Monday, March 20, 2006

Toward a Cross-Centered Life: Part 4

A few months ago I stumbled upon a clear explanation of what I had been doing for much of my Christian life. In short, I was "assuming the gospel." The article that explained the magnitude of this to me is called "Assumed Evangelicalism: Some Reflections En Route to Denying the Gospel." It offers a much more thorough explanation of what I've been talking about--so I'll excerpt heavily here. The whole thing is worth reading, but I know most of you won't click over.

The article opens with an analysis of the Mennonite Brethren movement:

The first generation believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailments.

...Proclaiming, assuming, denying. This description of a movement's history is admittedly something of a caricature - any such development would always be the result of many complex factors. Nevertheless, it...has lessons for us...

The lessons to be drawn are simple: The author suggests that the evangelical church (defined here as "Christianity that gets its definition from the gospel, the good news") could be headed down the same road.

Assumed evangelicalism believes and signs up to the gospel. It certainly does not deny the gospel. But in terms of priorities, focus, and direction, assumed evangelicalism begins to give gradually increasing energy to concerns other than the gospel and key evangelical distinctives, to gradually elevate secondary issues to a primary level, to be increasingly worried about how it is perceived by others and to allow itself to be increasingly influenced both in content and method by the prevailing culture of the day.

So how do you know if you're assuming the gospel?

The spiritual health-check for assumed evangelicalism is to look at these key gospel truths [Romans 1:1-6 is offered as a basic outline] and to ask: are we gradually beginning to move on from these truths to new initiatives which are effectively leaving the gospel behind ... or are we pouring our lives into reliving, retelling, re-believing this same gospel story? Are we doing so day after day, with increasing personal understanding and deepening joy and gratitude?

As this article describes it, you can assume the gospel in two opposite ways. Some people or some organizations/churches are more prone to falling off one side than the other, but we can all be susceptible to both, and they're equally dangerous. I'll outline both in my next post.

(All quotes from "Assumed Evangelicalism" by David Gibson. First printed in RTSF Newsletter From Athens to Jerusalem, Vol. 3, Issue 4, Autumn 2002. All emphases mine.)

Next: Part 5 - legalism

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