Gospel Presuppositions

In his book, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy talks about the presuppositions of the gospel which make up the “material priority of the Scriptures.”  These presuppositions are prior truths without which the gospel could not be the gospel.  He lists them as the following:

* The God who is there is the God of the Bible, who is (among other things) Creator, Savior, and Communicator
* Human beings were created in his image, which involves us as those with whom God communicates
* The truth of God is evident in all creation
* Sin means the human declaration of independence from God, and the suppression of his truth
* Grace means that God mercifully provides special revelation that informs, redeems and makes God present to us
* This redemptive revelation, the word of God, is focused on Jesus Christ

Goldsworthy goes on to say that “Christian theism maintains that these presuppositions of the gospel are foundational truths that stand the test of having explanatory power for all human experience and having rational consistency.”  The gospel, then, is not only the message that transforms sinners into saints but also the medium through which we rightly understand all human experience.

These gospel presuppositions are important because, outside of Christ, the world has alternative presuppositions about life that are shaped by the Fall in Genesis 3, which Goldsworthy summarizes as:

* If God is there, he does not communicate the truth
* We do not need God to reveal the rational framework for understanding reality
* Human reason is autonomous, and the ultimate arbiter of truth and falsity, right and wrong

According to Paul, we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16)–a mind that is spiritual and shaped by the gospel (person and work of Christ).  Jesus is not only the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24) but has become to us wisdom from God (1 Cor. 1:30).  Jesus is not only the substance of the wisdom of God, but He is also the source of it as well.  So what happens in the Spirit’s work of renewal is a rewiring from presuppositions of the Fall to the presuppositions of the Gospel.  This is what Goldsworthy calls “episteomological sanctification.”

In summary, the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), and the more we appreciate the truths of the gospel (presuppositions) and so have our experienced grounded in it, the more we appropriate the mind of Christ.  The gospel is the message that transforms our minds (“achieves noetic salvation for us” – epistemological redemption), and the gospel is the medium through which our minds are daily being renewed as we behold the brilliance of Christ, who has become to us wisdom from God (“the ongoing process through which our thinking is conformed more and more to the truth that is in Jesus – epistemological sanctification).

To read Goldsworthy’s arguments in detail, read chapter 3 of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics on the presuppositions of the gospel and the subsequent section on noetic salvation (58-62).

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8 Comments on “Gospel Presuppositions”

  1. Ron Harvey Says:

    I love this book. My evidential and classical apologists friends can’t say or spell the word “presupposition,” they break out in hives!

  2. Kyle Barrett Says:

    Hey Timmy,

    I appreciate much of Goldsworthy’s approach but I’m curious to get your thoughts on some questions I have relating to that section of the book. The concern I have with Goldsworthy’s approach is that he seems to equate faith with knowing. But you can have those presuppositions and still miss the gospel, partially or completely. It’s as though all we need is a change in thinking – a new set of presuppositions – and all is well. I also think he places too much weight on the epistemological value of conversion. It seems to me that he undervalues the effect of sin on our thinking. Faith sees (and knows) only in part and only dimly. It’s not that he’s wrong, I think he doesn’t adequately factor sin and its effects into his program.

    I have to share a great quote from Ernst Kasemann related to this. He says, “Abraham does not know the country to which his exodus is to take him. He hears the promise of heirs without understanding how that promise can be fulfilled. What he sees speaks against it. From a human and earthly point of view, Sarah’s laughter is completely justified and the expression of a realism which the church ignores at its peril. Sarah’s laughter is faith’s constant companion.”

    Sorry if these thoughts are scattered.

    My 2ct,


    • Kyle,

      I just wrote a really lengthy response to your comment, and when I clicked “submit” it disappeared! I’m telling you, it was amazing. Okay, maybe not, but I’m frustrated that it is not showing up. Seriously, I will try to respond to your comment again soon.

    • Mark Says:


      Question. Can someone not have those presuppositions and still get the gospel, partially or completely?

      • Kyle Barrett Says:

        hey mark,

        it depends on who that someone is. some who aren’t Christians approach the bible with those presuppositions and yet don’t “get” the gospel. new Christians may be hazy on some of those truths yet they do “get” the gospel.


        • Mark Says:


          I’m a bit confused. Everyone has presuppositions.

          What do you mean by your concern that Goldsworthy equates faith with knowing? Goldsworthy is talking about God redeeming those areas of epistemology.

          It seems Tim answers your concerns when he summarized “These gospel presuppositions are important because, outside of Christ, the world has alternative presuppositions about life that are shaped by the Fall in Genesis 3”

          • Kyle Barrett Says:


            We all have commitments that determine how we think about things and that all our thinking must be brought under the Lordship of Christ.

            I understand Goldsworthy to be saying that these 6 things must be true in order for the gospel to be true AND must be embraced in order for one’s grasp of the gospel to be correct AND he appears to be saying that if these presuppositions are embraced then one will rightly grasp the gospel and thus the Scriptures. This appears to me to be an equating of faith (i.e., the means by which we grasp the gospel) with knowing certain things to be true and other things not true.


  3. […] Timmy Brister points out that these presuppositions mean that the gospel “is not only the message that transforms sinners into saints but also the medium through which we rightly understand all human experience.” […]

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