Monday, November 12, 2007

Watered Down Gospel?

(This may be a dangerous post...not because I'll make anyone mad at me, but because I'm not sure if I can fully explain my thoughts)

So, yesterday morning, Our Pastor talked about "The Thing That Cannot Change". At NHC, part of our vision is that our methods will always change...our message will never change - it is the thing that cannot change. In his sermon, my pastor used the phrase "watered down Gospel" a few times, talking about how some would accuse our church of watering down the message of Christ either intentionally or not because of our use of culturally-engaging methods.

"Watered Down Gospel"...for some time now, I've had real trouble with that phrase. I hear/read it a lot, and it just doesn't make any sense to me. It seems to me that, if you water down (meaning "to dilute" or "to reduce the strength or effectiveness of") the Gospel (meaning the story and message of Jesus Christ), you're left with something that is not the Gospel at all. The Gospel has the power to save. A watered down Gospel would seem powerless to me. Let me explain...

The Gospel is not just that God is the Creator of all things, including man. The Gospel is not just that man has fallen into sin and is condemned to an eternity without God. The Gospel is not just that Jesus was crucified on the cross to redeem man. The Gospel is not just that Jesus rose from the grave three days later to prove He is God. The Gospel is not just that many will now spend eternity with God. (etc., etc.)

All of these facts are parts of the Gospel. One of these facts alone, or even a few of these facts together are good and true. But, without the entire story, any incomplete combination of these facts cannot be the Gospel. The complete Gospel is the only Gospel because everything is true and seemless.

The Gospel cannot be watered down and still remain the Gospel. It's not like cough syrup. If I have a cough, I can dilute some cherry flavored cough syrup with a little water to make it go down easier. Or, I could take out the cherry flavor (don't know why I would do that...). Either way, I still get the full benefit of the cough syrup for my health and well-being. Try taking away the fact that man does not sin, or that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that we can never spend eternity with God, and you've got something that looks pretty good on paper, but has no benifit to us.

Now, I'm not saying that we've got to explain the entire story of Christ from Genesis to Revelation and beyond, or that a person must understand every little detail about the Bible in order to be saved. If that were the case, we'd all be in big trouble. The Bible says that all a person must do to become a disciple of Christ is to believe and confess that Jesus is Who He says He is. Full knowledge and understanding can/will come later.

And, the proof is in the pudding (I don't know why, but that's where I'm told it is). Yesterday, we had two (I thought it was one, but I was wrong) people discover life in Christ for the first time after our pastor shared the Gospel at the end of his sermon. If what he shared had been watered down...

So, is it just me? Am I thinking too hard? Am I the only one who thinks "watered down Gospel" is a bit of an oxymoron? I'm not sure if I explained my thoughts well, and I'll admit I'm still trying to work this out in my head. Maybe we can understand this better together?



MilePost13 said...

BTW: google "Todd Friel" sometime if you want to see how and why somebody would use the phrase, "watered down Gospel". (note: I'm NOT telling you to spend a lot of time listening to Todd...just giving you an example of somebody who uses this phrase)

TerryKM said...

In the time I've known your I've noticed you're the kind of guy who likes to re-write the dictionary. How we feel about the word we use does greatly impact the actions, or lack of action, that comes with those words. It's cool that you're always rethinking and evaluating, and seem to know that something of our understanding isn't quite right.

I've used the term "watered-down ______" a good bit. Usually it's watered-down Christianity or watered-down Gospel. Both are insults from my lips.

You're dead on! The water-down Gospel is not the Gospel at all.

travis ham said...

Your post reminds me of a good bit of Galatians 1. It seems that both you and Paul have had to dealt with legalism in your communities :-P

Incidentally, I think Paul would be totally on-board with the use of "culturally-engaging methods". Thanks for the dangerous post - it's refreshing.

Rick Lawrenson said...

Travis got his comment in while I was typing mine.
Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia that any other "gospel" is not really the gospel.

It's a term usually used by those who also believe that any Bible translation after 1611 is watered down as well. And it usually is directed at churches willing to do whatever it takes to reach those they have chosen to write off or ignore.

Steve said...

Nate....I wonder if your accusers are really meaning "I don't like the way you're packaging this--no matter your evidence of fruit." I think you've mentioned in past posts that when people have "constructively criticized" the way you present music and other aspect of worship, you've pretty much responded, "thanks for the input, but this is who we are, and I guess it's just not for you." To me, if you're presenting the full-orbed gospel, especially not avoiding the two words Western Christians tend to avoid--sin and repentance--then let the accusers say what they will. You only have One judge to answer to in the end.

And besides, doesn't the term "watered-down gospel" make about as much sense as saying "I'm a nominal Christian." ?

Keep going for it down there...

MilePost13 said...

Good thoughts, Steve.

We actually don't get much criticism (at least we don't hear much about it) from other churches in our community...I'm more refering to the criticism that our kind of church seems to get all over the world (nd esp. the US).

Dan said...

"Watered-down gospel" is often an accusation that is more feeling than logic. In other words, it sounds powerful and inflammatory, but the people using it really don't have any true definition of the phrase. For one, what do they mean by "gospel"? Do they mean doctrine? Do they mean "message of salvation?" Do they mean practice? In my experience, it usually means "your doctrine doesn't line up with ours, or doesn't go as deep as ours, so you are lesser Christians than we are." It tends to be tossed from those who love doctrine at those who love people. In the end, I think it's a meaningless phrase, so I try not to use it or answer to it.

MilePost13 said...

good stuff, Dan.

Anonymous said...

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