Bird’s Eye View of Paul (12): What’s wrong with this gospel?

We are on to chapter 5 of Michael Bird’s book A Bird’s Eye View of Paul.

From here on there are some important (and longer) chapters essentially about ‘what is the gospel?’.  Lots of good stuff here. This one is on ‘The Royal Announcement’.

Bird has plenty of challenges to popular evangelicalism here.

He outlines this sort of gospel outline;

  1. God is holy
  2. Man is sinful
  3. We can only stand before a holy God if someone mediates for us, removes our sin and is obedient to God in our stead.
  4. The gospel declares that Jesus has perfectly fulfilled the law and atoned for our sins
  5. Therefore, through faith in Jesus our sins are cancelled, his  obedient life is counted as ours and we are peace with God.

I suspect this sounds very familiar to most evangelicals. And this rendering of the gospel has powerfully impacted many lives. It did mine – I knew that I was a sinner who needed forgiveness and through repentance and faith in Jesus I could be put right with God and start living for him.

If you are a Chrisitan, what sort of ‘gospel message’ made most impact on your coming to faith?

But Bird says this sort of series of linear propositions is not so much wrong as deficient for the following reasons:

  • It makes God out to be some sort of cosmic accountant who needs the ledger balanced before he can open the doors of Paradise
  • It has no place for the way the Bible tells the story of Jesus the Messiah, the new Adam, the true Israel. It makes much of the Bible virtually irrelevant to the gospel.
  • It marginalises Jesus’ life and mission to Israel. Was Jesus’ life solely about achieving  ‘the necessary merit for salvation to ensue’ and his teachings aimed at helping people be good Christians? [I’d add it is also an very individualistic gospel – little connection with Israel / church / covenant community]
  • It makes the resurrection and parousia (reappearance) of Jesus ‘add ons’ to the gospel rather than integral parts of the good news.
  • It misses how the gospel is all about the dynamic, saving reign of God being ushered in by the king who announces that the kingdom of God has come.

No, this will not do. Instead, the gospel is a story with Jesus as the centrepiece.

The next posts on the rest of this chapter and the next will be on how Bird answers the question ‘What is the gospel?’

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