The Gospel is a Story AND a set of Propositions

Alright, l’ve had it with the silly “The Gospel is not a set of propositions, it’s a story” meme that keeps getting thrown around in church conversations and books. It’s been beat down I don’t know how many times, but let’s just be clear: the Gospel is both a story AND a set of propositions. It includes both, it is both because stories involve propositions. What do I mean? A proposition is basically an affirmation, something asserted about the world, or a situation. “It is raining” or “Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States” are good examples of propositions. Now, when you take more than 2 seconds to think about it, you’ll realize that without propositions, you don’t have stories. Let me quickly illustrate my point:

Proposition 1: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch some water.
Proposition 2: Jack tripped and sustained a head injury
Proposition 3: Upon seeing his fall, Jill was frightened, tripped, and fell down after him.

Put this together and you have a short story. This is not hard stuff.

Now, let’s think about the basic Gospel announcement. Here’s the King Jesus, McKnightish/Wrightish version: “Jesus Christ is Lord.” That’s an assertion about what is the case. It’s a proposition about the Lordship of Christ. Or, try this more “Soterian”-sounding one: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19 ) “God is reconciling the world to himself” is an assertion, a proposition that sums up the Gospel.

One more:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:1-18)

Take the first verse alone:

Prop 1: “In the beginning was the Word”
Prop 2: “The Word was with God”
Prop 3: “The Word was God”

The narrative of the Word coming into the world which rejected him and the salvation that came to those who did is a series of propositions that are connected to form a version of the basic Gospel story. Are we clear then? The Gospel is a story AND a set of propositions? Good.

Now, I get where this is coming from. People have reacted against presentations of the Gospel that are a series of de-historicized, de-narrativized, “4 spiritual laws” that takes all the drama and movement out of things. I get that. I’m not a fan of those presentations either. The Gospel is a rich, deep, and dramatic reality that shouldn’t be reduced down to a formula. Still, I’m not a fan of silly, misleading statements either. This is one of them. Stop using it, people.

7 thoughts on “The Gospel is a Story AND a set of Propositions

  1. AMEN!!!!

    The whole “The Gospel is not a set of propositions, it’s a story” thing is a horridly distorted over-correction. We need to avoid a completely ‘de-storied’ Gospel but to do that by rejecting propositions is absurd.

    Your logic is superb.

  2. Impeccable timing as I just posted an excerpt from Brian Zahnd’s “Beauty Will Save the World” on this very subject; stressing a Wrightish/McKnightish presentation. Good thoughts, however I think much evangelical Christianity is erring on the side of a ‘de-storied’ Gospel over a Gospel that is lacking in formulas.

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