Although I have great reservations about the theology of Karl Barth, I agree with what he said when he stood before a congregation for the first time in his life. He said, “Expectancy – that’s why they were there, why all of us were. At that strange, still moment just before the show starts. It is above all else expectancy that throbs in the stillness like a pulse. All those people out there in the pews, some hostile, some searching, some both at once, some young, some old. Their being there points to the event that is expected or appears to be expected or at least, if the place be dead and buried, was once expected there. . . . The event they await so expectantly is the sermon itself and which, whether they recognize it or not, they, all of them, want to find the answer, to one question beyond all other questions, which is the question, ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?”
The question I want to pose in this series of posts isn’t is the gospel true, but IF IT IS TRUE, WHAT THEN? The question IS IT TRUE is, of course, fundamental and absolutely critical. As C.S. Lewis once put it, “If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.” (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics). A great message on “What Is the Gospel?” by D.A. Carson is found here.
But my assumption in these posts is that the gospel indeed is true. And my purpose is to ask what difference that makes? Some of the issues I want to consider are as follows.
IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .
We have both good news and bad news the world needs to hear. (forgiveness and judgment). We are news-bearers. Are we a fragrance or a stench? Or both?
We have a justification to be kind but clear when it comes to any other worldviews or religions. Does this or that religion help me live in God’s world? We are not to fear, but can compassionately confront alternative worldviews.
We have every reason to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. There are a number of inadequate pictures of the Bible which seem to dominate Christian thinking. But what is the Bible? Really?
We desperately need the people of God, the church. For many the church is the great Evangelical option. “I’ll go if I have time.” “I’ll give if I can spare some loose change.” “I’ll serve if I have to.”
We can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We will think through the book Why a Suffering World Makes Sense and draw certain conclusions about real, but temporary suffering in this broken world.
We are able to be supernaturally joyful despite the challenges of this fallen universe. What is true joy and how is it expressed in a seemingly progressive depressed world?
We can be biblically optimistic about the future because our God is sovereign.