Monday, May 12, 2008

Combatting the McGospel Message Tendancy

I see the McGospel as a poor Gospel substitute - cheap flavour and colour, but no real substance to the message. Fast food, convenient, plenty of feel-good factor but little Biblical basis.

I think the McGospel has three vital ingredients missing. Add these in, and the message will become much more wholesome! However it becomes correspondingly more unpalatable to people who do not believe the Gospel ... "This is a hard saying, who can bear to hear it?"

  1. Repentance
  2. Blood
  3. Hell

I know, each of these themes is unsavoury at first taste. Christians who would present the Gospel are so often tempted to gloss over these points so as to avoid alienating their sophisticated 21st century audiences. I regret to confess that I am more guilty than most.

So - let's tackle each ingredient one at a time. We want to uncover what they are, why they are so unpopular and yet why they are essential Gospel elements.


The canonical example is Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son, cf Luke 15. The son spurns his father's home, wastes his inheritance and ends up lost, lonely and miserable. At his wit's end, he finally starts to think straight. He recognises how wrong he has been and is full of remorse for his faults. He thinks of his father, and decides to return to him. This is true repentance - sorrow for sin and a desire to express this to the Father personally. True repentance is always met with true forgiveness - that's a timeless truth.

Now we must consider why repentance is so unpopular in the McGospel generation. Basically, it involves bringing people to realise that they are wrong, mistaken, and far from God. Such revelation is untenable in this era of moral relativism and post-modernism. But this is God's way. It was the imperative of the first Gospel message (Acts 2), the first of Paul's two Ephesian footsteps ("repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" - Acts 20).


Blood is live-supporting and life-saving. The Bible emphasizes this - "the life is in the blood" before any renaissance scientists like William Harvey published their (re) discoveries. The Biblical imagery of poured-out blood speaks of a life completely given in sacrifice. Christ's death brings us life, his blood brings us redemption - these are axioms of New Testament theology.

So why would people disdain such a notion today? They reject a Gospel message that presents the "precious blood of Christ" as a payment for sins (a self-propitiation on God's part, rather than appeasement from man). They reject Jesus' promise of a "new covanent in my blood which is shed for many" (a relationship with God in which all the responsibility is on his part). Blood sacrifice is deemed to be inappropriate, primitive and archaic.

God's standards remain uncompromised by regressions in human ethics and morality. Sin is always serious, in his book. Serious crime demands commensurate payment, and nothing has greater value than the life blood of his only Son. Ultimately, to refuse "redemption through his blood, forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace" is to accept full personal liability for sin against God - which brings us to the final point...


Remarkably, Jesus spoke more about the experience of hell than about heaven. Not because he had any pleasure in the contemplation of suffering, but rather because he wanted people to appreciate its stark and grim reality, and avoid it at all costs.

Today hell is ridiculed, if it ever surfaces as a discussion item at all.
How could a loving God send people to hell? God does not want anyone in hell - he would have all people to be saved. But a person who refuses God's terms and God's way effectively sentences himself to an eternity of hell.

To finish, think about this: Jesus suffered the infinite torture of hell, compressed into three hours of darkness as he was on the cross. I have accepted this personally, he is my substitute. He went through hell without me so he could be in heaven with me.


Anonymous said...

This is childish.

Firstly, Hell is imaginary, so this is all without consequence in any case.

But secondly, even if Hell weren't imaginary, then it is a ridiculous contortion of logic to assert that an all-powerful God wouldn't just save everyone from it if he wanted them to be saved. Whatever justifications exist for the problem of evil, they're mere plot contrivances, concocted to produce the illusion of narrative coherence in a half-baked mythology: if God were really God, and if he really wanted to save everyone, he would just do it -- he is, after all, God! If not, then what do you even mean by "God"? Is he half-powerful; does he half-care?

God's "terms"? God's "way"? What kind of petty, ineffective, quibbling, office-politicking God are you imagining here? Certainly not one worth worshipping.

jeremy said...

Thanks, this raises a crucial point - does God's omnipotence means everything always happens the way the Almighty wants?

We could argue, like theologians, about the difference between God's perfect will and His permissive will. However people have debated this for centuries without reaching a definitive conclusion.

I see it like this - please get back to me if you think this is naive ...

In the beginning, God made a choice. He chose to give us a choice. Humanity could choose to live with God, or without Him. Once an individual makes that choice, God respects it. So if we choose to live without God now, in our time here on earth, then we will "exist" (I would not say "live") without God forever. And vice versa.