Have you noticed that the Reformed vernacular has shifted from biblical language to gospel-centered language?
Not that it has completely shifted. But, if you’re like me, lately you’ve heard the phrase “gospel joy” more often than, “rejoice in the Lord always.”
What is a gospel-centered catch phrase?
To go super nerdy on you, a gospel-centered catch phrase uses the word “gospel” as a kind of causal adjective, which modifies a noun. The noun identifies a result the gospel effects in one’s life.
So in the example above – “gospel joy” – “gospel” is the adjective/cause, and “joy” is the noun/result. “Gospel joy” refers to a joy that only the gospel can accomplish for someone. It’s a joy that goes beyond any other joy this world has to offer. It’s a joy that only comes from faith in Jesus.
Where gospel-centered catch phrases came from
A while back, D.A. Carson pointed out that a major issue within evangelicalism was “assuming the gospel.” He meant that churches were “moving beyond” to practical Christian living, and were leaving the gospel behind. The result is that the impact of the grace of God in what Christ has done was lost in many churches.
Carson’s observation was a major catalyst in the launch of today’s gospel-centered movements. Many pastors and evangelicals now recognize that the gospel is not only the spark plugs of the Christian life, but the fuel, too.
So now, many among the Reformed evangelical community use the term “gospel” to communicate that they are speaking of a reality within the Christian life that only the gospel can offer. We are trying not to assume the gospel with our gospel-centered phrases.
A new assumption for Reformed evangelicals
But I wonder if the pendulum has swung to another assumption: that if something is “gospel-centered” then it is necessarily right and biblical.
This begs the question, are our gospel-centered catch phrases biblical? We need to make sure that our standard is the Bible, not gospel centrality.
And I’ll add, it’s not enough for them to be biblical. We need to know they are biblical, and we need to be able to point to where they are in the Bible.
Where do we go from here?
If they are biblical, let’s define them biblically for our people, and let’s use them. If they are not biblical, let’s chuck ‘em.
The only way to do this is to search the Scriptures and see if these gospel-centered concepts are in there. I’ve done that for thirteen such phrases, which appear in my next post.