What is Gospel Theologizing?
Pastor and author Tim Keller spoke of Gospel Theologizing in his message “The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World” at the 2006 Desiring God National Conference. One of the things he pointed out was that when he grew up there was this apparent distinction between the Gospel and Theology. There was this mentality that all Christians need to know the gospel – that God loves us, sent Jesus to die on the cross and raise again to conquer sin and death and forgive us of sin, and that He’s coming back some day – and then Theology was like a level of knowing about God that was really only for pastors or Bible professors.
That’s ridiculous. We expect high school seniors to be able to work through pre-cal or calculus, and yet think anyone not a pastor or professor incapable of deeply studying the Word of God? Continuing Keller’s point, we can’t separate the two because they are Biblically inter-linked. We must begin holding the gospel as the lens through which we read and study Scripture as a whole, and Scripture as a whole informs our understanding of the gospel. Theology is the study of God and God’s relation to the world. His relation to the world is intrinsically tied to and displayed in the over-arching redemptive story of the gospel.
As I was reading today, I came across this passage:
We truly all do want to be loved, as the songs say, and we truly all want just a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. In fact, based on what was first declared by God to be “not good,” I would suggest that feeling alone is the base fear for all of us. We don’t want to be alone. We want to know we are loved.
I have seen, and continue to see, this statement lived out by young people (and older people too) on a daily basis. If I don’t see it in person, it’s on Facebook for the whole world to see. Constant relationship drama everywhere. The incessant need to be with someone, and two different people in a two-day span is perfectly acceptable, as long as they’re not alone.
What Does This Have To Do With Gospel Theologizing?
Before I can begin to answer this, we have to come up with at least a working definition of the gospel. I realize that the gospel is MUCH more about God than it is us, but allow me to define the gospel this way:
God’s message of love sent with the purpose of redeeming, reconciling, and restoring His image and the rest of creation.
The reference Dukes made to that which God called “not good” is found in Genesis 2:18. It is not good for man to be alone. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God made man in His image, the imago dei. So He creates Adam, and then says it isn’t good. Why? Because God is Trinity, in constant relationship with each member of the Trinity. Adam was alone, and therefore couldn’t represent, be like, be the image of God fully while he is alone. Then God creates Eve and calls it “very good” because now man is able to be the image of God more completely.
I realize that there are tons of physical and psychological reasons why young people go “opposite gender crazy” when they hit puberty. I would submit, though, that these scientific reasons only serve to prove HOW God designed us to desire the opposite gender so that we would have a desire to more completely be the image of God. Single people as a whole in our culture seem to be ruled by this fear of not being alone. I would say that this is because deep down we know we are supposed to bring glory to God by more completely being His image through marriage. Even if we don’t know how to express it, or even if we deny it, we long to be that representation of Christ and The Church (Eph. 5:25-33). Sin, of course, twists that good desire into all sorts of insecurities and perversions in order to attempt to further fracture the image of God that man was created to be. Which is why we have tons of people going through short-term relationships and/or one night stands, all resulting in needless broken hearts and lack of trust.
Why It Matters
This is why we must teach young people to Gospel Theologize. If we don’t teach young people Theology, and to look at how He relates to them through the Gospel, then we have little to no hope of combating the idea that “anything’s OK as long as you’re not alone,” or any other perversion sin and culture throw out there.
One of the main ways that God relates to us is that He created us and did so in His image. We must instill within young people that this desire to be with a member of the opposite gender is a good desire, because it comes from wanting to more accurately image God. But if we leave the gospel as “Jesus saved me from my sins and it’ll get better when He comes back” only, then we haven’t fully addressed the issue of how the gospel helps us be the imago dei here and now.
However, if we teach them that Christ is sufficient because He shows that He loves us in that He redeemed, reconciled, and is restoring our ability to be the image of God that we’re desperately trying to be, then that gives us fulfillment and hope! Not only does Gospel Theologizing show us how the gospel really affects our lives now by giving us a reason to believe and feel that we are loved, it also shows us that the desires we have are to be fulfilled in a specific way in order to really be the image of God relationally (meaning marriage). If we understand that’s where the desire comes from, then that gives us MUCH more of a reason to fight the fight of being alone at times, knowing that because of the gospel we are never really alone. To fight the fight of waiting for physical pleasure until marriage, because not doing so only serves to damage our ability to reflect the image of God. Not only that, but then we begin to see how the gospel becomes the very power we fight with!
Obviously, this is only one reason why Gospel Theologizing is important, but we must press to get the Bible off of the felt board and into reality for us to really recognize the life giving, life preserving, life changing power of the gospel.