Which Gospel?

Which Gospel?

I read a recent op-ed piece by Joe Phelps in the Courier –Journal.  Joe is the pastor at Highlands Baptist Church, you know, up in the highlands!  He was concerned about another Baptist minister, Al Mohler, who had compared the views of Highland Baptist and Crescent Hill Baptist with his own view of the Christian faith.  Mr. Mohler’s words were, “We’re talking about Christianity and some new religion that claims some kind of continuing identity with the Christian faith, but it preaches another gospel; it holds to a very different authority than Scripture.”  Rev. Phelps agreed that they have very different view, but a “new” gospel?  Well, I need not point out that Mr. Mohler is always correct when it comes to defining the Christian faith, at least in his own mind.

Rev. Phelps correctly points out that it is fundamentalism which is “another gospel,” not the other way around.  In his editorial, Rev. Phelps points to John R. Claypool, former pastor of Crescent Hill (1960-1971), as a person who stood against the Mohlers of his time by offering a “deeper, clearer, more transforming message from Jesus.”  Claypool transcended the typical “Jesus as the get-out-of-hell-free card” formula of the fundamentalists.  Instead, he held that “heaven is accessed through the human heart seeking God’s dream.”  For him hell isn’t literal devils and flames, but anything that disconnects us from God.  Jesus personifies the healing power of deep connection with God, life’s origin and goal.”

Let me paraphrase: the fundamentalists use the Bible to establish a literal, exclusive, authoritative, closed and controlling version of a gospel.  It is a gospel which presumes their sources of authority endow them with unequivocal truth about life and God.  That version insists that believing in Jesus in its particular formula is the only way to have a relationship with God.  That reminded me of a quote from John Dominic Crossan, a Roman Catholic cleric, theologian and scholar, “My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”  In my mind, the Claypool version is closer to the teachings of Jesus in the four accounts of the Gospel contained in the Greek Scriptures.  I paraphrase: it is a Gospel based on love as the centerpiece of faith and advocates the oneness of all things, just as Jesus did.  Christ is at work everywhere, a Gospel that welcomes story and metaphor to reveal faith’s deepest truths.  One is gospel that focuses on personal sins and doctrinal remedies, and one is a Gospel that identifies the various forms of sin in our world and breaks the chains of fear, anger and narcissism through self-giving love.  And that is a Gospel I can affirm, as well!

DEVELOPED BY COLLISION MEDIA