I had the honor of asking respected scholar and prolific author Dr. Darrell Bock a few questions about what the good news is and isn’t. Having authored over forty books (including numerous commentaries), Bock is the author of the soon-to-be released Cultural Intelligence: Living For God In A Diverse, Pluralistic World (B & H).
My questions are in bold.
Debates about the heart of the gospel seem never ending. In your view, what is the essence of the gospel?
The good news is about God taking the initiative to reconnect us to Himself for eternity by the means of forgiveness for sin and the offer of life in His indwelling Spirit through the work of the Risen Son. The gospel is Trinitarian through and through—from the Father through the Son in the indwelling Spirit. It is a return to enabling the image of God to function, as it was created to be within us in Genesis 1. The gospel story is best told in terms of a restoration of our broken relationship with God but starting with Genesis 1, not Genesis 3, as that takes us back to the starting point and what the gospel seeks to restore.
Do you have any qualms with how the gospel can be presented in Christian literature or in modern worship music?
Yes, it is too focused just on forgiveness and avoiding a place or a result (judgment) versus focused on what we gain and what we are given as a result of grace. Our music is too first person single based when in worship we should sing and share in this together for what God has done for all of us. First person plurals please.
What are your own thoughts on trying to summarize the gospel in one sentence (sometimes out of convenience for evangelistic efforts)?
The gospel is about a restored new life in Christ, an eternal life of quality, not just duration. This can be done when the gospel is clear.
Some come away from this conversation feeling that this is merely a semantics game. How important is this conversation, and is it more than semantics?
No, it is not just semantics. The church gets what it pays for in how the gospel is presented. If I present it as a get out of jail card, then people will not be prepared for the discipleship call that follows. If the ongoing relationship is the focus and that ground of response is established and highlighted, then the next steps follow naturally.
Why do you feel that believers are so fragmented when it comes to questions of what the gospel is?
Some of our packaging of the gospel has left out key elements or minimized them to the extent that the lack of a full package causes the fragmentation.
What has helped shape and reinforce your views on the gospel and its nature (courses taken, books read, leaders and/or mentors, etc.)? Can you describe any “aha” moments in the development of your own understanding of the gospel?
The speeches in Acts that were evangelistic with the relationship to God through Christ being the consistent note, the summary descriptions of Christian ministry as hope (1 Pet 3:15), reconciliation (2 Cor 5:16-2; Eph 2:11-22) and power (=enablement; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5; Rom 1:16 as the introduction to Romans 1–8) and then just meditating on why the gospel is called good news.
The author of over 40 books (including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus), Dr. Darrell Bock is host of Dallas Theological Seminary’s Table Podcasts where he also serves as Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies. A consulting editor for Christianity Today, Dr. Bock serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather. I highly recommend Bock’s commentaries on Mark and Luke (see below).