The Gospel Is Universal, Not Local

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 86:8-10
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 36, Psalm 86

Spiritual: “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” is a cop-out, according to Alan Miller, Director of The New York Salon and Co-Founder of London’s Old Truman Brewery. The increasingly common refrain, he says, “represents some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society … [and] highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society.” He continues, “The spiritual but not religious reflect the ‘me’ generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking … At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position” [1].

Public: The Scriptures show, however, that the gospel is a public truth – that is, a truth that is true for all, not just those who believe it. As the Psalmist sang, “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God” [2].

Gospel: In Creation Regained, Albert Wolters writes, “The story of the Bible tells us the way the world really is. It is not to be understood simply as a local tale about a certain ethnic group or religion. It makes a factual claim about the world as a whole: it is a public truth” [3]. Our response to the gospel (e.g., obedience, joy, rebirth) – while important – is not the gospel itself. The gospel is the life, death, resurrection and glory of Jesus Christ, who made atonement for our sins by his death to bring us into the presence of God, where there are pleasures forevermore. To keep the gospel as separate from our response to it is important. As Lesslie Newbigin writes, “It is to affirm the gospel not only as an invitation to a private and personal decision, but as a public truth which ought to be acknowledged as true for the whole of the life of society” [4].

Prayer: Lord, We live in a postmodern society that celebrates being spiritual but not religious. Any claim to a public truth is mocked as arrogant or retrogressive. Yet your word shows us that there is no other God but you and that all the nations will worship you. Make us oaks of righteousness that do not blow in the wind, as we cling in great humility to the public truth of the gospel. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Alan Miller. “My Take: ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ is a cop-out.” CNN Belief Blog. 29 September 2012.  |  [2] Psalm 86:8 – 86:10 ESV  |  [3] Albert Wolters. Creation Regained. p. 125.  |  [4] Lesslie Newbigin. To Tell the Truth. Introduction.

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One Comment to “The Gospel Is Universal, Not Local”

  1. I think I disagree with Alan Miller. I don’t think the “spiritual but not religious” line is a copout. He’s assuming that the person has one or more distinct religious positions to choose from and chooses none, but (1) the accept-or-reject requirement of religion is a feature of Christianity and perhaps Islam, but not most world “religions” and (2) Christianity (and perhaps Islam) is not offered in popular culture, to uninitiated non-believers, very coherently. Perhaps “spiritual” is the best descriptor for nascent beliefs that don’t yet have a vocabulary (or their vocabulary doesn’t fit with Christianity’s accept-or-reject model). But also, Christianity as a religion is always renewing itself by rejecting what is wrong about itself anyway. Most religious reformers were considered anti-religious in their time. They rejected Christianity as it was then offered.

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