The Explicit Gospel: A Response
- Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Editor's note: The following is a review of Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson's new book The Explicit Gospel (Crossway Books, 2012).
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE EXPLICIT GOSPEL
Chandler’s (2012) book, The Explicit Gospel, lays an important theological foundation for ministry leaders – a description of the gospel that is explicit for those we lead. The topic is crucial because often the gospel is simply implied in a way that leaves congregants with a sentimental and short-sighted theology. Chandler warns that congregants easily slip into a theology that says, “God wants you to be happy, so be nice.”
Chandler’s book makes the gospel explicit in two conceptual parts. First, he discusses “the gospel on the ground,” and then he discusses “the gospel in the air.” Chandler concludes with a section on the dangers of overemphasizing either the gospel on the ground or the gospel in the air.
THE GOSPEL ON THE GROUND
Chandler’s discussion of the gospel on the ground should be familiar territory for anyone who has made an evangelistic presentation. He divides part one into four chapters: God, man, Christ, and response. Like John Piper, Chandler emphasizes that God exists for His own renown. Contrary to sentimental theology, God did not create mankind because He needed someone to love Him. Instead, God created humanity as one more example of God’s superlative nature. That nature deserves to be worshiped. The problem: human beings choose to give superlative value to things other than God. Doing so is sin.
Sin is a central theme in Chandler’s gospel description. His chapter on man is essentially a chapter on depravity. He goes on to explain that God’s consequences for worshipping anything other than Himself are severe. Yet Christ took those consequences on Himself in a superlative manner, now satisfying God’s just wrath. When we hear this message, one of two things will happen. Option A: our heart will melt, and we will respond in faith to God. Option B: our heart will harden and we will reject that message of grace. So the gospel on the ground is a message about personal salvation, explaining how we can be reconciled to God.
THE GOSPEL IN THE AIR
While many gospel proclamations may be content to stop with personal redemption, Chandler then looks at the cosmic implications of the gospel, which he calls “the gospel in the air.” Here he discusses the creation, fall, reconciliatoin, and final consummation of human history. Among other things, Chandler discusses the age of the creation (calling himself a “historic creationist”) and then returns to the subject of humanity’s sinfulness, explaining that even modern weather catastrophes are the result of human sin. Not only are the consequences of human sin global (even cosmic), but the work of redemption includes all of creation as well, not in some sort of universalist salvation, but rather as response to a creation groaning to be restored (as in Romans 8). And that restoration will occur as part of a cosmic consummation that is the true theme of eschatology. Chandler’s “gospel in the air” is a cosmic redemption.
Chandler’s final three chapters, which comprise part three, then discuss the dangers of an over-emphasis of either the gospel on the ground or the gospel in the air, with a final warning about the dangers of moralism instead of a true gospel message.
A RESPONSE TO THE EXPLICIT GOSPEL
When I picked up Chandler’s book, it intrigued me for two reasons. First was his subject matter. Second was his cosmic sense of the gospel.
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