Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology: a biblical and systematic introduction arrived on my desk this morning.
His project is to construct an authentically evangelical theology shaped around the gospel (=evangel). In his prolegomena he argues the following – and how persuaded are you by what he says here?:
1. A theology which begins with the gospel will be defined and shaped by the gospel
2. The gospel possesses an experiential and logical priority over all other doctrines – the gospel is where we first experience the salvific benefits of a redemptive relationship with God.
3. A gospel focussed theology will help us to stay centered, navigating for example between liberalism and fundamentalism
4. The gospel is a natural integrative motif for Christian theology and Bird is well aware that many others have been tried: Barth (self-disclosure of the Triune God); Grenz (the community of God); Calvin (the glory of God); Reformed systems (covenant); Dispensationalists (kingdom); Erickson (magnificence of God); Luther (justification by faith).
5. The shape and content of the NT itself points to the gospel as the integrative core of Christian faith (the gospel of God in Rom 1:1 and elsewhere).
6. The new birth by the regenerating power of the Spirit is a fulfilment of the promise of the gospel. Missiology is gossiping the gospel. Apologetics is defending the gospel. Ecclesiology is study of the gospelized community and so on
7. The Christian canon is gospel shaped. Genesis to Revelation; the gospels as the foundation of the NT; the gospel of Rom 1:1-4 at the beginning of Romans. This is what Bird calls ‘gospelesque architecture’.
8. The gospel is the hermeneutical lens through which we read Scripture. The Bible is read in light of the euangelion that lies at its heart (Francis Watson). The gospel is the interpretative grid for Scripture. Irenaeus called it ‘the ground and pillar of our faith’. It is, says Bird, ‘the lens through which we understand the mission of the Triune God and his work for us in salvation.’ (45)
A closing quote
It is, dare I say, the beauty of the gospel that matures our theological reflection on who God is toward us in Jesus Christ. (41)