A Call to Gospel Integrity

Context

In response to growing interest in InterVarsity about the content of the gospel and the practice of evangelism, Terry Erickson, National Director of Evangelism, called together a consultation in Madison during the National Institute for Staff Education and Training in 2003.

Participants read and discussed three crucial perspectives about the gospel and evangelistic practice:

The Cross of Christ by John Stott
The Logic of Evangelism by William Abraham
Recovering the Scandal of the Cross by Joel Green and Mark Baker

The group also spent time in Bible study together and in discussion of our evangelistic experiences with students.

Call to Gospel Integrity

The following affirmations are offered to guide future efforts in evangelism and in theological reflection on the gospel:

  1. The cross and resurrection of Jesus are central to the message of the gospel.

  2. Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom and Paul’s interpretation of the cross and resurrection are conceptually overlapping and complementary messages, and together provide a more comprehensive account than either alone of the work of God in Christ for our salvation.

  3. We find inadequacies in some characteristic statements of the gospel within evangelistic practice, including:
    • an account of the cross that emphasizes only Christ’s death and omits our union with Christ,
    • an inadequate account of the unity of the Father and Son in the work of atonement, which pits the wrath of the Father against the suffering love of the Son,
    • gospel summaries that do not adequately emphasize the necessity of the lordship of Christ in a believer’s life, and
    • a focus on an individual’s salvation as a completely private experience, omitting the truth that being in Christ means being a member of his body and a subject in the present and future kingdom of God.

  4. We acknowledge that inadequate expressions of “penal substitution” have led to regrettable misrepresentations of the atoning work of the cross. Nevertheless, we affirm that the death of Jesus is both substitutionary and averts God’s judgment of sinners and that this understanding of the cross is both biblical and necessary.

  5. We also acknowledge the durable tension between conserving the biblical message and contextualizing it. This tension must be maintained and not collapsed.

  6. We further affirm that the gospel addresses powerfully our human needs and desires. Nevertheless, we are concerned about a pragmatic results orientation that, by underestimating the counter-cultural nature of the gospel, unintentionally corrupts its saving power. We have noted that legitimate connecting points for communicating the gospel (e.g., desire for self-fulfillment, healing, success, relationships) can easily become the idolatrous focus of our message.

Signers

Allen Wakabayashi, Area Director, Illinois
Celeste Handy, Campus Staff Member, New Mexico
Danielle Bailey, Campus Staff Member, New York
Garwood Anderson, Former Staff, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary, Florida
Jack Voelkel, Campus Witness Pastor, Wisconsin
Jim Hoover, IVP Associate Editorial Director, Illinois
John Terrill, Director of Professional Schools Ministries, Wisconsin
Jon Hietbrink, Campus Staff Member, Iowa
Jonathan Rice, Advancement Managing Editor, Wisconsin
Katie Rawson, Area Director – International Student Ministry, North Carolina
Larry Thiel, Associate Regional Director, California
Mark Ashton, Former Staff, Evangelism Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, Illinois
Mark Seversen, Former Staff, Senior Pastor, Hillcrest Covenant Church, Kansas
Neil Livingstone, Area Director, Maryland
Rick Richardson, Former Associate Director of Evangelism, Illinois
Terry Erickson, Director of Evangelism, Wisconsin
Tom Trevethan, Campus Staff Member – Graduate & Faculty, Michigan
York Moore, Evangelist, Michigan