Today’s the day the blog tour for Chuck Colson’s book The Faith comes here. The question I asked Mr. Colson was this one:
On page 117 you write this: “True faith means putting the cause of Christ and the needs of others ahead of self and doing the gospel.” Can you explain what you mean by the phrase “doing the gospel”? What is included in doing the gospel?
Here’s how he answered:
Having reread the sentence you refer to, I can understand why you would have questions about it. What I meant to say is that true faith means putting the cause of Christ and the needs of others ahead of self. Period. It also means doing the gospel. It is not putting the case of Christ and the needs of others ahead of doing the gospel. That’s very confusing. Thank you for raising it. I will definitely have that edited in the 4th printing.
I wasn’t intending to point out the awkwardness of the sentence I quoted. I really just wanted to know what is meant by “doing the gospel.” It’s a phrase I hear and read frequently, but I’ve never been 100% sure how it is defined.
However, even though Mr. Colson didn’t answer my intended question directly, I think I can, from his answer, put together a pretty good explanation of what he means by “doing the gospel” in this sentence. He seems to be saying that making the cause of Christ and the needs of others primary in importance is in some way “doing the gospel.”
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I’m not very fond of the phrase “doing the gospel.” I think it conveys a view of the gospel that is, at the very least, focused on things that are not at the center of the gospel. It gives the idea that the gospel is a set of ethical teachings or commandments—in this case, the two great commandments—and that is an idea that quite misses the mark, actually, when it comes to conveying what is the good news we call the gospel.
The gospel is the historical truth of what Christ did for sinners in accordance with God’s saving plan. It is news—good news. People can preach and teach the gospel; they can believe, receive, and confess the gospel; they can advance the cause of the gospel.
But can they “do the gospel”? If by that someone means that the gospel—the good news—proclaimed and confessed, transforms lives, so that those whose lives are changed by the truth of the gospel live in a way that puts the cause of Christ and the needs of others ahead of their own selfish interests, then I’m prepared to give a pass to the use of the phrase. I’d argue that the phrase itself, however, used without careful definition, is much more likely to lead to a distorted view of the gospel than it is to enlighten us about the gospel or advance the cause of the gospel.
Having read all of The Faith, I will say that I do believe that Charles Colson, personally, has this more fully orbed view of the gospel that I outlined in the paragraph above. But I wonder if statements like the one I quoted and the phrase “doing the gospel” might not cause some readers to understand the gospel as merely duty or religiousity, and not something propositional that rightly taught, understood, and believed, changes people from the inside and works outward from there.
What say you all?
Below is the schedule for The Faith’s blog tour so you can keep up with the rests of the interview questions and answers: