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Gospel Debate

In the August issue of Life and Work which I received yesterday (and much enjoyed) I was much saddened to read the letter from Mr Alex Glen of Sandyford Henderson Church, Glasgow regarding what he termed ‘The Gospel of Christ’. He uses the words ‘the orthodox Gospel of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, whose substitutionary death on the cross atones for our sins, makes us right with God and gives us eternal life’. This view has long been held by much of the Church, especially in Scotland. It is not, however, the only reasonable interpretation of the Scriptures.

This is not the place to develop a detailed theological argument, but I am very concerned that the doctrine outlined in Mr Glen’s letter be seen both inside and outside the wider Church as an unchallengeable view of the essence of the Gospel. Careful reading of the four Gospels can lead to other interpretations.

What emerges clearly for me from such a reading is that Christ came to challenge Judaic orthodoxy, and that He was put to death in the first instance because of the effectiveness of that challenge to the religious establishment in Jerusalem.

The essence of His teaching – that we should love God, our neighbours, and indeed our enemies with our whole beings – is to my mind the real Gospel. Forgiveness of sins by the Father is in this context not conditional on Christ’s substitutionary death but as taught by Christ in the Lord’s Prayer, on our forgiving one another. What Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection, did, I believe, was to deliver a ringing endorsement of his teachings about our relationship with God the Father and with each other. The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost provides us with the power to live as nearly as possible the life He set out in his teaching.

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About Life and Work

In this month's issue: A LIVING CHURCH - Why reform is needed in the Church of Scotland SCOTLAND’S REFORMATION - St Andrews and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation NEW CHARGE DEVELOPMENTS - Where are they now?