Romans, so let me preach to you Luke from Romans.”
  • On this last point by Bird on the canon within the canon, my Doktorvater (Dr. Pennington) is soon coming out with some arguments in favor of viewing the Gospels as the canon within the canon which I am sure will stir up some healthy rambunctious debates.