Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Gospel Is Bigger Than We Think

Trinity professor of biblical and systematic theology, Graham Cole uttered one line in a brief conversation that I will never forget. He said, "We are creatures before we are Christians." Today, former Trinity prof Scot McKnight makes the same point with a few more words, all of which are worth reading carefully. Scot notes that the problem for which the gospel is the solution is only properly understood if Creation, rather than the Fall, is our starting point:
It is common to begin, rather abruptly, with the Fall and to see humans as sinners in need of forgiveness. I do not dispute either that we are sinners or that we all need forgiveness. Sometimes, so it seems to me, our sin is understood as little more than a legal standing or a judicial sentence against us, and that means that forgiveness follows in line: it, too, is understood as little more than a standing or judicially.
But, both of these problems — how we understand sin and how we understand forgiveness — are created by beginning at the wrong place.  Instead of beginning the gospel story with the Fall, I am suggesting we begin with the Creation of humans, both male and female, as Eikons of God. That is, as made in the image of God (imago Dei). The gospel begins, and only begins, because humans are Eikons of God.
Instead of seeing humans first and foremost as sinners, we need to see them as Eikons of God, created to relate to God, to relate to others, and to govern the world as Eikons. The Fall affects each of the previous: our relation to God, our relation to others, and our relation to the world. Humans, then, are cracked Eikons. There is all the difference in the world in depicting humans as simply sinners and seeing sinfulness as the condition and behavior of a cracked Eikon. Humans sin, but their sin is the sin of an Eikon. They can’t be defined by their sin until they are seen as Eikons.

The gospel, when it begins with Creation, is God’s work to restore and undo and recreate (whichever image you might prefer) what we were designed by God to be and to do. To begin here means the gospel is about restoring Eikons rather than just forgiving sinners. This gospel is bigger and it is bigger because the human condition is bigger than a Fallen condition.
I came across this gem during a study break and I couldn't resist pointing others to it. I don't anticipate posting much more for the next few days as I have a pressing deadline breathing down my neck. I hope the rest of you can enjoy life on the outside!

1 comment:

Mike said...

Interesting. In the Christian Disciple class I took at my Methodist Church, we began with the two stories of creation in Genesis.

So far, I've only got through the first three years of the course.