The following is a quoted portion from the article What is the Gospel? written by Scot McKnight for Next-Wave Ezine. I discovered it while burrowing through cyberspace and I found the discussion here to be an enlightening one about a surely crucial issue. Click the link above to keep reading and here his thoughts on evangelism too.
(Note: Eikon is the greek word for image. McKnight uses it to call us images of God.)
I have been impressed of late with this thought: how people define the gospel is determined by where they start or, even more interesting, where they end up. Put slightly differently, what is the problem being resolved by the gospel? What is its resolution?
It is common to begin, rather abruptly, with the Fall and to see humans as sinners in need of forgiveness. I do not dispute either that we are sinners or that we all need forgiveness. Sometimes, so it seems to me, our sin is understood as little more than a legal standing or a judicial sentence against us, and that means that forgiveness follows in line: it, too, is understood as little more than a standing or judicially.
But, both of these problems — how we understand sin and how we understand forgiveness — are created by beginning at the wrong place.
Instead of beginning the gospel story with the Fall, I am suggesting we begin with the Creation of humans, both male and female, as Eikons of God. That is, as made in the image of God (imago Dei). The gospel begins, and only begins, because humans are Eikons of God.
Instead of seeing humans first and foremost as sinners, we need to see them as Eikons of God, created to relate to God, to relate to others, and to govern the world as Eikons. The Fall affects each of the previous: our relation to God, our relation to others, and our relation to the world. Humans, then, are cracked Eikons. There is all the difference in the world in depicting humans as simply sinners and seeing sinfulness as the condition and behavior of a cracked Eikon. Humans sin, but their sin is the sin of an Eikon. They can’t be defined by their sin until they are seen as Eikons.
The gospel, when it begins with Creation, is God’s work to restore and undo and recreate (whichever image you might prefer) what we were designed by God to be and to do. To begin here means the gospel is about restoring Eikons rather than just forgiving sinners. This gospel is bigger and it is bigger because the human condition is bigger than a Fallen condition.
Sin itself is more than judicial failings and more than offense against the Law. Sin is the disruption of the relationship of loving God, loving others, and governing our world. Which means, the gospel is designed to heal our love for God, our love for others, and our relationship to the world.
I have also been impressed of late with the thought that the final state of humans shapes what the gospel is all about. That is, the various mosaics of the final state of humans tells us a lot about what the gospel is designed to accomplish. Those mosaics, when put together, reveal a singular clarity about the purpose of humans in this world and that the purpose of God comes about through the power of the gospel itself.
We have looked at the beginning of the Gospel Story, and I suggested it is the story of the Eikon. We also need to look briefly at the End of the Story of the Eikon, and I want to make one major suggestion for your consideration. It is this: the gospel is the work of God to get us from the Eikon state, through the Fallen state, and into the Final State and, in the meantime, in our Earthy state to transform our life on this earth in our relation to God, to others, and to the world.
I do not mean to suggest that we ought to abandon life in this world for a life in the next world. Instead, I am suggesting that the language and rhetoric of the Final State is a clue to what life in this world is supposed to be like. Some, of course, might even deconstruct the language of Eternity as warrant for life in this world. I would not follow them “all the way down” (as Rorty would say), but I would say this: the vision of Eternity is not for the sake of curiosity but for the sake of transformation in this world.
And I rely here, of course, on the images of the whole Bible, including the prophetic literature, the vision of Jesus of the Final Kingdom, and of the Revelation of St. John. And there is one expression that sums up the Final State: worshipping fellowship.
Never mind that the worshipping part is the ultimate expression of our love for God and the fellowship part the ultimate expression of our love for others, the point is this: visions of the Kingdom revolve around two behaviors and conditions. Humans worship God and they do so as a fellowshipping community. No vision of single, isolated humans worshipping God in huts, but of humans packed like sardines into the banqueting hall of God, sitting at the table with one another, and offering worship and praise to the Lamb of God.
Now my point about that gospel: the gospel is designed by God to get humans into that very condition — the condition of being a worshipping fellowship.