As the title makes clear, this is Part 2 of my response to Minimalism is Not the Gospel, an article that was posted on The Gospel Coalition last Wednesday (3/15/17). If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out.
Previously, I acknowledged my complete agreement with the author regarding the title of her article: minimalism is not the gospel. However, what the author presents as minimalism and as the gospel are both reductionistic. Part 1 addressed the topic of minimalism, specifically acknowledging that minimalism is much more than minimizing.
When minimizing becomes true minimalism is at the point that one attempts to maximize what is important. It is when one seeks to use minimizing in order to focus on what really matters. True minimalism is about minimizing the unimportant in order to maximize the important. “The important” is going to be different for different people; for some, it will include a desire to live a gospel-centered life. Minimalism, then, can become a tool for a religious person.
As I mentioned before, freedom from the burden of sin is not something that minimalism offers. However, while the gospel message does result in freedom from the burden of sin, that is not the gospel either. Salvation is the result of the gospel, not the gospel. We have to be careful not to exchange the result for the actual message. With that said, I must preface this discussion with a qualification: this blogpost can only do so much; this discussion is the topic of numerous books (see Simply Good News and The King Jesus Gospel).
Gospel, as most know, means “good news.” What is the good news? Well, for quite some time, we have exchanged good news for good advice, saying things like, “If you accept Jesus into your heart, making him your savior, and try to abstain from sin, then you will go to heaven.”
But what is the Bible talking about when it refers to the gospel? These questions lead to many other questions, but one of those is this: How did the early Christians understand the good news?
The early Christians believed that the good news was in line with the Old Testament; Paul uses the phrase, “According to the Scriptures.” And in the Old Testament, we see a major story. A story that speaks of God’s interaction with, creation of, and love for human beings.
However, human beings, as is clear all around us, disobey God and want the glory that is due him. Humanity does not live like it was created to live. That is what sin is; it is when human beings do not live the way that God intended. This reality, then, established long-term effects upon the earth, whereby the creation of God itself was essentially being undone.
God did not simply say, “Those idiots down there messed everything up, so now they have to suffer the consequences.” Yes, there are consequences, but God promised a reversal of those negative effects. He promised a time when all will be made new, a New Heavens and a New Earth, a time when mankind will live in peace and God will be all in all. This undoing of creation that began, because of humanity’s disobedience, is going to be undone itself.
The way that this undoing of earth is going to be undone is through a coming Messiah, Jesus. God establishes this promise of reversal with Abraham, and the promise is continually unveiled and further established in Isaac, Jacob, David, and many others.
The good news, then, is that this promise is being fulfilled! God is doing what he promised! He is making all things new!
The gospel, therefore, is not simply being saved from one’s sins, or salvation, though that is a part of the Christian message. The gospel is the story of Jesus as the culmination of the story of Israel, whereby God is setting the world to rights. The gospel is God’s response to the terrible effects of sin in this world. God loves all people, and he shows this clearly in Jesus.
Now, for a full representation of the gospel message, I would have to include a lot more information. The bold text above is about as simply as the gospel message can get, and many parts of it can be unpacked in great detail. Briefly, though, I will note that the “story of Jesus” includes the message of his death and resurrection, whereby he established himself as ruler and king of all creation. And because of his death and resurrection, Christians are freed from the burden of sin. However, the story is not complete, because one day the reality of Jesus as king will be fully realized. Now, though, Christians live in faith that it will happen, that God will redeem all things completely.
With all that said, I want to be clear: Minimalism is not the gospel, but neither is salvation from sins. Minimalism is a tool that is capable of leading one toward a more fulfilling life, a life that honors and glorifies God. It is the minimizing of the unimportant in order to maximize the important. Minimizing one’s belongings does not offer the same thing as the gospel. The gospel, in fact, is the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel, whereby God is setting the world to rights, including the salvation of those that come under his kingship.