Is there a way to step back and see the whole picture for what it is? Is there a way to gain perspective on how to read and live with and through scripture? A starting-point as well as an integrating-point for how we do biblical and systematic theology? Michael Bird believes there is and he takes his swing at answering what that is in an very short article called, “A theology of the gospel: The gospel as the starting-point and integrating-point for biblical and systematic theology.”
Here’s a quote to get you interested in his short article;
I define the gospel here as follows:
‘The gospel is the good news that God’s Kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. The gospel evokes faith, repentance and discipleship – its accompanying effects include the forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, adoption, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
We need to set out the gospel at the beginning of theology because (1) our reception of the gospel is the point where we first experience the soteriological benefits of being in a redemptive relationship with God; (2) it brackets out perversions of the gospel caused by either a liberalism (a truncated social gospel) or a fundamentalism (gospel + works) which might otherwise infiltrate our theological thinking; (3) setting out the gospel insulates our further theological reflection from either a pietistic reductionism (e.g. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life) or from an equating the gospel with one particular doctrine (e.g. the gospel of justification, the gospel of the pre-tribulation rapture, the gospel of egalitarianism, etc); and (4) Paul’s epistle to the Romans (although most definitely not a systematic theology, it is still the most ‘systematic’ of Paul’s letters) itself starts with a statement of the gospel in Rom. 1.3-4. In this light, Romans sets us a ‘template’ to follow in doing theology, a theology that is rooted in and originates with the gospel itself.
(Photographic art by Thomas Hawk, piece entitled “Last shot in the life of a lens“)