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Monday, 26 August 2013

Somersaults in the aisles of eternity?



Occasionally it is necessary shamelessly to steal from others: the following is one of those observations that probably leaves many people wishing they had made it first, not least me. Under the heading “10 Ways We Water Down the Gospel (let’s admit, we all do it)” Benjamin Corey observes the following:

  • 1.       We water down the Gospel when we invite people to trust Jesus for the afterlife… but not this life.
  • 2.       We water down the gospel when we exclusively use the concept of “penal substitution” to explain the Gospel.
  • 3.       We water down the gospel when we over emphasis sins rarely mentioned in scripture, while conveniently neglecting the ones that are talked about constantly.
  • 4.       We water down the gospel when we explain away the whole nonviolent love of enemies part.
  • 5.       We water down the Gospel when we eliminate the centrality of social justice.
  • 6.       We water down the gospel when we tell people it’s clear and simple.
  • 7.       We water down the gospel when we exclude people.
  • 8.       We water down the gospel when we make it sound like following Jesus is easy (Spoiler Alert ... it’s not!).
  • 9.       We water down the gospel when we make it about changing someone else, instead of first changing ourselves.
  • 10.   We water down the Gospel when we attempt to live it out in isolation, instead of in the context of community.

If you want to see Corey’s explanation of these points visit his blog, at


It is far more comfortable to revel in a so-called gospel whose focus is no more than the individual’s eternal destiny, than to engage with a gospel that engages us in the whole-of-life challenge of justice, and to which questions of the “hereafter” are an adjunct.
As it happens, after 35 years’ reflection on all this faith stuff, I suspect the “eternal” dimensions of faith are a key component, a logical corollary to the Easter event. They are the logical outcome, if you like, of God in the Jesus event speaking a word of hope that transcends all injustice, even the injustices of bereavement and loss.  There was a brief time when I took the “my salvation = eternal life for me” angle as the core message of the gospel. There was a longer period when I dismissed any sense of personal continuation after death altogether. Eventually I emerged into a perspective that says, “Sure, death is not the final word, or God would be smaller, less powerful than death. But there’s a whole heap of sorting out we need to do before we turn somersaults in the aisles of eternity.” It is to this sorting out that Corey is pointing us. God is not my cosy mate, and “salvation” is not in my hip pocket.
Corey reminds us, sternly, that when we turn the gospel into a private eternity-insurance policy we have somewhat missed the point of Jesus.
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