Theoretical v. Operative Gospels

I will let this quote by Graeme Goldsworthy speak for itself:

“Among evangelicals there are differences in the way [gospel] is used.  It is a matter for some concern that some books and study courses on evangelism seem to assume that every Christian is absolutely clear about what the gospel is, and that what is needed most is help in the techniques of explaining the gospel to unbelievers.  Experience suggests that this assumption is poorly based and that there is a great deal of confusion among believers about what the gospel is.

Preachers may have a theoretical and an operative gospel.  Theoretically we will get into a theological mode and produce, as far as possible, a biblically based notion focusing on the person and work of Christ.  But, in pastoral practice it is easy to be pragmatic.  Our operative gospel will be the thing that preoccupies us as the focus of our preaching and teaching.  It may a particular hobbyhorse or a denominational distinctive.  Baptism, a particular view of the second coming, social action, creationism, spiritual gifts, and the like are all easily raised to the status of the gospel by becoming the main focus of our preaching.  This is especially deplorable when these spurious gospels are made the basis of our acceptance of other Christians.”

– Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 81.

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