What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part Two)

Dear Kathryn:

I’m sure that my last letter raised more questions than it answered with regard to the way I define the term “gospel” these days. For that reason, I wanted to get this follow-up letter off to you with dispatch.

I don’t mean to suggest that everybody gets to define the word for himself or herself. What I do mean is that it’s possible we have not fully understood the meaning of the word in its original context in the New Testament, specifically in those first four books that we call “the Gospels.” Continue reading

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What Exactly Is The Gospel? (Part One)

Dear Mr. Lough:

You have referred several times to evangelical Christianity in this exchange of emails. You’ve made it clear that, although evangelicalism was the context for your early Christian formation, you no longer share some of the movement’s foundational presuppositions. In your last letter, however, you said something I had not heard before, and it raised a question I’d like to pursue.

You wrote, “Despite my belief that evangelicalism has lost its way and is flailing around in a confused state of self-misperception, I pray for the movement’s recovery of the gospel of the kingdom.” Could you say a bit more about that? Continue reading

Circumstances Can Alter Perception

Dear Mr. Lough:

In your most recent letter, you somewhat sidestepped the question of whether you consider yourself a liberal (just kidding, I know exactly what you meant) :-), but it still raised some additional questions. I pose them now as follow-up, if I may.

First, I know how much it hurt you to lose your job as a teacher, but do you think you would be where you are today if you hadn’t? Second, have you ever considered that you might have formed some of your current positions and opinions as a reactionary response to that unpleasant situation? And finally, when I had you as a teacher, you spoke very critically of a number of well-known liberal scholars and writers. Have you changed your opinion about any or all of them? Continue reading

“Mr. Lough, Are You a Liberal?”

Dear Mr. Lough:

So, let me see if I follow the line of thought you introduced in yesterday’s letter. One point in particular intrigues me. You say that “evangelicalism is the product of modernism.” I had always thought the two were diametrically opposed schools of thought. If I understand what you were saying, however, it seems that, while evangelicalism operates with a different set of presuppositions from modernism, it uses some of the same methodology to make a case for the version of Christianity it represents. Right? Continue reading

The Evidence of Right Belief (The Road to Easter, #9)

Dear Kathryn:

I wasn’t planning to write again until I heard back from you, but the wheels just kept turning after I pressed “send” on yesterday’s letter. Here, then, is a bit more of my thinking about the dynamics of belief, the characteristics of truth, and the marks of authentic faith.

I need to say at the outset that there is nothing scientific about my observations here. It is mainly just a gut response from a guy who has been around the track (or up and down the field, or choose your own metaphor) for a lot of years and has drawn some conclusions from that experience. Continue reading

What Kind of a Book is the Bible? (On the Road to Easter, #6)

Dear Mr. Lough:

Monday’s note was extremely helpful. It explained a lot to me about the direction and content of your thought and writing these days. What Would Jesus Do? It’s simple, succinct, elegant, and yet comprehensive in its own way. But it also raises a follow-up question, if I may. How do we know for sure what Jesus would do?

I mean, he lived two thousand years ago in a culture far different from ours. Yes, we have the Gospels that tell us most of what we know about the life and teaching of Jesus. But if all we need to do is read what the Gospels tell us about what Jesus said and did, why is there so much disagreement, even among Christians, about what it means to follow the example of Jesus today. Continue reading

Hard To Do Better Than WWJD (On The Road to Easter, #5)

Dear Mr. Lough:

Thank you for the careful thought you are putting into your answers when you respond to my questions. As I look back on our email exchange so far, it is easy to see how you are shaping your replies into a progression of thought that is building your case in a logical, systematic fashion. I appreciate that very much.

Here is a summary of what I’ve heard you say up to now. Correct me if I have misconstrued your meaning or if I misunderstand your intent. 1. Change is sometimes necessary but seldom easy. 2. A change in thought or behavior is predicated upon a change in underlying presuppositions. 3. There is a subjective dimension to change, so that we never change until we feel the need to change—emotionally or intuitively. 4. In one important aspect of faith, you have not changed. You still believe in the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, his unique relation to God, the truth and power of his teaching and his life, and his death on the cross. Continue reading