I am putting together a future post on seeing what the gospel is -- of which the short version is "Jesus Christ" -- but here I want to separate that from my frustration at one approach to presenting the gospel. Here I will give what I believe may be the worst gospel presentation ever, something I consider to be a complete failure in the "good news" department. Certain parts may contain elements of truth, but that does not keep it from being a hideous distortion of the gospel. This is the distilled version of the worst of the worst I have heard over the years:
Every sin of thought, word, and deed is so abhorrent to God that you are sentenced to eternal torture. Even decency or living rightly with dedication and earnestness gets you no slack with God because you have not done it perfectly, and God demands perfection, which is beyond our reach. There is nothing within our power which can make things right. However, God in his mercy sent his son to bear our punishment, and God accounts our wickedness to him, and his goodness to us, if we believe it is true. Christ's death was acceptable in our place because of his innocence and because God subjected his son to the most horrible death imaginable for our sakes. Those who do not believe correctly about this are condemned in God's sight for not believing it.The problems with this presentation run deep -- but it is close enough to many "gospel presentations" I have heard. It makes it sound as if our real problem is God's unreasonableness; with that as a starting point, there is no "good news" about us reconciling with him, and never will be. It also makes it sound as if the solution is satisfying God's appetite for wrath and torture on an innocent victim, with God being just as unreasonable as ever but now we're all clear to spend eternity with him. And then "faith" comes in -- here meaning the intellectual assent (or fearful capitulation, as the case may be) to the right set of propositions about why this all works and is good.
I wanted to voice my frustration with this presentation of the gospel before I move on to good news that we tend to forget or obscure.