Gospel is a good word. A Bible word. A Jesus word. A Paul word. Who wouldn’t want to be constantly called to the Gospel? It is our life, our daily food, the air we breath. (If I keep heaping up phrases this is going to sound like a song by Bread).
The number of books with Gospel in their title or as their focus is like a dam has burst.
The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler
Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Matt Chandler
Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax and Matt Chandler
Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Tullian Tchividjian
Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary, JD Greear and Tim Kelle
What Is the Gospel? Greg Gilbert
Gospel Wakefulness, Jared Wilson
The Gospel as Center, DA Carson
The Transforming Power of the Gospel, Jerry Bridges
The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith?, John MacArthur
The Naked Gospel: Jesus Plus Nothing. 100% Natural. No Additives. Andrew Farley
The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, NT Wright
God Is the Gospel, John Piper
In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life, Sinclair Ferguson
Gospel Clarity, Ligon Duncan
Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, CJ Mahaney
Getting the Gospel Right, RC Sproul
And then there are the conferences and organizations:
Together for the Gospel (T4G)
The Gospel Coalition
Of course, one would expect a lot of books, conferences and organizations with the word “gospel.” After all, Jesus is Gospel, Good News. And yet there is more going on here, a larger field of concern.
The Neo-Puritans are trying to recover the word for more explicit Calvinistic purposes, which they fairly believe to be the best way to explain what Gospel means. (In the words of one of their own, Benjamin Warfield, Calvinism is Christianity come to its own). What is really going on in some of these books is a fresh packaging of High Calvinism. No one is against the Gospel, but the vast majority of Christians continue to have problems with the Neo-Puritan equation of Gospel with the middle three letters of the TULIP acrostic: unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace. They are also making a renewed effort for the Two Kingdom model of the church. In this model there are more opportunities for drawing a heavier line between the church and the world and fewer opportunities to confuse the two. The church in the Two Kingdom model is simply a carrier and steward of the simple Gospel message. The political, economic, racial, and social meanings of it are not first order business for the church. There is to be a very heavy line between world and church, not in the older fundamentalist way of legalism, but in the way of keeping the church out of the societal transformation business at the ecclessial level.
NT Wright and Scot McKnight are pushing back. Even though their books are not explicitly dealing with soteriology and the ordo salutis (the order of salvation), they are definitely concerned to demonstrate that Gospel should not be restricted to personal salvation but broadened to include societal transformation in which Jesus as Lord and King is establishing a kingdom with political, social and economic overtones. Caesar has been replaced by Jesus and through the church as salt and light announces a new state of affairs in which the world is being put to the right with God. The Gospel is that Jesus is Lord and King. How we are saved and brought into the kingdom is not itself the Gospel, though certainly its outworking.
What this spate of books from the High Calvinism camp means is that unless a more determinist soteriology is preached, which seems to naturally incline it to a two kingdom model, there is no real Gospel being preached at all. So while the general impression is given that this movement of books and conferences is a renewed call to Gospel believing, it is in fact a renewed call to Calvinism and a rejection of Evangelicalism’s Gospel. Of course, this is fair to do and an intellectually viable project. These things are up for discussion and reevaluation. But readers should be aware that these gospel books are not your familiar, old time call to the Gospel under the big tent. Some of them are a trumpet call to a particular version of the Gospel, one which has never fully captured the Christian imagination.