Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Defense of the Gospel, Part 2

Question: "Does your view of the gospel have any historical credibility?"

Answer: This question was originally an objection rather than a question. Last year a groundless gospel advocate wrote to me and one of the things he said was (to paraphrase): "Your view of the gospel has no historical credibility or tradition."1 At the time I simply replied by saying that if the apostle Paul and the early church held to it (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-11; 2 Thess. 2:14-15), that's enough historical credibility for me!

I had all but forgotten about this objection until recently when I happened upon the book Walvoord: A Tribute.2 The book is a compilation of articles written by faculty members of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) as a Festschrift to John Walvoord to commemorate his 30th anniversary as the Seminary's second president. A statement in the book caught my attention. Notice the following analysis by Dr. John W. Reed (currently the Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Director Emeritus of the D. Min. Program at DTS) in his chapter titled "The Pastor as a Theologian". Dr. Reed writes: "Throughout the history of the church the biblical definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 has been the accepted view." 3 Some groundless gospel advocates (a.k.a. those who teach that "the burial isn't really part of the gospel") might try to blunt this statement by arguing that they too believe the gospel is "in" 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.4 But if the gospel concludes at 1 Corinthians 15:4a with the words "and that He was raised..." (as groundless gospel advocates suppose), why does Reed include verse 5? Reed includes verse 5 in the definition of the gospel precisely because it is part of the gospel. This is why a few pages later he goes on to say: "The biblical gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5".5

Groundless gospel advocates want us to believe that their view of the gospel has been the accepted view throughout the history of the church. But Dr. Reed tells us otherwise. Down through the centuries, orthodox Christianity has affirmed Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and appearances in the biblical gospel (see 1 Cor. 15:1-5). Throughout the history of the church this has been the accepted view.

Continue on to "In Defense of the Gospel, Part 3".


1 For a list of other groundless objections, see the article: "Beware of the Wolves Within Free Grace".

2 Donald K. Campbell, Editor, Walvoord: A Tribute (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982).

3 John W. Reed, Ibid., p. 274, italics added; cf. Scot Mcknight, "The Gospel and Orthodoxy". In reference to his statement above, Reed immediately goes on to say: "That definition [i.e. 1 Cor. 15:1-5] focuses on the death and resurrection of Christ". (John W. Reed, Donald K. Campbell, Ed., Walvoord: A Tribute, p. 274.) Do you see the biblical balance here? The gospel emphasizes Christ's death and resurrection without excluding His burial and appearances. This is a key insight. The Biblical Greek scholar Henry Alford (1810-1871) affirms:  "I declare...the (whole) Gospel: not merely the Death and Resurrection of Christ, which were en protois [priority] parts of it". (Alford, The Greek Testament, 4 Vols., Vol. 2, p. 602, bold his, ellipsis added; cf. Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, 2 Vols., Vol. 2, p. 229.)
     For further discussion see the following articles: "The Burial of Christ," "The Exegesis and Theology of First Corinthians 15," and "Getting the Gospel Right" (particularly pages 16 and 24 in the PDF document).

4 For example, a few years ago one groundless gospel advocate named knetknight (a.k.a. Stephen Stark) started a forum discussion on 1 Corinthians 15 under the heading "I don't get it!" Mr. Stark began the discussion by saying: "I'm one who believes that 'the gospel' of salvation is presented by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1-5. I've long held the view that what must be believed here is Jesus' death for our sins, and his resurrection, since those two statement [sic] are singled out with 'according to the scriptures'". (Stephen Stark, "1 Corinthians 15:1 et al," StudyLight Forums, bold added, comment posted on October 16, 2008, 2:37pm.) This is the classic groundless gospel position. They say that the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 only contains "certain elements of" the gospel that the reader must decipher using the "amazing triangular testimony" and "virtual mirror reflections" of Stegall's new triangle - although other decryption devices are allowed. (Tom Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, pp. 19, 286, 529; cf. "The Strange Beliefs of Stegall's System".) Groundless gospel advocates like Mr. Stark and Mr. Stegall teach that the gospel elements one must decipher are Christ's death for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3a) and His resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:4a) but none of the other elements mentioned in the passage - not His burial (1 Cor. 15:4a), not the third day (1 Cor. 15:4b), not His appearances (1 Cor. 15:5), and not even those parts about 'according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3b, 4b)! These other elements are considered to be something like "excess baggage" (Zane Hodges, "How To Lead People To Christ, Part 2: Our Invitation To Respond," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 [Spring 2001]: p. 17.) in evangelism and are not considered part of the gospel according to groundless gospel advocates.

5 John W. Reed, Donald K. Campbell, Editor, Walvoord: A Tribute, p. 279.

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